Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Friday, August 30, 2013

On Pickling

Last year I made pickles for the first time. And they were delicious. So, of course, I wanted to make more this year. Sadly, our pickling cucumber plant didn't produce much, so I had to head to the farmer's market to get enough cucumbers to pickle... but it was worth it. I made some refrigerator pickles, loosely following the same basic recipe I used last year. Easy and delicious.
When we returned from our travels, one of our pepper plants was full of peppers, all ready for the eating. So, I also made a jar of pickled Bulagrian sweet pickles using basically the same recipe: I chopped up the sweet peppers, as well as one serrano, added peppercorns, coriander seeds, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, and a couple of grape leaves for crispness. Boil some white vinegar, and cover the peppers until jar is about 2/3 full, add enough filtered water to cover the peppers. Seal lid, let cool, and refrigerate. Easy. The peppers are yummy,  although they are quite a bit hotter than I expected (I think I should have removed the serrano seeds first!).
The pickles and peppers were both good, however, I was feeling the need to be a bit more adventurous in my pickling and wanted to try more than just basic vinegar pickles and peppers. I recently read Michael Pollan's Cooked, which has an entire section on fermentation. We think of pickles as being a fermented food, because they once were. However, most pickles we eat today, like the refrigerator  pickles I made, are not truly fermented. The are pickled in vinegar, which is itself fermented, but from what I understand, the pickles themselves never actual ferment. And fermented foods are amazing for you... they are essentially packed with probiotics and do wonders for your digestion. But, I guess those pickles made with vinegar are cheating. So, I wanted to make REAL pickles. The kind that actually ferment. The kind that grow probiotics.
So, I did.
I looked up recipes for pickling using lacto-fermentation. There wasn't a ton of information out there and there was a while lot of variation in what I did find. Many called for whey, which I didn't have and didn't really want to bother with, so I loosely followed a recipe that just used salt instead of whey. Here is what I did:
Cut the cucumbers and pack in a jar. Add in peppercorns, fresh dill, a garlic clove, red pepper flakes, and mustard seeds. Stuff a few grape leaves and horseradish leaves in the jar, add salt, and fill the jar full of room temperature filtered (non-chlorinated) water. Screw the lid on and leave the jar on the counter for 3-4 days. Apparently, the bacteria naturally present in the foods start to get to work and ferment the food one it is all sealed up.
After a day or so, I saw the water in the jar start to change colors and become dingier. I also saw some bubbling, which was a good sign that things were actually fermenting. I checked the pickles after 3 days... and it smelled pickle-ish but also a bit like sulfur. Ewww. In Cooked, Pollan talked about how fermented foods sometimes go through a gross stage before you get to the good part of fermentation. So, I shut the lid, and decided to check again on day 4. Things smelled better so I decide to give it a try. And, they were...... pickles!! Yay!! Except WAY too salty. I had followed salt amounts from a website, but they were definitely incorrect. I think I added 1 Tbl to my quart jar and it made these pickles inedible. I think I would halve the salt next time around.
But it worked! I fermented something, for real, and am very excited to try it again. Sort of amazing that I can grow my own good bacteria in a jar! I am planning on doing some more fermentation experiments over the coming months, and will share what I learn here.
Have any of you lacto-fermented foods? Any tips? Great websites? There was not as much information out there as I had expected, so I am guessing this technique is not used all that often. I am eager to learn more so I will have to look into doing some research....

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1 comment:

  1. Experimenting is so much fun. Haven't tried it here, but would love to, maybe one day.

    Enjoy your weekend.