Learning how to MAKE pickles is the best kind of pickle you can get yourself into… our recipe for crisp, good-for-you pickles here!
Yesterday we shared with you some of the amazing benefits of fermentation. And as promised, we’re continuing the conversation with one of two fermented food recipes. Today we’re talking PICKLES.
Before beginning any batch, keep in mind that cleanliness throughout the fermentation process is very important. Hot water and mild soap is sufficient for cleaning your jars and measuring tools, but ensure that they are rinsed completely. Soap residue can inhibit the growth of the beneficial bacteria that you are trying to manifest. (This process is different then “canning” when you are pasteurizing and killing all of the beneficial bacteria that naturally occurs on vegetables. In that process it is important to completely sterilize jars.)
An equally important consideration when making your own fermented foods? HAVE FUN! Your only assurance should be utilizing the correct ratio of salt in your ferment. Feel free to experiment with different vegetable and spice combinations as you grow more comfortable. Our friend and local chef Greg Glowatz generally ferments at a percentage of 2.5% Celtic sea salt. Using a digital kitchen scale with a kg setting (he finds it much easier to make the calculations in grams and kilos than in pounds and ounces), simply weigh your prepped vegetables in grams (minus the weight of your jar) and then multiply that by .025 to find how many grams of salt you should add to your mix.
Half gallon glass fermentation jars are my preferred vessel for making pickles — they are the perfect height to create both attractive and functional cucumber arrangements. NOTE: Easy for snacking! You will also need
Glass fermentation weights.
You will need a large mixing bowl to soak the cucumbers in icy cold water.
You will also need a knife and cutting board to quarter the cucumbers into spears (or your preferred shape). A digital scale that weighs up to 5 kg is needed to calculate the proper salt content to the recipe/formula.
You may want to use some measuring spoons to add your spices, at least to start.
Organic pickling cucumbers (Kirby Cucumbers are my preference)
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp white peppercorns
3 or 4 juniper berries
5 bay leaves if fresh
7 garlic cloves
First soak cucumbers for 30 minutes in ice cold water to revive their crispiness. Next, cut all of the cucumbers in spears. Here’s where you’ll need your digital scale. Place the empty half gallon fermentation jar on the scale set to kilograms/grams. Once the weight registers, press 0. This will take the weight of the jar out of your equation. Next, fill the jar with your ingredients.
Lay the jar on its side when adding the cucumber spears and other ingredients, as it makes allows the vertical packing nice and snug. Add spices a few at a time with cucumbers to insure even dispersal. To calculate the amount of Celtic sea salt you’ll need, place the filled jar back on the scale (with the weight of the jar subtracted from the equation). Next, pour in enough filtered water to cover the cucumbers. This will give you the total weight of all your ingredients, including the water. Take this number (which in Greg’s case was 1700 grams) and multiply by .025, which will give you your desired salinity of 2.5%. In this case, the salt needed was 42.5 grams, but this number will be dependent on the size of your jar and weight of your ingredients.
Finally, add the salt, a few cabbage leaves and a glass weight on top. This will keep the pickles safely below your brine and out of oxygen’s way. Top tightly with lid and gently turn jar several times to dissolve salt evenly. Then, loosen lid and place jar on a plate in a dark corner of your kitchen. Leave at room temperature for 3-5 days depending on how sour you like your pickles (the sourer you like, the later they should sit). Continue to mature the pickles in your refrigerator after the 3-5 day fermentation. Greg finds they are tastiest after a week in the fridge, if your willpower is that strong!
Stay tuned next week when we bring you Greg’s unique and delicious recipe for sauerkraut!
Photos by Mike Persico. More here.