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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

anti-recipe #66 pickling all the things

One day, I suppose, likely years and years from now when I have grey dreads down to the floor, I will proceed with cooking new things in the proper fashion 1) have an idea to cook something 2) look up the recipe 3) make a list and go to the store 4) buy all the things required to make that recipe 5) come home and follow the recipe 6) and actually measure all ingredients, put them in in order, and prepare/cook/can as per instructions.

Doesn't that sound boring though????

Commence canning season with Sara, take #4. (Is this my fourth year of canning recipes on this blog? yes, I believe so.)


So I have, in my little garden, loads and loads of cucumbers. We cant seem to get the tomatoes to turn red, the squash and zucchini have nary a fruit anywhere to be seen but, oh my, we have cucumbers.

Last time I posted about pickles, as you may recall, (click there to read the post, super funny to reread actually) I was two weeks away from having baby #3 and was very very cranky.  I made refrigerator pickles after being unable to get my act together to can pickles. The pickles sat and sat, we ate a few here and there, but they were floppy and nobody likes a floppy pickle. This year I was determined to DO BETTER.

And yet I proceed as typical, crap, I don't have enough apple cider vinegar, I fill up the giant canning pot with water and realize I don't have time to can! And the kids are nagging at me and little man says his ear hurts and starts wailing and somewhere in all that, here is what I did.

Of course, being me, I did manage some research. I cant follow a recipe to save my life but I do like knowing the "why" behind it. Proper pickle making is, it appears, an art, a refined art that requires experience and a certain level of intuition about the process.

According to a few sites I read the key to a crunchy pickle is alum or, as in times of old, grape or cherry leaves, because they have tannin in them.

Wait, hey! I have a whole ton of grape vines! Perfect!

So I decide to try old school pickles, fermented pickles, made without vinegar, a different beast altogether really. Okay, and I didn't make this recipe up myself. I looked it up in my great Nourishing Traditions cookbook which has all kinds of crazy cool ideas like fermented ginger carrots and pickled beets and so on.

So, here is what I did.

Random chops of cucumber, of varying sizes, in a jar with a sealable lid. I have a collection of these babies on top of my kitchen cabinets from thrift stores. Stuff them all in a jar.

Next, douse with liberal shakes of salt as you are adding in the cukes. Maybe 2 T per large jar. I also added a bit of whey, leftover from making cottage cheese the other day. Just a tsp or so. Next distilled water. Fill to top of jar. Next some minced garlic. I buy mine already chopped at Costco. Now some sprigs of dill, flower and all, straight from the garden. Or some dry dill. Now some chops of onion, if you like. And of course, stuff in that grape leaf. If you don't have grape vines growing around your house, well, find some? Or a cherry tree? Can I mail some to you? Ha. You can use alum too. But I gotta say my mom and sister were both over yesterday and as their teeth sunk into one of these crunchy pickles they were both amazed. Most home made pickles are kinda limp sad things, totally unlike store bought pickles. But these, oh my. THEY ARE CRUNCHY HOME MADE PICKLES! Both my mom and sister have tried to use alum in the past and the grape leaves just do it better.

Can I confess, I felt a bit of pride?

And the bonus with this technique, no canning involved!

Just let it sit in the brine in your covered jar for a few days on the counter. Then when it tastes pickly enough stick it in the fridge. I let mine sit for four days I think. VOILA. Pickles.

I then tried to do a sweet brine but I didn't use enough sugar, because I wasn't in a measuring mood, or apple cider vinegar, as I was out, so they are kinda-sorta sweet pickles.

Okay, I said, I...what else can I pickle?? MUST PICKLE MORE THINGS.

This is a perfect way to use up those end of summer veggies, a few random beans, some tomatoes maybe, or maybe a turnip or some baby carrots that got pulled too soon. (Carrots really need to wait till colder weather, when the sugar starts to accumulate in the root....something like that...ha.)

Stuff them all in a jar. Add some kind of brine. Stick them in the fridge. Or better yet, heat up the brine, adding spices and all that, and heat up your canning jars, and do a 20 minute water bath (or so) and do a proper canning job of it, to make June proud. Eh. Maybe next week. HA.

The whole fermenting veggies is fascinating to me though, as a way to keep veggies before refrigeration. We went to an historic farm yesterday and they were doing preservation techniques, including sweet yellow tomatoes soaked in vinegar, rubbed in salt, and then layered with a ton of brown sugar, all in a big crock that was then covered and stuck down in cold storage.

I think we have enough cherry tomatoes ripe...hmmm...No, honey, no dinner ready, but look, SWEET PICKLED TOMATOES. Ha.

ETA: a reader pointed out that messing with proportions in a brine for fermenting veggies probably isn't smart. I would like to point out that I did actually follow the Nourishing Traditions recommendations, which are 2 TSB of salt or 1 TSB of salt plus 4 TSB of whey. I used a little under 2 TSB of salt plus 1 TSB of whey. The other brines for pickling which were admittedly too weak went straight into the fridge so, no worries. Happy pickling!


  1. I really hope you've seen the Portlandia sketch called "We can pickle that!"--I think you'd enjoy!


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