Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pickled Onions

Get a gander of my latest adventure in lactic acid fermentation: pickled (or more precisely "pickling") onions.

I started this project last Friday morning as I pulled into the farm and immediately began yanking onions out of the onion field adjacent to the parking lot. After about an hour of yanking, I rinsed them off with the hose outside the door of the milking parlor and hauled them into the kitchen for prepping (about 2 hours) and brining (30 minutes). Now the wait is on.

The slide show depicts most of the steps involved with captions written in a "How To" voice. None of the steps require a greater apprehension of culinary science and technique than might be found in a teenaged chimpanzee -albeit a teen chimp who hangs around kitchens.





15 comments:

IdahoRocks said...

And how long do we have to wait before you reveal how tasty those onions are?

Scotty said...

A brine meter. Yep, I am sure my great grandmothers used those in ghetto and shtetl when dilling pickles . . .

:)

Tags said...

Please do peppers next. I have a memory of my late aunt's pickled peppers that would even make Peace A Pizza taste good. (but why waste 'em?)

Bob del Grosso said...

Ah I'm not falling for that one Bob (Tags). You are setting me up for a Peter Piper joke. I'm not pickling any peppers, not a peck :-)

Bob del Grosso said...

IdahoRocks

I don't really know how long they will take. I'll guess 10 to 14 days?

Tags said...

Peter, Piper, Pickle, Peckers?

Now, don't be gettin' all phallic on us again, Robert.

I really do want to pickle some peppers sometime before I brine the big one.

Ed Bruske said...

Bob, we've found a 5 percent brine a bit too salty, so we've reduced it to a 3.6 percent brine that I think is perfect for our dill pickles. The cucumbers take four or five days to reach what I consider a state of doneness in ambient temperature. I then transfer them to the fridge to slow the fermentation process. I find the best eating is after an additional five days or so in the fridge. They don't last forever, but hopefully they'll all be eaten before they ever have a chance to go bad. I love teaching lacto-fermentation to kids, showing them how a progression of different bacteria thrive in the salt environment and create their own acid to deter the spoilers.

Bob del Grosso said...

Ed
I'm on the fence about the 5% brine. One one side it is a little salty: One the other the salt gives them nice edge.
I understand your objection.

paul said...

I did some garden vegetables a couple years ago using the 5% brine and found it too salty. It was fun to eat because I knew I pickled them using this natural method, but I think I prefer something that's more tangy and less salty, though I haven't ruled out trying it again and maybe putting some other seasoning in there. I just put beets in the brine.

seriousdarious said...

Thanks for the post Bob. I recently inherited a small bag of onions and I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them, then I saw your post. Two questions. First, you say 10-14 days. What are we looking for in a finished product? Second, it looks like you used an open system (i.e. no waterlock). Is this correct? I'm assuming that the salinity of the brine will keep any nasties from setting up shop. I hope this is the case because if not I have a bucket of slowly-rotting and not slowly-fermenting onions on my counter. Thanks.

Bob del Grosso said...

seriousdarious

I'm not sure how long they will take to become pickled and only guessed 10-14 days. I will know they are done by the taste (sour) and aroma. I suppose I could check the pH and pull it at 3-3.5 but I don't think that is necessary.

As long as the onions (or any veg) are fully submerged beneath the brine, you don't need to worry. Just skim off anything growing on the surface before you remove the onions.

BTW, I'm going to change the brine this week to 3%. I've decided that although 5% is pretty standard as a starting brine, it's too salty for finishing.

seriousdarious said...

At what percent brine do microbial invaders (potentially) become a problem?

Bob del Grosso said...

Seriousdarious
Broadly speaking, I don't know. 5% is strong enough to ward off microbes like e. coli etc but no barrier to many fungi.

But I would not over-think this. If you start at 5%. let the pH drop so that the brine is quite sour (pH 4-3) then change the brine to 3% it should be safe provided you did not use heavily contaiminated veg.

seriousdarious said...

Cool. Thanks.

seriousdarious said...

Well, my first attempt ended in... utter failure. I was using a lid to a stainless steel pot to keep the onions submerged. Apparently, the "pins" that the manufacturer used to attach the handle to the lid aren't so stainless. When I pulled the lid out to move the onions to the 3% solution (as an aside, I much prefer your dilution/brine-meter technique - much easier than building a new brine) I found the pins corroded, leaching who-knows-what into the brine. So the brine went down the drain and the onions into the trash. Back to step one.