Monday, September 13, 2010

Brave Pickle Frontier

One of the first things we did upon arriving in MA was to join a CSA. Our first week of pickup, we ended up with quite a few pickling cucumbers. After a quick call to Danila at the Dacha Project for his grandma's pickle recipe, we set to work making quick pickles for refrigeration, not canning. Simplest pickles I've ever attempted: halved the cukes, shoved them in a jar with 2T kosher salt and some garlic cloves, poured boiling water over the whole deal, let sit in the cupboard (caps loosely screwed on) for a week or so. Because we had varying advice on how much salt to include, and we were using kosher and not pickling salt, we put 3T of salt in one of the three jars. After a week, two of the jars looked cloudy and gross, with the high salt jar looking clear as a bell. I shoved the cloudy jars to the back of the cabinet so I wouldn't have to face them. When I tried the saltier pickles, they were, well, EXTREMELY salty. I ate half before giving up.

I was disappointed at the pickle failure. After all, we'd never had many problems fermenting anything, and pickles seemed like a pretty basic thing to screw up.

Enter today's random encounter of a video of Sandor Katz (Wild Fermentation) on BoingBoing. In said video, we are reminded that you cannot get botulism from fermenting vegetables, because botulism occurs when you kill every microbe in your stored food and provide a non-acidic, anaerobic environment for the only bacteria you didn't kill to thrive in. Fermented veggies are acidic and full of competent wee organisms. If something is wrong with your fermented veggies, you will be able to tell by sight (mold) or texture, and if you taste it, it won't kill you.
Emboldened by this reminder, we headed straight for the kitchen to try the cloudy pickles, which had now been fermenting for about 2 weeks in the back of the cabinet. The brine looked unappealing, but the pickles themselves looked fine, and when we bit into them, they had a perfect crunchy texture and garlicky taste. They definitely tasted a bit more lacto-fermenty than I am used to in a pickle, but a good pickle nonetheless. Thanks Sandor, for saving two jars of locally grown, homemade pickles from the compost!


diznia said...

Good save on the pickles! To keep the saltiness consistent, I add the salt right into the boiling water at a rate of 2tbsp/liter. Then pour it over the pickles and voila, two days later you have great half-sours.


ps. Canning related botulism is overrated anyway. There are something like 3-4 cases in the US each year, so the chances are incrediblismally small.

jimmycrackedcorn said...

Libby- There is a method to desalt pickles that I have run across in a few old canning guides.

Diznia- Canning related botulism will continue to be low only as long as people take the guidelines very seriously.

diznia said...

Whoops, I meant to say 1 heaping TBSP/liter.

jimmycrackedcorn said...

Desalting method-