Pickling & Fermenting - What You Need to Know

Farmer Caroline, PEAS Farm Lecturer, loves making pickles during the summer. She says it can be so refreshing especially when you work outside in the heat and need to hydrate. Eating pickles replenishes that salt into your body. They are an ideal farmer’s snack.

What is pickling?

A method of food preservation. Fresh veggies are mixed with a vinegar or salt solution that preserves that fresh food for longer.

There are many different ways to pickle. Caroline thinks of two categories. You can pickle in vinegar or by fermenting in a salt brine solution, which is a longer process.

The good thing about both is you can pickle your CSA produce and it will keep for a month or even longer!

Quick pickle technique/refrigerator pickle – Dilly Beans

1 – Prepare the jar. Wide mouth jars work best because it’s easier to stuff more veggies in.

2 – Start with placing spices in the bottom of the jar. Heads of dill, coriander, black peppercorn, black mustard seed, yellow mustard seed. Caroline also likes to add hot peppers and garlic. In the past, Caroline has used Bay leaves, all spice berries, cumin seed and celery seed. It’s your personal preference which spices you choose to add!

3 – Stuff the jar completely full of the vegetable you’re going to pickle. Caroline used green beans from the PEAS Farm for this example, but you can use many others. Whichever veggie you choose, make sure it’s fresh for the best crunch. Some good picklers: kohlrabi, cucumbers, onions, green tomatoes, jalapenos, sweet peppers, beets,

Side note: A lot of people put oak leaves or grape leaves or other leaves that have a high tannic content as a way of preserving a crunch into their pickles.

4 – Make the pickling solution. If you’re following a recipe and don’t have the exact kind of vinegar, replace with another vinegar of the same percent acidity. Caroline uses a cup of apple cider vinegar for this recipe. You’ll also need a cup of water. Add both into a pan with 2 teaspoons of salt. Caroline prefers to use regular sea salt instead of pickling salt because it tends to be too salty.

5 – Heat the liquid until it’s hot enough to soften the beans a little bit and help dissolve the salt. Doesn’t necessarily need to boil, just get hot.

Side note: Many canning recipes can be used for quick refrigerator pickling. Instead of canning at the end, just put the jar into the fridge. But you cannot always use a quick refrigerator pickling recipe for canning.

6 – pour the hot pickling solution into your jar. Just pour enough to cover your vegetables. One thing to keep in mind when using glass jars is to make gradual changes in temperature. So, avoid placing a hot jar directly into the fridge. Leave the jar out on the counter and cool down to room temperature before putting in the fridge.

7 – wait until the next day and enjoy!

Fermented pickle:

Similar process to the dilly bean recipe, only you’re not using vinegar. You use salt and water.

Using a clean jar or fermentation crock, in this case it is 32 oz:

1 – start with seasonings at the bottom of a crock. Dill, coriander, garlic, peppercorn, mustard seeds.

2 – keep it clean. . . it’s important to not introduce bad bacteria to the crock. To avoid that, wash your vegetable really well. In this case, with cucumbers, cut off the blossom end where there could still be a little bit of the old flower.

3 - chop your veg or keep it whole. Place in the crock. You could cut how you want them or put them in whole.

4 – grab a 32 ounce container and fill with water. Add 2 ½ teaspoons of salt. Dissolve the salt in the warm tap water. Pour the brine into the crock. If it doesn’t fill the crock all the way fill with the same ratio of water and salt.

5 – find a weight that can hold the pickles under the brine in the crock. A common mistake is to skip this step, which can create mold or bacteria into the brine. It could be a heavy jar or mug (you can add a few rocks in the mug to make it heavier). Whatever fits and is clean.

6 – take a cloth and drape it over the crock. You don’t want sunlight or bugs to get into the crock. Check the crock daily for rot. You can slice off a piece and taste to find out if it’s the flavor you want. If it’s too salty, it may need to ferment longer. Once it tastes sour, you can put a cap on it and put in the fridge. It can keep for as long as 6 months!

Side note: You also may find a layer of scum on top. That means there is a little bit of mold developing. All you have to do is skim it off the top with a spoon and throw away.

Keep trying if you don’t succeed at first! Remember what your process was and how you can make it better. Start with small quantities.

Further Reading:

Sandor Katz – the Art of Fermentation – talks about the process and what’s happening on a scientific level. This book is a great reference should you want to do fermentation regularly. He also has a book called Wild Fermentation. Caroline’s fave is the Art of Fermentation, however.

That’s it for this week!