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Making Traditionally Fermented Pickles

July 30th, 2011

Traditionally fermented food are super healthy. It’s always nice when you can make something using these methods. Not only is it quick and easy to make, the end product is healthier than it’s more time-consuming processed counterpart. Pickles are a prime example. I make one kind of vinegar pickles that are canned. The rest of the pickles I make are fermented. Basically you put the pickles in a jar with whatever herbs you want to flavor them and cover them with salt water. A few weeks later you have a probiotic feast! Adding fermented pickles to your meals will help with digestion and increase the amount of nutrients you can absorb from what you eat.

When it comes to making pickles there are a few things you want to consider. First of all, you don’t want the cucumbers to be too large. The smaller the cucumbers the crisper the end product with be. You want the cucumbers to have distinct warts or bumps and no yellow on them. The smaller they are the less developed the seeds will be inside as well. Freshness also counts, if you can process them the same day you pick them that’s best. If you can’t process them right away make sure to put them in the refrigerator to keep them cool and process as soon as possible. The cucumber on the left is perfect for pickling, the one of the right is a little overmature (but you can still use it if you’d like). You can still use it for pickling, but there will be more seeds and the final product most likely won’t be as crisp.

Second you want to make sure you scrub the blossom end of the cucumber well. It is believed that it can harbor bad bacteria increasing the risks that your batch will not ferment properly. It is also thought that it can make your pickles not as crisp. Some people cut the blossom end of the pickle off, I simply scrape it with my nail until I can see the clean end of the cucumber. You can see the different between a cucumber with the blossom end cleaned (left) and one that hasn’t been cleaned enough (right).

Gently wash cucumbers. I usually just wipe with a damp cloth to remove all dirt. You don’t want to scrub them too much as they are delicate and they have beneficial bacteria that aid in fermentation in their skins. Place cucumbers and spices in a fermenting crock or a glass jar. Typically I avoid the use of any kind of plastic when pickling as the acidic brine encourages leeching of BPA’s and other chemicals from the plastic into the foods being fermented. I use 1 Gallon Glass Barrel Jars for fermenting pickles and sauerkraut. Wide mouth half gallon mason jars work quite well also. Depending on the size of container you use for fermenting you can use small plates, glass jars, or drinking glasses to weigh down the vegetables and keep them submerged in the brine.

I also always put my fermenting jars on a plate that has a lip to contain any brine that spills out of the jar. This seems to happen most of the time when I’m making pickles, sauerkraut or kimchi. Do not be alarmed if you see white mold or green mold floating on top of the brine when you’re pickling or in the brine that spills out of the jars onto the plate. This mold is common (some cultures even prefer it) and harmless. You will want to skim this off of the top of the brine daily, but don’t worry about getting all of it as it has a tendency to break up and float away. Since I use wide mouth pint jars to weigh down the vegetable I usually just push down on the jar, when the brine overflows out of the fermenting jar the white mold usually slides down the side of the jar. Every few days I add some extra brine if needed to keep the level up.

When fermenting you want to use pickling salt or sea salt. You do not want to use iodized table salt or any kind of salt that has anticaking agents in it. Many places will tell you to only use pickling salt, but I prefer to use an unrefined sea salt called Redmond Real Salt with the minerals in it. I purchase this salt in 25 pound bags directly from their website.

from The Joy of Pickling

About 4 pounds* of 3-5 inch pickling cucumbers, blossom ends removed
4 to 6 dill heads or large sprigs
2 small fresh or dried hot peppers broken or cut into pieces
8 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tablespoon whole allspice berries
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 Tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1/2 cup pickling salt (4.65 oz)
3 quarts of water

Layer cucumbers in gallon jar with dill, peppers, garlic, allspice, peppercorns, and coriander. Dissolve salt in the water and pour enough brine over the cucumbers to cover them. Place something in the mouth of the jar to weight down the cucumbers and keep them submerged in the the brine (I usually use a drinking glass or pint mason jar with brine in it). Keep jar at room temperature. I keep mine on the dining room table so I can monitor it.

Within 3 days you will begin to see tiny bubbles rising to the top. If scum forms on the top of the brine skim off. Pickles should be ready in about 2 weeks when they are sour and olive green throughout. At this point, remove the weight jar, remove any scum, and top off with brine if needed. Cap the jar and store in the refrigerator. These pickles will keep for several months to a year, although they seem to lose a little bit of crispness after a few months. I have had a batch in my fridge for about 9 months and they were very good down to the last pickle.

*if you do not have 4 pounds all at once you can continue adding cucumbers to your jar until it is full. Just remember to let them ferment for 2 weeks after last cucumber has been added.

You can certainly change the spices in the recipe above to suit your tastes. Add some sliced onions and mustard seeds, or perhaps mixed pickling spices instead, some horseradish would be nice as well. When making more than one batch of pickles, always make sure to label your jar with the type and date started. I also include the page number that the recipe was on. If you’re interested in learning more about both traditional fermentation and other kinds of pickling I’d highly recommend purchasing The Joy of Pickling: 250 Flavor-Packed Recipes for Vegetables and More from Garden or Market. It’s full of all kinds of recipes from fermented vegetables to gravlax and so many other interesting things.

Do you make or enjoy any traditionally fermented foods?

Cucumbers and Pickles

July 19th, 2011

All of those cucumbers I planted about six weeks ago have started producing. The Monticello inspired teepees have been working well for supporting the vines, they look really lovely now that they’re lush with cucumber and pole bean vines. I have had to train the cucumber vines to grow up the supports. I’m trying to think of a way to improve on this design next year. Last week I started harvesting cucumbers from all three varieties that I’m growing this season. I planted 12 vines of each in hopes of having a large flush of cucumbers for all those pickling recipes that call for pounds and pounds of cucumbers.

So far the ‘Boston Pickling’ are the largest and most productive. One day I harvested enough cucumbers to make a gallon of fermented full-sour dills. I have grown this variety of cucumber from the very beginning of my gardening career. I have always had great luck with them. They even produce a decent harvest is less than ideal conditions, like my shady back garden.

The ‘Solly Beiler’ have been less productive than the Boston Pickling, but the descriptions say they are heavy producers so I’m guessing they just haven’t hit their stride yet. They’re a much fatter cucumber than I expected, even when picked at the recommended small size.

The ‘Fin de Meaux’ seem to be producing nicely, although they’re a tiny cucumber so it takes a lot more to get enough for a batch of pickles (the one in the photo was picked a little big, most of them are much smaller). I’m looking forward to using my recipe for French Cornichon pickles from The Joy of Pickling:. I’m hoping to get enough to to give away small jars of these tiny cucumbers to friends this Christmas. If you have space I’d recommend a few of these as they’re wonderful little cucumbers. I think kids would especially love to eat pickles made with these tiny cukes.

I’ve already been making pickles with my harvests. I have a gallon of full-sour dills fermenting on the counter right now (they smell fantastic). Traditionally fermented pickles are a great way to get probiotics to enhance digestion and nutrient absorption of your meals.

I also have one jar of quick refrigerator pickles in the fridge, they’ll be ready to eat this weekend. They’re always the first kind of pickle I make so I can have pickles to eat right away. My recipe for these quick small batch pickles is posted over on the Your Day blog at Ethel so head on over there if you’re interested. My next batch of cucumbers will be some Crisp Pickles that are a favorite of everyone that tries them, I found the recipe in an old Farm Journal Cookbook given to me by Mr Chiot’s step mom. I’ll post the recipe with photos sometime soon.

I’m hoping that my cucumber vines will keep producing well for the next few weeks, then they’ll be replanted with hopes of another flush of cucumbers come fall. I want to make sure I have plenty of pickles in the pantry for winter as we love eating them with most meals.

Are you a pickle lover? what kind is your favorite: dill, sweet, bread & butter, mustard?

For more detailed descriptions of each of the cucumbers listed above head on over and read this post.

Making a Piece of History

September 23rd, 2010

Earlier this spring I collected a bunch of my grandmother’s and my great grandmother’s recipes from my mom’s side of the family. I’m hoping to make them, take photos and make up a family heirloom cookbook. I’ve been waiting for the time to harvest green tomatoes so I could make this recipe, it’s one of my great grandmother’s.

I cleared out a raised bed in the back and pulled out all the tomatoes to make room for fall spinach. I ended up with 7 pounds of green tomatoes, the perfect amount for this recipe. Last year I made green tomato chutney with all the green tomatoes and we’ve been enjoying that on sandwiches and on burgers.

I had to make a special trip out to find pickling lime. I thought about making my own with some wood ash, but decided for my first try at pickling with lime I’d rather buy actually pickling time. Perhaps in the future I’ll try making my own.

I finished up the recipe yesterday morning. So far I’m not loving the flavor, we’ll see how they age. I think I may add some mustard seeds before canning them as I thought they could use a little more flavor. If we don’t end up liking them I’ll probably turn them into chutney.

Do you have any heirloom canning recipes you use?

Fermenting Some Pickles

August 16th, 2009

A couple weeks ago Mr Chiot’s 2nd mom sent me this book that was her mom’s. It’s an old Farm Journal Country Cookbook. It’s from the 70’s so all of the photos are quite fun, it’s amazing how far food photography has come since then (just check out
While leafing through it I was trying to decide what I could make from it. It has all kinds of exciting recipes, it’s particularly good for seasonal cooking recipes. It also has some interesting kitchen items that most people don’t keep in their kitchens any more, like a stone or a paraffined brick.
I came across this recipe for 14-day Sweet Pickles. Since I’ve been wanting to make a batch of brined pickles I decided this would be the perfect recipe to try.
I now have a batch of pickles in the dining room brining away. They’ll sit in their brine for, then on the 8th day I start the week-long process of finishing the pickles. I’m kind of excited to see how they turn out. I’ll be sharing some with Brian’s parents next time they come for a visit.

14-Day Sweet Pickles
adaptation of an heirloom recipe long prized in country kitchens

3 1/2 qts (2″) pickling cucumbers (about 4 lbs)
1 c. coarse flake pickling salt
2 qts boiling water
1/2 tsp powdered alum (I’m not using alum in my recipe)
5 c. vinegar
3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp celery seeds
4 -2″ cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 c. sugar

1. Wash cucumbers carefully; cut in lengthwise halves and place in stone crock, glass, pottery or enamel-lined pan (I cut mine into big chunks).
2. Prepare brine by dissolving salt in boiling water; pour over cucumbers. Weight cucumbers down with a place almost as large as the crock and lay a stone or parraffined brick (not marble or limestone) on plate to keep cucumbers under the brine. Let stand 1 week.
3. On the 8th day, drain; pour 2 qts fresh boiling water over cucumbers. Let stand 24 hours.
4. On the 9th day, drain; pour 2 qts fresh boiling water mixed with alum over cucumbers. Let stand 24 hours.
5. On the 10th day, drain; pour 2 qts fresh boiling water over cucumbers. Let stand 24 hours.
6. The next day, drain. Combine vinegar, 3 c. sugar, celery seeds and cinnamon; heat to boiling point and pour over cucumbers.
7. For the next 3 days, drain, retaining liquid. Reheat liquid each morning adding 1/2 c. sugar each time. After the last heating, on the 14th day, pack pickles into hot jars. Remove cinnamon sticks; pour boiling hot liquid over pickles; adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath (212) 5 minutes. Remove jars and complete seals unless closures are self-sealing type. Makes 5-6 pints. (current standards say to process pickles for 10 minutes in a water bath canner).

Do you have any old heirloom cookbooks in your kitchen? Have you ever made a recipe from it?

Making Pickles

July 14th, 2009

On Sunday evening I went out and picked 4 Boston Pickling Cucumbers that were the perfect size for pickling in spears. I have been reading through the book I got the other day and I settled on a quick pickle recipe.
I reduced the recipe because most of them call for several pounds of cucumbers and I only had about 1 and a quarter pound. So I found a recipe that made 1 quart. I changed it a bit, because I just can’t seem to follow a recipe by the book.
We’ll see how they turn out, I didn’t can them because it was such a small batch. I’m basically brining them in the fridge for a month or so.
Here’s the recipe I used:

Quick Small Batch Dill Pickles
4 pickling cucumbers (around 1 pound)
1 cup water
7/8 cup of white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of pickling salt
2 garlic cloves
8 peppercorns
2 teaspoons of pickling spice (or a pinch of flaked red pepper)
fresh dill sprigs
8 sour cherry leaves (they’re supposed to promote crispness) or 3-4 grape leaves

Bring water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Meanwhile scrub and cut pickles into desired sizes. Add pickling spices, peppercorns, fresh dill, cherry leaves to quart canning jar. Add pickles to jar and pour brine over the pickles. Seal with lid and put in refrigerator for at least one month. Alternately you can water bath can pints or quarts for 10 minutes .

I’ll let you know in a month or so how they turned out. My next batch will probably be using a different recipe, perhaps I’ll try soaking the cucumbers in salt before I pickle them. Or perhaps I’ll make some fermented pickles.

Do you like sour or sweet pickles?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.