Aurora’s Foray Into Pickleland
The garden at the farm has been producing cucumbers like crazy for the past few weeks, giving us between 1 and 9 pounds of lemon cukes and pickling cukes every few days, so we have had extra. We have even had a customer order some from us! Having the surplus meant we were free to preserve some, which has been a goal all summer — to have enough extra of *something* that we would be able to can it. The hope is to can pickles, tomatoes, green beans, pumpkins, and anything else that sits still long enough for me to get my hands on it.
On the day we set out to test the lacto-fermented (dill) pickle recipe, we had 9 pickling cucumbers roughly 2-5 inches long each, and approx. 35 lemon cucumbers of varying sizes. The lemon cucumbers averaged out to fit 5 sliced up in a quart jar (this was also probably about 1.25 lbs per jar). Some of the lemon cukes were the size of baseballs, no joke; others were a little bigger than golf balls.
We used a recipe from Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, to lacto-ferment the pickles. This means the natural processes that break down the cucumbers were halted and they were preserved using the lactobacilii found on *everything*, with a little help from salt, some spices and some water. We were able to use dill, hot peppers, and mustard seed / pepper cress seed from our own garden, in addition to our cukes.
Here’s what I put in each quart jar:
~ 4-5 pickling cucumbers, speared, OR ~5 lemon cukes, sliced
2 Tbsp salt (one Tbsp can be replaced with whey if you have it — see the original recipe)
2 Tbsp dill, chopped
1 Tbsp mustard seed (we ran out and used pepper cress, which isn’t quite as spicy but we’re hoping will be nice)
2-3 cloves of garlic (you know, a nice amount)
a grape leaf (approx. hand-sized)
1 teensie eensie little slice of a hot pepper (optional)
water to cover the pickles, up to 1″ from the top of the jar
Put the pickles in the jar, add everything else dry on top, and add the water. Don’t overfill it (the recipe is specific about leaving 1″ room at the top of the jar, so you may have to squish stuff down between the pickles to make it fit).
Seal the jar tightly. I believe the recipe says to leave the jars sealed (and pickling) for 3-5 days, but that’s up to you and how pickly you want them to be. We are going to leave ours for about a week. Before I left for the day we could already see little bubbles forming on the cuke slices in the jars, indicating some sort of lacto-fermenting magic taking place. I love how easy it was, and how much I already want to eat the darn things.
Once you think they are pickled enough you must put them in the fridge, or somewhere cool, dry, and dark (cave, root cellar, etc.). Veggies will last for months this way. If you are pickling fruit, you must typically put them in the fridge after 2-3 days and eat them within a month of making.
NOTE: After leaving the jars alone for a week, we tried the pickles. The ones made from pickling cukes were for the most part crunchy, although some were a bit mushy. The lemon cukes, however, were all mushy. Sadness! We have since learned that we probably didn’t chill (ice-bath, fridge, etc.) the cukes enough beforehand. Oh well; that’s what the other 56 pounds of cukes are for — getting it right, right?
Question: Have you ever made pickles or preserves? Yum or fail?