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dill pickles

Probiotic Salad

A probiotic salad of sauerkraut, dill pickles, and a yogurt dressing.

The recipes I share here on Food With Legs vary along a spectrum that runs from Old Favourites straight to What the Hell Experiments. This one happens to fall much closer to the latter end than the former. I was having friends over for dinner, had plans for rich and meaty pasta and main courses and wanted to start with a salad. I figured I could lay down an acid base and get everyone salivating for what was up next. And that’s how the “probiotic salad” that combines both my wild-fermented dill pickles and spicy Sichuan sauerkraut was conceived.

I am being a bit tongue-in-cheek by using that word “probiotic” in the title. Yogurt companies have adopted it–along with belly-dancing models and stomach-shapes lines–to make a back-handed claim about their products’ health benefits. The connection between live bacteria in food and the digestive health of those who eat hasn’t been definitely established, but I’m willing place a tentative bet that it will pan out–especially when the probiotic food is cultured with more than just a yogurt companies patented strains of lactobacilli. (more…)

Dill Pickle Gear

This is my fifth year in a row making the wild-fermented, dill pickles that are also known as kosher sours. The unusual process (at least for our refrigerator-happy era) depends on leaving food at room temperature for a couple weeks so [there are some unusual challenges that have to be met.] This year I fine-tuned the equipment setup and I’d like to share my changes in the hope that you may find them useful.

The detail here is pretty intense and falls into the “nice-to-know-but-not-necessary” category. If you’re new to wild-fermented pickling have a look at my recipe for Wild Dill Pickles, or at the recipes for year-round favourites Pickled Turnips, and Small-batch Spicy Sauerkraut. If you’re looking to refine your dill pickling technique head over to pickle troubleshooting post(more…)

Small-batch Spicy Sauerkraut

Spicy Small-batch Sauerkraut

Other than marmalade in all its various forms January and February don’t offer many opportunities for preserving. It’s also the time when lacto-fermented preserves that have been moved to the fridge are starting either to run out or go off.

This week I ate the last of this year’s batch of Wild Pickles. Seems like a strange thing to be wistful about, I guess, but I was proud of them because not only did I really like how they tasted (strongly sour but backed with lots of garlic, dill, and black pepper) but also because they won the People’s Choice award in the amateur category for the Annual 86′d Monday Pickle Battle. It’s not everyday that you get to call yourself a pickle champ.

Coincidentally, I’ve been poking around a book, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig that my cousin turned me on to. It’s peppered with some pretty strong claims that I want to look into more but there are also some very interesting recipes. (more…)

Pickle Problems

Earlier in the week, I had a post that was intended to be my simplified recipe for wild, lacto-fermented dill pickles. It went a little long and still I feel like there are questions to answer so this post is intended as a sort of troubleshooting guide for that recipe. Unless you’re familiar with the process, that I adapted from Sandor Katz’s recipe in Wild Fermentation it’s best to read the original post before this one.

That seems like a lot of cucumbers. Well, yes, half a bushel, or a couple ounces shy of twenty-four pounds is a lot of cucumbers. I’ll update this post later in the year if this turns out to be more than we can eat but this is really where the volume discounts kick in. Two years ago when I bought the cucumbers from the same market vendor by the basket I paid roughly $4/kg ($10 for 2,670 g) but the pre-ordered half bushel worked out to more like $2/kg ($20 for 10,858 g). A full bushel is an even better deal at $35.

I’ll leave the commentary on how this difference illustrates a big hole in the economic model of farmers’ markets for another post.

Cukes like hot weather but also benefit flavour-wise from cooler nights so if you have the choice, like we do in Toronto, between warmer sources (Niagara) or cooler ones (north of the city) go with the latter. I’ve had very good luck with Willowtree Farms from Port Perry, ON and all the prices here are from them. (more…)

Wild Dill Pickles Recipe

Pickles at the one-week mark

Other than bacon, dill pickles may be my most frequent topic for posts. I’ve veered from strictly mainstream with posts about deep-frying pickles and making Jello shooters from the brine (seriously) but in 2009 I also did a background post on my second batch of homemade pickles and then a comparison between mine and similar store-bought pickles. With my fifth batch (in four years) of lacto-fermented, kosher dill pickles fermenting in the crock I think I’ve gained enough experience to offer some guidance to others.

I’m going to do a couple posts this week on these pickles. Today’s will be a straight-up recipe and the second will be a more in-depth troubleshooting post.

What distinguishes this recipe from other dill pickle recipes is that no vinegar is added to the brine. Cucumbers and flavourful ingredients are left in a salty brine for a few weeks at room temperature. “Wild” lactobacilli that are either already present in the container, on one of the ingredients, or land in the brine digest the sugars in the cucumbers and produce lactic acid which flavours the brine and keeps other micro-organisms from taking over.

This recipe is adapted from Sandor Katz’s Sour Pickles in his excellent book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Lve-Culture Foods. Especially since the recipes trick comes from him credit is definitely due in this case. Wild Fermentation is a very useful book that is full of rare gems.

Update: After three weeks in the crock we have pickle success. For the fermenting period (July 30 to August 20) we had daytime temperatures that were roughly average (high 20′s in Celsius) for this time of year in southern Ontario. By the last of the three weeks it had started to get cooler at night (down to about 15C) on a more reliable basis.

By the time I was ready to transfer the pickles to jars the scum on the top of the brine was a slightly darker off-white shade. The pickles were sour, not too salty, had lots of garlic punch, and had a good, if not perfect, crunch.

In jars they’ll last in the refrigerator for about two to three months–some sources even say as long as six.