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Wild Fermentation

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…)

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.


Wild Pickles

Two baskets of cucumbers from the Willowtree Farm stand at MLS farmers market

Two baskets of cucumbers from the Willowtree Farm stand at MLS farmers' market

I have obtained two of the necessary “ingredients” for another round of wild-fermented dill pickles this summer.  Also, I picked up the ever-important cucumbers today.  The Willowtree Farms stand at Mel Lastman Square had good looking cucumbers  at five dollars for one those (3L, maybe?) baskets.  Two of these (ten dollars worth) yielded 2670 g (almost exactly six pounds) of dark green, pleasingly bumpy cukes.  I couldn’t resist tasting a couple and was pleased to find that they have the crunchiness and complex slightly bitter, slightly floral taste that are always absent from the shrink-wrapped green torpedoes sold in grocery stores. (more…)

Memories of Summer: Mead

Winter cooking (and to a more limited extent winter gardening) is enjoyable in its own right but realistically I spend more time thinking about the summer during the wintertime than the other way around. Therefore, this post is devoted to one of my favourite food experiments of last summer: Ethiopian Honey Wine (a.k.a. T’ej, or Mead).

Four Flavours of Mead: plain, blueberry, honey ginger, and peach

Four Flavours of Mead: plain, blueberry, lemon ginger, and peach

Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation was the inspiration for a lot of what I prepared (“cooked” is the wrong word because almost all fermented food is raw) last July and August.  I’ll probably deal with each of the fermentation experiments and likely the book itself in separate posts but when scrolling through photos from last summer I came across this one and remembered just how good the mead was to drink as well as to look at.