Hello September and goodbye to summer! Thank you summer for giving us beautiful weather, great memories and another prosperous gardening season!
It’s back to school time and soon-to-be the start of my next favourite season, Fall. What do you think of when you think of Fall? I think of falling leaves, fall colours, pumpkins, halloween, thanksgiving, turkey, pie, the harvest and how best to preserve the bounty.
With the kids going back to school, this is the perfect time to capture summer in a bottle and enjoy it throughout the long and dreary days of winter. I have a list of our essential pantry items and I do my best to stock up. For example, I make batches of freezer apple sauce, tomato sauce, dehydrated fruits and vegetables and pickles. I also add a few new items to the list, that I haven’t tried before.
Do you have a favourite pickle? There are vinegar pickles, quick pickles, bread & butter pickles, relish, French cornichons, sour pickles and many others.
My favourite is fermented pickles! These are traditional deli shop pickles, that are perfectly salty and satifying. They pair beautifully with a roast beef sandwich or nicely top a burger.
These pickles are not made with vinegar. Instead, the cucumbers are submerged in a 5% salt brine solution, along with garlic cloves, dill, all spice, peppercorns, grape leaves, cherry tree leaves, oak leaves, etc… They are then left in the jar, and kept on the counter or some other convenient location, to “ferment”. In doing so, lacto-bacteria or lactic acid develops in the jar, causing the contents to preserve through fermentation.
There are several health benefits to fermented foods:
- Preserves food – during fermentation microorganisms on the food produce alcohol, lactic acid and acetic acid, thereby retaining food nutrients and preventing food spoilage;
- Breaks nutrients down into more easily digestible forms and improves the bioavailability of minerals present in food;
- Creates new nutrients – microbial cultures in fermented foods create B vitamins, including Folic Acid, Riboflavin, Niacin, Thiamin and Biotin;
- Removes toxins from food – through fermentation, some previously toxic foods change and become digestible.
For these reasons and for the simple fact that fermented food is delicious, I try to add it to our diet as much as possible. Some other fermented food that we enjoy are kefir, kimchi, saurkraut, tofu, yogurt, coffee, wine and dark chocolate.
This is my second year making fermented Sour Pickles. Last year’s batch turned out much better than I expected, making this practice my yearly tradition.
The recipe I use to make these pickles is from a book called “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Ellix Katz. This book explains in detail, how the process of fermentation works and its health benefits. He then lists numerous simple fermentation recipes for vegetables, beans, dairy, breads, grains, beverages, wines, beers, vinegars and many others. If you have an interest in fermentation, I highly recommend checking out his books!
Recipe for Sour Pickles:
- Sea Salt
- Cucumbers (small size)
- Garlic cloves
- Grape leaves, oak tree leaves, cherry tree leaves, currant leaves, strawberry leaves, horseradish leaves (any of these or a combination of them – used to maintain cucumber crispiness)
- Fresh dill weed and/or dill seeds
- All spice (whole)
- Black peppercorns
- Mustard seeds
- optional: hot peppers, carrots, radishes, horseradish root
- Large canning jars or crock (for fermentation)
- Cheesecloth or linen towels
- Trays (to store the jars)
- Large pot or bowl to prepare the salt brine solution
- Ladel and jar funnel
- Prepare the cucumbers by soaking them in ice water for at least 2 hours or overnight. This will help to keep their crispiness.
- After soaking, wash the cucumbers well and scrub off any sand or dirty spots; cut off ends.
- Prepare the salt brine solution by mixing 3 tbsps of sea salt with every 1 quart of water. Stir well until dissolves. This will create a 5% salt brine.
- Cover the bottom of each canning jar with the grape leaves, cherry leaves, etc.
- Add 1 tsp (combined) of ‘all spice’ balls, peppercorns and mustard seeds to the bottom of the jar.
- Add sliced garlic cloves to the jar (2-3 cloves per large jar).
- Add dill weed and/or seeds to bottom of jar.
- Fill jar with cucumbers and pack tightly. (I sliced some of mine and filled in the empty spaces with them.)
- Pour the salt brine over the cucumbers, until the top of the jar and all cucumbers are covered. If you have a small jar to weigh the cucumbers down, place it on top. Your goal is to keep all cucumbers under the brine. If any float to the top, they will spoil. *when I packed my jars, I did as tightly as I could, thereby keeping the ingredients from floating.
- Cover the jars with cheesecloth or a linen towel, to keep out dust and flies and place jars on a tray; the trays will collect any liquid that will spill out of the jars, as the contents ferment.
- Check the jars daily and skim any foam or white mold off the top. Eventually it will stop producing reside.
- After a week, taste the pickles. If they have reached their desired sourness, close the jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator. If you would like them to continue to sour, leave them out until they reach the flavour you prefer. Then store all closed jars in the fridge. They will continue to ferment there, but very slowly.
Last year, I made 22 jars of sour pickles. They kept well in the fridge and lasted until early spring. This year I made 17 jars.
Feel free to add sliced carrots or radishes, if you would prefer. I also added whole hot peppers to one of the jars, as an experiment.
What do you do with your excess of garden veggies? Do you preserve your harvest and how? Please share your experience in the comments below.
Happy Gardening and Have Fun!