We have been picking cucumbers and peppers from the garden this last week. Traditional live fermented pickles are one of my favorite ways to preserve both!
You can see the bright orange chunks of pepper in the mix.
I also added cranberry hibiscus, ginger leaves, caraway seeds, black pepper, marigold petals, a pinch of curry powder, a pinch of homemade cayenne pepper, some carrot leaves and thyme from the Grocery Row Gardens.
I put a top on the jar to shake it up and get the air bubbles out, but after the photo Rachel replaced the top with a fermenting lid and weight, like the ones in this set.
There is no vinegar in this method of pickling. Instead, you simply pack vegetables in a jar and pour a salt brine over them and let them sit at room temperature for a few days. Lactic acid forming bacteria will colonize the solution and make it sour and delightful. You can taste it after a few days, and if it’s nice and sour, it’s done. When we like the flavor, we put the entire jar in the fridge to slow down further fermentation. In our warm Southern climate, ferments sometimes develop off flavors after sitting too long on the counter. 3 days at room temperature is usually enough.
We’ll usually use 3 tablespoons of salt per quart of water to make a brine for sauerkraut and kimchi, and 3-4 tablespoons of salt per quart for pickles.
Sea salt is my favorite, but pickling or kosher salt is fine too. Iodized salt is not recommended, but I have used it successfully in a pinch.
The health benefits of live fermented foods are much better than dead ferments in factory vinegar. Salt keeps bad guys from moving into the pickles, and helps culture a living community of bacteria which are excellent for your gut health and which release additional nutrients from the vegetables.
The only time I use vinegar in my pickling is when I want a canned, shelf-stable food – like my pear salsa.
If you haven’t fermented before, I highly recommend losing your fear and taking a stab at it.
You won’t die, and you’ll discover a whole new world of culinary possibilities. Every batch I make is a little different. Sometimes I ferment daikons and beets, sometimes cabbage, sometimes hot peppers… all with just salt brine, some spices and the beneficial bacteria volunteers God so helpfully provided in the environment around us.
I am currently working through a jar of Chinese cabbage, beet, onion and cucumber pickles with my morning eggs and bacon. It’s a great side and makes you feel wonderful.