Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lacto-Fermented/Pickled Cucumbers

I've made a total of six jars of these cucumber pickles now - some slices and some whole ones. They've all been delicious and we've already finished an entire quart and are well on our way through our second quart of them. I eat a few slices or a whole one each day, so does Carson and Kevin often does, too. So we're going through them pretty fast. They're so good, though! I planted my cucumbers late this year - they were the last thing I got planted this year. I did that on purpose so that mine would be ripening after the huge influx of cucumbers at the farmers market and I'm so glad I did now. I'll be able to extend my pickle making season! :)

Lacto-fermenting veggies is seriously so easy and virtually fool-proof. Everyone should try it! All you do is prep your veggies, fill your jars with whatever spices you like - in this case garlic, dill, and peppercorns - add the veggies, and pop the cap on loosely. Then let it sit on your kitchen counter for a couple of days and throw it in the fridge. For these cucumber pickles, I also added three raw grape leaves to each jar. I've read on several blogs and in Wild Fermentation that they help to keep the pickles crunchy. They seem to be working well because our cucumber pickles are still quite crunchy (and the ones soaked in ice water are even more crunchy than those that were not... see below for explanation).

In addition to being so simple to make, lacto-fermented veggies are really good for you. They give you a dose of beneficial bacteria, which everyone can use more of these days... especially if you have digestive issues... which most people seem to have nowadays. The lacto-fermentation process also increases the vitamins for which your body will absorb from the vegetables. And they're easier to digest than the raw versions. This all helps to keep you healthy.

In the midst of peak harvest season here in the midwest, cucumbers and other veggies are so widely available at the farmers markets and farm stands. So go on out and support your local farmer! Pick up some veggies and give lacto-fermentation a try! You've got nothing to lose and only your health to gain!

I'll update with a picture soon!

Pickled Cucumbers

Cucumbers, sliced, spears, or whole
sea salt
fresh dill heads
garlic cloves
freshly picked grape leaves (oak and cherry leaves are also supposed to work)

Wash your cucumbers well. Put some ice and water into a large bowl and submerge your cucumbers in the ice water. Put the bowl in your refrigerator for 3-8 hours. This is another trick to making crunchy cucumber pickles. It really does work. I did not do this on the first jar I made and we can definitely tell the difference in crunch between those first pickles and the rest of the pickles that have all been soaked in ice water. This is a trick I learned of from Wild Fermentation.

Remove the cucumbers from the ice water bath and slice into 1/4" slices, cut them into spears, or leave them whole. I've used both pickling cucumbers and regular cucumbers this year and both seem to work just as well... though I have always sliced the regular cucumbers. Some sources say you should peel the regular cucumbers because the peel can become bitter, but I haven't peeled them and haven't experienced them being bitter.

Wash your grape leaves. Prepare your brine. See my post on spicy carrot pickles for a little more info on what type of salt to use (not Celtic sea salt) and making the brine a proper strength. Also keep in mind that it is better to use more salt during the hot summer months and less salt during the cooler winter months.

Pack each jar with three grape leaves, a fresh dill head or two, 2-3 garlic cloves, a pinch of black peppercorns, and your cucumbers. Cover with brine and put the lid on the jar loosely. You do not want a tight seal.

Check your pickles every day and learn to look for signs of fermentation. The day after you make your pickles, open the jar and listen for popping, fizzing or hissing as you open the jar. Smell the contents and then taste a sip of the brine. Is it at all sour or fizzy or still just salty? Put the lid back on and let it sit out for another day. It usually takes 2-5 days for signs of fermentation to really show up. When your pickles are popping, fizzing or starting to taste sour, move them to the fridge.


The Voogts said...

The pickles look great! I've had mine a couple times now. I really like them. I'll have to try the grape leaf trick sometime. That's great that you guys all love them and eat them daily. Great for your tummy :)

Shu Han said...

I've tried making these before, but I couldn't get them to become crunchy! SO grape/oak leaves are the secret! Thanks for sharing! I always love more real food ideas, especially for preserving.. I did kimchi which turned out pretty good, and which (to me at least since I come from SIngapore) turned out very useful in so many soups and recipes.