One of the many benefits of a community garden is…community! The most interesting people can become friends, and relationships that help facilitate learning and growth can enter into the everyday things that make life wonderfully abundant.
An example of this is: the other day, when I was visiting one of my new found friends, she suggested that we try one of her pickles from a jar she had been fermenting on her kitchen counter for a couple of days. Now, I have been curious about fermentation, and tried my hand with some kefir curds but those soon became so plentiful I had to stop for lack of people to share them with. Anyone who has harvested kefir curds knows this dilemma. I have also heard about the digestive benefits of fermented foods for years, but the only thing that came to mind was Kim Chi, which was not at all interesting to me-so I just never investigated any further than that.
But, I had tried this friend’s fermented string beans a few months back, and enjoyed it, so I thought it would be safe and possibly satisfying. Lo and behold the fermented cucumber I tried was the single best pickle I have ever eaten in my life! It was unmistakably a dill pickle, but it had a flavor that rocketed beyond mere dill. Being a novice at spice experimentation I wasn’t sure what was in the brine, but my palette had never been happier.
Needless to say I got the recipe, and have a jar fermenting on my counter as we speak. If this works for me I will have an answer to the many cucumbers that are waiting for my attention.
A word about fermentation and its history: Fermenting happens naturally and pre-dates humanity, however humans took control of the fermentation process and have been using this method from as far back as 7000 BCE . In short, fermentation is the process of converting carbohydrates or sugars into alcohols and carbon dioxides using yeasts and/or bacteria under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions.
This process is employed in the making of wine and beer, or for foods like yogurt and sauerkraut. The science of fermentation is known as zymology. Fermentation is also what happens during the pickling process however, with the common techniques of canning the fermentation process is ceased when the jars are boiled and sealed. With straight fermentation the process is halted when the jar is places below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The jars are not subjected to heat or pressure, which allows the lactobacilli to remain in tact and give our digestive systems the some of the healthy enzymes it needs to function properly.
I am sharing my friend’s recipe with you, I am sure you can use whatever spices you like.
A note of caution: there is always a risk of botulism with the consumption of canned foods, so take care to not use plastic containers when making fermented foods and follow all directions carefully. Glass canning jars are nice and greatly reduce the risk of illness.
Fermented Cucumber Pickles
1 t. coriander seeds
½ t. ground black pepper
1 t. yellow mustard seeds
1 t. dill seeds
1 t. caraway seeds
1 t. celery seeds
9 cloves fresh garlic
6 dry bay leaves
6 T. Kosher salt
1/2 t. dried red pepper flakes
Dry dill heads & stalks
Take 1 quart boiling water; add salt & dissolve. Place 2 bay leaves, 3 garlic cloves & cucumbers in quart jars. Add 1 1/3 c. salted water to each of 3 quart jars, add 1/3 of combined spice mix, top off with fresh filtered water, leaving 1” head space. Cover jars and shake to distribute salty water within jar, & make sure all veggies are still submerged. Place glass cup or custard cup into jar as needed to make sure all garlic and cucumbers are completely submerged. Leave in dark, cool place for up to 2 weeks, checking and tasting as needed till pickles are as tangy as you like. When taste is right, cap tightly and store in refer or root cellar for 6 months or more, or till pickles are tangier than you like.
Happy Fermenting everyone!