I also realize that I need a much larger pickling container for pickles, as the cucumbers we’re getting from our plants are fairly big. A 3 quart jar only holds about 4 cucumbers. Yikes!
My wife got me a fermenting kit for my birthday. This includes weights and cap tops to allow air out but not in. It also includes a wood tamper. It comes with a small book, with a few recipes. Pickles, sauerkraut, Giardiniera, that’s about it. Those are my next fermentation projects.
Bob, we’ve been a fan of “half sour” pickles for a long time (first had them at Rein’s Deli, Vernon, CT, NE of Hartford) and we tried making our own this past week. Yesterday was 4 days in the brine, and they were great! The recipe said that long, but I was skeptical they’d be ready so fast.
No vinegar in the recipe we followed. Grind up coriander seeds, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, fresh dill and a few bay leaves. Add that to salty water and minced garlic.
Even with just 4 days, there were a bit too salty for my wife. Amazing that the flavors get into the cucmbers that fast. I see it as a wide open arena where one can tailor things to their taste. Would be excellent with vinegar too.
FWIW, in my experience with pickles, you need much less salt than most recipes indicate. A very small amount of brine is needed to help kick-start fermentation, but much less than is typically specified in common recipes.
Also, it’s my understanding that if you add vinegar from the outset you defeat the ability of the lactobacillus bacteria to get established. They produce the acidity themselves in the process of overcoming the areobic (potentially unhealthy/dangerous) bacteria - i.e., this is the fermenting part of home-fermenting
My wife and I love the acidic flavor of vinegar (we add it to lots of other dishes) but when it comes to home-fermenting, I’ve been able to get the acidity down to 3.5 pH (highly acidic for food) without ever adding a drop of vinegar … this is the real magic of making your own fermented veggies.
BTW, the carb content of the veggies is vastly reduced because the carbohydrate is what is being consumed by the (probiotic) lactobacillus bacteria. I’d suggest refraining from short-circuiting that essential benefit by refraining from spiking the punch with vinegar. YMMV.
@OldDoug and @SomeGuy For me, since I’ve been using a 3 quart or smaller jar, and most of the recipes are a gallon or 1/2 gallon of water, I’ve been having to interpret the recipes and adjust. And I keep screwing up (for the recipe I just put in, I thought the water was a gallon, but that’s only the container; the water is 1/2 gallon, but I used 1 gallon of water).
But I assume it might not be that bad, as it was just the herbs/spices. I figured out my mistake before the salt.
By the way, we have dill, but the dill have flowered. Use or not?
Yes indeed, I’ve marveled at how quickly pickling flavors are taken up by the cucumbers … long before they get sour (hence “half-sour” pickles are a popular retail item for those who don’t care so much for “sour”).
I’ve gotten into the habit of nipping off the very tips of the ends of the cucumbers right before I plop them into the pickling brine. Perhaps it’s my imagination but it seems to allow the flavors of the pickling brine to penetrate deeper into the inner reaches of the cucumber having exposed the tubular cells of the vegetable - rather than only through the outer skin. Could just be wishful thinking on my part.
I’ve found the amount of water doesn’t make that much of a difference, as long as whatever you’re fermenting is submerged (sauerkraut, kimchi, cucumbers), you’ve likely got enough.
As for too much: if your ratio of flavors are way off because of too much water, it might take longer to get the results you want. But a simple “taste test” when you are pickling cucumbers will easily tell you up front whether that’s the mix/strength of flavors you want.
Other thought: I use a store-bought gallon jug of distilled water (less than $1 and I know what’s in it, i.e., pure H2O) for pickling. Not needed for sauerkraut (cabbage makes it’s own brine when crushed; kimchi gets soaked overnight in salted tap water before the fermenting and that seems to be perfectly fine for me). But if you use tap water directly out of the faucet for pickling I’m told you run the risk of trace chlorine preventing the bacterial growth you’re aiming for. I’ve had success with tap water… but clearly better results (i.e., faster drop in pH) when pickling with distilled water. Could reflect our local water source, which is extremely “hard” water from mountain snow-melt sources.
I think you can also leave tap water out for several hours (or boil it first) to remove the chlorine, but am unsure about just how effective that is.
Not the prettiest picture (I’m no food stylist) but here’s a peek inside our fridge this morning…
Thanks, Joey. I’m on well water, and I have been using filtered water (filtered by reverse-osmosis). We have a soft water system and an iron mitigation system for the well. I use the reverse-osmosis for things like coffee, and I guess now pickling.
Those look great!
The kit my wife got for me looks great. It includes glass weights, one of which I used for my pickles. This weekend, I may try sauerkraut and/or giardiniera this coming weekend. Though we’ll be on vacation, so I’d need something that either finishes in one week or can go at least two.
Those sound good. Fermented (red?) onions are definitely on my list of things to make.
I should do a test between fermented onions and regular onions. Often, with regular onions, I can get instantaneous allergy symptoms – I eat the onions, say on a “sandwich” of meat, and get the symptoms. I’m wondering if fermenting will remove some of whatever it is that causes that?
Thanks for the recommendation - I bought the book off Amazon and it was delivered yesterday. Can’t wait to try some of the recipes.
I just started this one:
Hopefully the 2 jalapenos from my garden don’t make it too hot to eat. It has to be really hot for me not to eat it, though.
I am fasting but no temptation cutting up cabbage and veggies
I’ll report back in a week on the flavor and texture. I’ve got to eat up some of the jars in my fridge before I add any more! I have candied (with Allulose) and picked jalapenos to use up my garden peppers before they go bad, plus the sour spicy pickles and fermented onions I just made… and the mayo, sour cream, buttermilk and yogurt (for the chickens) I make - all in jars LOL
The book I got with my fermentation kit (present for my birthday from my wife) is interesting. While it only has a few recipes, it discusses how fermentation uses up a lot of the carbohydrates in the vegetables.
And I have to think that fermentation is doing something else, too. For instance, I listened to a podcast with a scientist who traveled the world visiting cultures who do not have much interaction with the outside world. He visited one where they eat local potatoes, but only after they fermented the potatoes a long time (6 months?)… His theory was that this fermentation removed a lot of the anti-nutrients in the potatoes.
I assume something similar is happening to vegetables, too.
I ordered a fermentation crock and when it comes in I am going to ferment some of my garden peppers from the recipe in the book @SomeGuy recommended. My harvest of peppers has been abundant this year and there is no way we will eat them all before they go bad.
It takes 3 weeks to ferment peppers and the book recommends using a water-crock for longer fermentations so I found a small one (2L) on Amazon.
I ordered the continuous strips that show 5.5 and lower from Amazon and it is out for delivery today so I will be able to test my Napa/jalapeno/lim kraut with it. Tuesday will be 7 days and I may test it tomorrow at 4 days to see where I am at. My book recoommends a pH of 4.5.
Poor UPS guy has to drive a long bumpy gravel road to get to my place to deliver a tiny box of pH paper. He says he doesn’t mind - keeps him employed. Well, the part that is our “driveway” is about a 1/4 mile but it is smooth since we maintain it ourselves. It is the section the county maintains that is so bad.
Bob, I discovered that it’s good to taste a little of the plain brine on the day of making your ferment. I hold it in my mouth and mindfully observe how plain and nothing the flavour is.
For the first couple of times fermenting I would taste brine a few times during the waiting period to observe the increasing acidity and tastiness. Then one day… ow wow I just created the complex valuable “wine” of fermentation!
Hi Butter, how do you do that? Most of my recipes (and I don’t have many – haven’t bought the suggested book yet) say to put the herbs/spices into the bottle, then the vegetables, then the brine. Sometimes, they layer things, eg, put most of the herbs/brine in the bottom, then some veggies, then some herbs/spices, then more veggies…
The brine is usually only salt water. Do you test the salt water, then take a sip of fermenting brine per day? That would be interesting.
I tested the temperature where the bottle is. It’s about 71 F (about 22 C). I assume that’s not “cool”, but not hot. I just don’t know what range I’m supposed to be in.
Now, I can’t really control the range, as this is in the basement, which is not (directly) heated or cooled. I can, however, take into account the temperature to attempt to determine how long fermenting will take. Is that reasonable, or with the pH strips does it matter much?