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Pickling

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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Pickled Tawse Eggs

On our trip to Tawse a few weeks ago we had the pleasure of meeting the winery’s chickens who do such a good job of foraging between the vines.  They also produce (as chickens are wont to do) some top-notch eggs and like any self-respecting group of foodster bloggers our group bought out the several dozen that were available for sale that day.  With the last of my Tawse eggs I made pickled eggs.

For me this is more than just a shock-value post or an attempt to check another box on the culinary to-make list.  I really like pickled eggs.  They’re vinegary, a little bit salty, a filling snack that feels quite healthy.  Though I don’t claim to be a dietary researcher I’m skeptical of the recent finger pointing at the level of cholesterol in egg yolks.  Historically eggs are one of the longest and most broadly consumed foods and while this is the ultimate in anecdotal evidence they always seem to garner positive mentions from centenarians asked for their “secret to longevity”. (more…)

Pickled Carrots

The finished product, straight from the canning kettle

The finished product, straight from the canning kettle

There are a lot of ways to enjoy pickled preserves: on or beside a sandwich, mixed into a spicy curry, or straight from the jar. I consider no use more noble (or mandatory) than as a foil to the salt and fat on one of those two collations of savoury greatness the charcuterie and cheese boards.  If I can’t picture myself chasing a piece of crusty baguette slathered in chicken liver mousse with a piece of a particular pickle I probably won’t get out the canning kettle.  Pickled carrots pass the charcuterie/cheese test on taste (sweet and acidic), texture (one of the best retainers of natural crunch without chemical assistance), and colour (other than Beemster and its French cousin Mimolette orange is a rare colour on these platters).

About half of the carrot harvest from the garden

About half of the carrot harvest from the garden

Other than my own culinary demand this project was made possible by a bountiful supply.  I had read last winter that carrots and tomatoes are great garden companions and because I knew that we would be devoting one of the cottage garden’s largest of four beds to tomatoes again this year I figured there wasn’t much to be lost by buying a packet of carrot seeds and sowing them around the designated spots for the tomato plants.  I’ll write more about this in my round-up of 2009′s gardening season but suffice it to say that this low-intensity experiment was a stunning success.  From a total of nearly ten pounds of carrots I designated three pounds of the smallest specimens for canning purposes. (more…)

Beans and Pearls

The finished product: Beans and Pearls

The finished product: Beans and Pearls

With a pantry full of preserved beets, roasted red peppers, and jalapenos a lot of the colour and flavour that we enjoyed most in our risottos, stir-fries, salads and egg dishes last winter came straight from the Mason jar.  Pickled vegetables offered a visual and taste reminder of warmer times when we were locked deep in winter.  The colour they added to dishes made more seasonal options like potatoes, turnips, and cabbage (literally) pale in comparison.  Best of all, we used just as much as we needed and therefore saved our vegetable drawer from the usual decomposing half-bunches of over-priced and imported winter produce.  But now it’s summer again and time to start preserving for next winter.

My starting point for this pickling experiment was the idea that greens beans, especially when raw, are not very flavourful.  They only really shine when combined with butter and garlic.  To me, they taste “grassy” and “green” and that means that I had more latitude when choosing what flavours to combine them with in the jar.  Also, I know that pearl onions would have been more appropriate for the name but I have wanted to try preserving mushrooms for a while and I was afraid that the onion flavour would dominate.

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