Cucumbers are one of those vegetables that grows like weeds; however, you can’t freeze them to use for later. So, over the years, I have pickled them and now ferment them. Did anyone say, yum?
According to Alex Lewin author of “Real Food Fermentation,”
“The microbes responsible for fermentation often create enzymes and vitamins, break down difficult-to-digest-food components and make minerals more available for your body to assimilate. Fermentation is the best preserving method in this regard.”
An added bonus of fermentation Lewin explains is it improves the flavor of food; however he admits that fermented foods are an acquired taste.
How to Ferment Pickles
Lewin’s book became my new bible on fermentation. The picture are amazing. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to ferment foods. (And say good-bye to the sugar and vinegar!) Be sure to watch my video to give you a visual look at fermentation:
1. I used a large mason jar which I wouldn’t recommend. A wide mouth jar is the best because you want to put a plate or something to keep the pickles below the brine. I finally figured out a small juice glass would keep the pickles in place. Other items you can use:
- a Pickl-it top that fits over wide mouth canning jars (on my list to get)
- a Harsch fermenting crock (top of line for all you who love to ferment)
- TSM Products Fermentation Crock with Stone Weight (great way to keep your veggies below the brine.)
An aside, see if all of your pickles will fit in your mason jar or jars before you start the recipe. You want to have about two inches above the pickles. Don’t worry if you don’t fill the entire jar. You can always place something like a small drink glass or plate to keep the pickles below the brine.
2. In Lewin’s recipe, he used 3 to 4 pounds of cucumbers. I didn’t have that exact amount.
3. Start with adding tea bags (I used 5) or grape leave. Then add a couple of whole garlic cloves. (I used 5 large garlic cloves.) Then add your favorite spices such as bay leaves, peppercorns, dill, or any combination of spices. (Why tea leaves? Tannins help to keep the cukes crispy.) My first two rounds did not contain bay leaves since I was too lazy to go pick them off my bay leaf tree. My first round of fermentation contained dried dill, garlic, and tea bags. My second round used fresh dill, garlic, and tea bags.
4. Put the pickles in the jar as snug as you can. I cut them into pickle size the first time and second time, left them whole. Be sure to cut off the blossom end which is the “stick” that hold the cucumber on the vine.
5. Lewin suggests if you find that your cucumbers are soft or picked awhile ago, you can perk them up by soaking them in ice water.
6. Finally add 1/2 cup of sea salt to 1 gallon of water (8 quarts.) Stir and then put the mixture into the container. For added fermentation insurance, you can add apple cider or red wine vinegar to replace half of the liquid.
Lewin suggests boiling the vinegar first, let it cool and then use it for no more than 1/2 of the water. I added 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar that I made from apple cores. I forgot to boil it. Bad move.
Lewin states apple cider or raw wine have microbes of their own which may take over your pickles. Hmm. Maybe this is why the pickles tasted particularly sour? Next time I will use distilled vinegar since you don’t need to boil it.
In addition, Lewin suggests adding up to one cup of whey, starter or sauerkraut juice to the mix. It helps with fermentation if you don’t want to use the vinegar route.
Note: I didn’t have 3 to four pounds of pickles. I only had 2 1/2 for my first batch this year. I still used the same amount of salt and water due to the size of my jar. If you have leftover salt water, that’s fine.
7. Place a cup on top of the pickles to keep them below the brine. Note, a garlic or two might float up to the surface.
8. Put a towel over the top of the jar and place it in a dark place. Lewin suggested securing it with a rubber band. (I didn’t.)
9. Check it every couple of days. Lewin suggests cutting off a small piece and see if you like the taste. *Warning* The pickles will taste sour. I stopped the fermentation about 5 days since the pickles started to get too sour for me.
10. Move them to a cool place like a refrigerator. They should keep for 3 weeks. Note, if you can them, you will kill the good bacteria formed through fermentation. So eat them!
What about the Mold?
I had mold in my first batch. Lewin states if it a little grows on top, simply remove it and carry on. However, if there is a lot of mold and long tendrils reaching into the brine, pitch the pickles. He further suggests to use more vinegar next time or starter.
If you want to try your hand at fermenting, I recommend Alex Lewin’s book, Real FoodFermenation. Some of his recipes include ginger ale, sauerkraut, wine, lemons and limes, and more.
Disclaimer: There are several affiliate links in the post. Any pennies that I earn help to keep Green Talk pumping out great content. Lewin sent me his book for free for my review. I am so glad he did and so is my tummy!