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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.

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June Garden Update

May was probably drier than is strictly optimal for my vegetable garden but June has brought even hotter temperatures (particularly warm nighttime temperatures) and a more optimal amount of rain.

In my vegetable garden at the cottage I have even been lucky with weeds.  I learned to identify the edible lambs’ quarters and the runner up for most prevalent “weed” is an unruly (though fragrant) crop of dill.  My selection of vegetables has also been fortuitous because I have temporarily abandoned spinach and radishes–both lovers of cool weather–for more beans, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Witkiem beans with their black spotted, white flowers

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Gardening 2009

Last view of the garden covered in frost in October

Winter has finally taken hold in full force here in Toronto.  There has been snow on the ground for several weeks and overnight temperatures are regularly in the double-digit negatives but I’m thinking about gardening.  Last year I had started seeds (parsley and  lettuce) by Valentine’s Day and while I don’t know if I’ll be quite as ambitious this year it is definitely the right time to start planning the garden.  But first I need to do a final wrap-up post for last year’s garden.  I hope this will at least provide a green reminder that the ground isn’t always frozen and white.

Peas dried and saved from the 2008 garden

Peas: After a pretty successful crop in 2008 I saved some peas and planted them this spring.  This first experiment for me in seed-saving had very mixed results.  I’m confident that the peas were properly dried and stored because they germinated in the ground and produced healthy shoots.  I was surprised and frustrated to return to the cottage one late-June weekend to find that all of the shoots (along with their handful of nascent flowers) had disappeared.  I strongly suspect that birds who managed to foil the pea defenses that I improvised from bent sticks (a la Jamie Oliver) ate the tasty shoots.  I haven’t yet seen a bird in (or even near) our garden but vigilance is definitely not constant at a weekend, cottage garden in the spring.

Peas are a contender for garden space in 2010.  Working both for and against them is the fact that they make such a delicious in-garden snack–I eat my fair share and it makes it easier to recruit weeding helpers but it cuts into crop size. (more…)

August Garden Update

Yesterday’s post focused on the food that is available growing wild at this time of year.  Today, I’m going to take a look at what the garden has to offer as August draws to a close.

Pollock tomatoes ripening

Pollock tomatoes ripening

I have complained just as much as everyone else about the lack of sun and heat this summer.  This should have been a particularly bad year for tomatoes because they depend on these too variables and there are stories that farmers in New England have had their crops attacked by blight that flourishes in wet weather.  Last year the tomato plants went into the garden on 31st of May and the first ripe tomatoes were ready around the 26th of August.  This year I transplanted them a week earlier and we were eating ripe tomatoes by the 22nd.  Canabec Rose and Pollock varieties have both been good about being the first to ripen. (more…)

July Garden Update

Southern Ontario has had a wet and not very sunny June and July this year.  This is a bit of challenge to gardeners.  Our garden at the cottage is, for the most part, doing surprisingly well.  I thought I’d produce a mainly photos post updated its progress

Radishes

Radishes

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