Thursday, July 23, 2009

In Pickle

Like a lot of you, I've been bitten by the "make-pickles" bug this season.

Between an endogenous lust for fermented things (no idea how it happened) , the superabundance of my garden during this summer of wet and mild weather, and an ever-escalating awareness that anything worth eating is not that hard to make -I f--king had to do it.

Of course, I've been making pickled things for decades. But with the exception of sauerkraut, I am not aware that I have ever pickled anything via the naturally occurring lactobacilli that is present on all fruits and vegetables (and probably everything that is alive and lives on the surface of our planet).

My previous pickling experience has been limited to submerging foods in seasoned vinegar with pickling spices (c.f. mass market cornichon and bread & butter pickles) which produces a pickle with the aroma and taste of acetic acid. That kind of pickle is great, but it is nothing like pickles that have been fermented (allowed to be partially digested) by lactic acid producing bacteria.

Pickled sweat peas from my garden. They smell like pickles and eat like peanuts (salty, sweet, umami and -unlike peanuts- sour),

The turbid appearance of the pickling brine (below) is caused by pigment that leached from the three radishes I added in as an afterthought.

A cucumber juxtaposed against a pea- a "peacumber" if you will.

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The recipe for this kind of pickle could not be any easier it it had been constructed by a monkey. The basic algorithm is

1) make a 5% brine of salt and water ( for example to one quart or 32 ounces, by weight of water add 1.6 ounces of salt OR per 1 liter or 1000 grams of water add 50 grams of salt)
2) Add seasoning to the solution, heat to create an infusion and let cool to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (I added garlic, chillies and basil)
3) Add fruits and or vegetables
4) Place in an air tight container making sure that the fruits and or vegetables are covered with the brine
5) Cover tightly and shove into a corner of your kitchen
6) Check every two or three days. If after a week to ten days the mixture smells like pickle, it's probably done

For a more precise pickle recipe with much better photography see Tarragon-Garlic Pickles @ Ruhlman.


Carrie said...

I had to google endogenous! LOL Very interesting post - I have a lot of very large cucumbers still coming out of my garden and I'm getting really sick of raw cucumbers and cucumber/tomato salad. I wonder if they are too big for this type of pickling... maybe I'll just have to give it a try and find out.

jon w said...

I too pickle.

half dozen grated carrots
a bit of chopped ginger
1 chopped jalapeno

let it sour for a week.

anne said...

you do make it sound easy enough... i'm still only at the stage of the seasoned vinegar poured over vegetables. but perhaps it's time to graduate to more serious stuff.

Bob del Grosso said...

It's is every bit as simple as I suggested. The only sticking point involves the need to keep the process anaerobic.

The vegetables need to be pushed down into the brine with, for example, a weighted plate. Or placed in an container with almost no air space between the surface of the brine and the lid (which is what I did here).

Mike Pardus said...

I've had excellant luck this season with kirby cuke pickles, maybe because I'm harvesting my own bumper crop and only lightly rinsing them before beginning the ferment - thus not disturbing the "bloom" of lacto-bacili on the out side. Here's what I've been doing:

Pick and rinse cukes
make 5% salt solution - use kosher salt
place cukes in a jar with dill, garlic and chilies
pour brine over to cover
press a piece of plastic wrap into the mouth of the jar and "burp" out any excess surface air
allow to sit over night
next day - drain 5% brine and replace with 3% brine
cover again and sit for 3-5 days
After 5 days in my kitchen I have nearly full sours.
Store refrigerated to slow down the fermentation.

A book on Kim chi I've just finished suggests that the magnesium chloride in sea salt helps pickled things retain crispness - that's my next experiment.