Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Naturally Fermented Dill Pickles

Nearly all store brand pickles are created with vinegar as the base as it guarantees a sour flavor and acts as a preservative. However, using vinegar instead of brine prevents natural fermentation from occurring. The live bacteria cultures that will grow, that turn pickles into a healthy probiotic food, are missing. Also, pickles that soak in vinegar for a long time are usually too sour and end up rather limp.

There are brands of naturally fermented pickles to be found in stores, although they can be expensive. Making naturally fermented pickles at home is pretty easy to do and is more fun than you might think. They will crunch, have an earthy tang, will be infused with garlic and dill and taste fresher than a factory made pickle.

Start with this easy recipe first but then be prepared to play with flavors and switching up veggies on the next bottles, any herb, spice and vegetable is fair game.

This recipe is for one 16 ounce jar and can easily be doubled. 

6-8 small (3-4 inches long) un-waxed cucumbers. Look for pickling or “Kirby” cucumbers which are an ideal size. 
1 1/2 cups filtered water
2 tablespoons sea salt (or other non-additive salt)
4-8 sprigs of fresh dill
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half a
1 wide-mouth 16-ounce glass canning jar (sterilized in boiling water and air-dried)

Optional seasonings: red pepper flakes, hot chiles, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, celery leaves, bay leaves, fresh herbs, onion, cinnamon stick, cloves

Combine salt and water and let sit until salt dissolves

After washing the cucumbers, cut the tips off on both ends. Leaving the cucumbers whole, cutting them in half, spears, or coins is a matter of personal preference. I like coins best but will try long thin slices for sandwiches next time.

Tightly pack the the jar. Layering in the garlic and dill. The cucumbers will shrink a little during the pickling process.

Pour the salt water into the jar. It should completely cover the cucumbers.

Set the lid loosely on top of the jar, don’t seal it. Let the jar sit undisturbed at room temperature. You’ll know fermentation has begun when you see bubbles rising to the top of the jar and the water becomes cloudy. A thin layer of white scum may form on the surface of the water. This is harmless and can be scooped away with a clean spoon. 

It will take between 4 to 8 days before the pickles are done. Taste the pickles to check for texture and flavor. Once you’ve decided they’re done, tighten the lid and store the pickles in the refrigerator. Store for up to 2 months in the refrigerator, skimming as needed. If the pickles should become soft or begin to take on an off odor, this is a sign of spoilage and they should be discarded.

If the flavor of the pickles is not vinegary enough for you, try drizzling a little vinegar on the spears right before eating.

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