Even though we’ve had the coldest summer in 40 years (yes, you read that right) in Sonoma County, there are still cucumbers to be had. In fact, there are many cucumbers which I patiently await so that I can make pickles. Currently, Crescent Moon Farm of Santa Rosa has both kirby cukes and cornichons for pickling. I bought 4 pounds of them and I am ready to go to work. See my notes below from my presentation at the Freestone Fermentation Festival this past May. I welcome comments (below) and questions about pickling.
My sister says that adding a handful of crushed red pepper makes great pickles but for my first batch, I am going to use the standard recipe but because it’s so cool, instead of using 6 tablespoons of salt, I am only going to use 4 so that I have a better chance of getting fermentation sooner.
Making Pickles with The Veggie Queen™
(Information From Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, https://www.wildfermentation.com/resources.php?page=pickles
For the brine: Added to 1 quart of water, each tablespoon of sea salt (weighing about .6 ounce) adds 1.8% brine. So 2 tablespoons of salt in 1 quart of water yields a 3.6% brine, 3 tablespoons yields 5.4%, and so on. In the metric system, each 15 milliliters of salt (weighing 17 grams) added to 1 liter of water yields 1.8% brine.
Some old-time recipes call for brines with enough salt to float an egg. This translates to about a 10% salt solution. This is enough salt to preserve pickles for quite some time, but they are too salty to consume without a long desalinating soak in fresh water first. Low-salt pickles, around 3.5% brine, are “half-sours” in delicatessen lingo. This recipe is for sour, fairly salty pickles, using around 5.4% brine. Experiment with brine strength. A general rule of thumb to consider in salting your ferments: more salt to slow microorganism action in summer heat; less salt in winter when microbial action slows.
Timeframe: 1-4 weeks
Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket
Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
1-gallon/4-liter jug filled with water, or other weight
Ingredients (for 1 gallon/4 liters):
3 to 4 pounds/1.5 to 2 kilograms unwaxedcucumbers (small to medium size)
3⁄8 cup (6 tablespoons)/90 milliliters sea salt
3 to 4 heads fresh flowering dill, or 3 to 4 tablespoons/45 to 60 milliliters of any form ofdill (fresh or dried leaf or seeds)
2 to 3 heads garlic, peeled
1 handful fresh grape, cherry, oak, and/orhorseradish leaves (if available)
1 pinch black peppercorns
- Rinse cucumbers, taking care to not bruise them, and making sure their blossoms are removed. Scrape off any remains at the blossom end. If you’re using cucumbers that aren’t fresh off the vine that day, soak them for a couple of hours in very cold water to freshen them.
- Dissolve sea salt in ½ gallon (2 liters) of water to create brine solution. Stir until salt is thoroughly dissolved.
- Clean the crock, then place at the bottom of it dill, garlic, fresh grape leaves, and a pinch of black peppercorns.
- Place cucumbers in the crock.
- Pour brine over the cucumbers,place the (clean) plate over them, then weigh it down with a jug filled with water or a boiled rock. If the brine doesn’t cover the weighed-down plate, add more brine mixed at the same ratio of just under 1 tablespoon of salt to each cup of water.
- Cover the crock with a cloth to keep out dust and flies and store it in a cool place.
- Check the crock every day. Skim any mold from the surface, but don’t worry if you can’t get it all. If there’s mold, be sure to rinse the plate and weight. Taste the pickles after a few days.
- Enjoy the pickles as they continue to ferment. Continue to check the crock every day.
- Eventually, after one to four weeks (depending on the temperature), the pickles will be fully sour. Continue to enjoy them, moving them to the fridge to slow down fermentation. You can store them for 6 months or more tightly sealed in the refrigerator.
The Veggie Queen’s Note: You can stop the fermentation any time that you like the flavor of the pickles. You must pay attention to your pickles daily.
Starting with the freshest cucumbers is the key to great pickles.
Use plain inexpensive sea salt (best) or kosher salt but not mineral-rich salt.
Be sure to use filtered (unchlorinated) water.
You can also pickle other vegetables in a similar manner. You can easily pickle peppers, such as jalapeno or cherry bombs, or green tomatoes. I have not experimented with many other vegetables and I am not sure why you’d want to pickle them (in these modern times when blanching and freezing is far better).
You will know that you have fermentation when the pickling brine goes from tasting salty to tasty sour. This does take much longer in the winter than in the summer and the flavor of the pickled vegetables actually develops more with longer, slower fermentation.
If you ever have pickling questions, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.