What’s cuter than a pickle? Other than maybe a baby turtle (also green), pretty much nothing.
For me, pickles were a soggy afterthought to a deli sandwich, which more often than not, held its charm for a bite or two before being tossed into la basura.
However, these days, I’ve become pretty nuts about not letting food go to waste. What doesn’t get eaten gets mixed into new takes on old favorites the following day, and things like cores and peels or rotten forgotten fridge fossils go into the coop to be analyzed by our chickens.
This year, having a psychotically vibrant garden and working on an amazing organic veggie farm has yielded such a booty that I needed to take serious measures. “Waste not, want not” they say, and I want not to waste a gosh darned thing!
There are three things I dislike about them: The crap that’s in those packets of pickling seasoning found in grocery stores; the burning aroma of hot vinegar in your face; and the thought of using wobbly tongs to sanitize jars in scalding water. All seem to be a page out of Indiana Jones dream journal of daymares.
So when I learned about lacto-fermentation, a smile nearly pickled itself on my face!
No crap to add! No hot jars! No temple of doom!
The term lacto-fermentation comes from naturally occurring bacteria called Lactobacillus, which has the ability to convert sugars into lactic acid through the process of fermentation. This method of fermentation is especially noteworthy when it comes to preserving food, as lactic acid actually prevents the growth of harmful bacteria (so you can finally toss out your barf bag!). Beneficial live enzymes called probiotics are present in fermented foods which help break down material in the digestive tract and keeps your GI system in check. A healthy GI tract means a stronger immune system — so chow down!
Here’s the basic recipe:
– 3 Tablespoons sea salt
– 1 quart water
– Delicious veggies of your choice (enough to fill your jar, more or less).
– Delicious garlic (about 5 large cloves)
– Delicious fresh herbs of your choice (a few sprigs or leaves will do)
– A large jar (3-quart jars are pretty super rad).
– Patience, grasshopper.
First, dissolve your sea salt into your quart of water. Set aside. Next, peel your garlic cloves and slice them in half lengthwise. Place them in the bottom of your jar. Next add your herbs of choice (I used fresh basil). Now, add your chopped veggies (chop them so they’re about 1.” I used summer squash, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, cabbage, and shallots). Next, add your salt brine so that all the veggies are covered. Add a big veggie chunk to the top so that when you secure your lid, the veggies stay submerged under the brine. Screw on the lid, note the date, and let your pickle jar hang out on your countertop for 5-7 days, unscrewing the lid every other day to release gas from fermentation. You can taste your pickles after day 3 to see how they are coming along. Whenever they taste awesome to you, pop them in the fridge to bring the fermentation process to a slow halt. Consume refrigerated pickles within one month (they will last much longer than that in the fridge. It’s best to use your best judgement and discard if they start to taste weird to you).
Note: Certain veggies will take shorter or longer to ferment and soften. Summer squash and softer veggies will ferment pretty quickly. Carrots, beets and other root veggies will take a few days longer, so it’s good to taste your pickles periodically to check when they’re done.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “What should I do with all that delicious brine after I’m done schnarfing my pickles?!” The answer is simple: use it to make salad dressing:
½ cup pickle brine
1 tablespoon mayo, or veganaise or soynaise or whatevernaise
shake or two of your favorite hot sauce
Mix all ingredients well and give your pal Romaine a holler.