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Archive for the ‘Pickles’ Category

I’ve been getting into fermentations lately, but after reading Wild Fermentation I am a nut about it! That book is full of great information and written in a very engaging manner. Fermented foods are highly nutritious and allow you to preserve food without cooking it. While I have several projects in the works, here are some of the completed ferments:

Kvass in the jar and in the glass. In real life, it's much more purple than it looks here.

Beet kvass: looks weird, sounds weird, tastes a little weird but beets are jam packed full of nutrition and this beverage has been touted for its liver cleansing benefits. I was emboldened to try this after watching The Healthy Home Economist do it on her blog. You can do the ferment twice, and I noticed the second batch is markedly less salty than the first. I know it was too salty for some people, so I would recommend watering it down the first time through if that’s the case. I had some problems with mold on the kvass. It was pretty easy to skim it off, and it’s not going to hurt you, but I think next time it’s on the counter I will fill a bag with brine and set it on top like I did with the kimchi to prevent molding instead of just screwing the lid on. This was the only ferment I experienced mold with.

Pickled green beans (left) and sauerkraut (right) sitting on the counter to ferment.

I’ve also made a couple of batches of sauerkraut. This is super easy and delicious. I never ate the canned stuff, but I really enjoy this ferment. Again, I watched The Healthy Home Economist demonstrate and decided, I can do that! And I could. Amazing. And the stuff keeps forever. Apparently it is at its peak at six months of aging, but will last much longer. I like the sauerkraut with sausage. I may even be able to eat bratwurst (an old nemesis) if I can have kraut with it. Oh, gee…I have some pastured pork bratwurst in my freezer right now…

I’ve also made some pickles, including these fermented “pickled” green beans. They were interesting. It seemed like they fermented differently than the kraut. At one point, I could actually hear the kraut bubbling on the

Sauerkraut with locally grown rice, pasture-raised pork sausage and steamed squash from my CSA box.

counter. But with the beans I barely saw a bubble come up to indicate fermentation. They did it, though…definately fermented. They are an interesting accompaniment.

Finally, the dill pickles. I got this one out of my Joy of Pickling cookbook, and it’s a simple, great recipe for pickling those little cornichon pickles. This one does not use whey, only salt, for the fermentation. They are quite green in the picture (when I first put them in the jar) but after sitting out for about a week they turn the familiar dark green/gray color we associate with pickles. They are yummy, not too salty and because there’s a pepper in there some of them get kinda spicy, too! A nice change. Also, my pickles didn’t get soggy at all

Cornichon pickles starting to ferment.

even though I didn’t use a horseradish leaf or anything to keep them crispy. Luck? Maybe.

Next on the fermentation list: kombucha, honey mead, ketchup, mayonnaise, salsa, mango chutney….

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Pickled shrimp: sounds scarier than it really is.

My pickle frenzy resulted in a large variety of pickled items in my fridge. They are kind of taking over. So far I’ve pickled asparagus, butternut squash and pumpkin, shrimp, beets, mushrooms, broccoli, apples and onions. Yes, I pickled shrimp. The recipe calls for white peppercorns but I didn’t have any so I used black…I can see why she said to use white peppercorns. The black ones kind of look like…eyes…

Anyway, here are my findings:

Apple and Onion: I made this one too early. This really needs to go with Thanksgiving dinner. The cinnamon mixed with the vinegar is fun and suprising. I could totally see this going with any kind of a roast.

Asparagus: kind of disappointed in this one. I was hoping that it would be more like the dilled green beans. But it’s not. Somewhat blah. If I preserve asparagus again, it will be a straight up canning job.

Pickle buffet: broccoli in the ramekin and mushrooms in the jar. Shrimp, asparagus and butternut squash on the plate.

Beets: as I mentioned before, I really liked these ones. The Morrocan-style spices really make it interesting. Strong, though. You can’t just sit and munch mindlessly. Not that I ever do that.

Broccoli: this one is pretty good. Refreshing, a nice addition to a salad or a rich main course where the fat needs to be cut a little bit. I like it.

Butternut squash and pumpkin: Not bad on this one. Definately a better use than throwing out the pumpkin, which is what would have happened to it otherwise. Even test subject Bill liked this one. Sweet and sour…I should try it on ice cream. Wait a minute. Pickles and ice cream….NOOOOOO!

Mushrooms: these are very good – I would put these on a small plates buffet. Along side cheese and olives and crusty bread…oh yeah.

Apple and onion pickle. Looks rather refined, doesn't it?

Shrimp: they were not as creepy as I was thinking they would be. These could be little snackies to go along with the mushrooms in the above scenario. They actually kind of taste like the cooked shrimp they use at the sushi bar. Not creepy or freaky at all, even though it is pickled seafood. Rather messy to eat though.

All of these pickles were vinegar-based pickles. However, thanks to my successful kimchi experience I’ve been playing around with fermentation. Look for an upcoming post on dill pickles and sauerkraut. I have been absolutely devouring Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. Wow! The world of microorganisms…who knew! And with the recent addition of a Gairtopf fermentation crock I’ll be a level 7 food freak in no time at all.

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If some of my Facebook feedback is any indicator, pickles (other than the boring dills you put on your burger) have gotten a bad rap. The mere mention of pickled beets is enough to send people running for cover. Even regular old pickled cucumbers are anathema if they are any different than Vlasic. How did the ancient and historically important pickle become a target of such ire? Are there some really vile pickle makers out there destroying pickling’s reputation?

If so, I am here to right the wrongs. I will be the pickle super hero. Armed with my new book, I will bring pickles back to their rightful place: front and center, part of everyone’s diet!

Ok, maybe not. But I will be pickling everything I can get my hands on. Pickling is an important method of preserving. You can do shelf stable vegetables in a waterbath canner if they are pickled without fear of the dreaded botulism. You can pickle just about any veggie (an some fruits). And I intend to pickle as many as I can get my hands on.

I recently pickled some asparagus, a vegetable indicative of spring if ever there was one. Since I canned them, and I hate to just can one thing when I’ve got that ginormous pot of boiling water going, I decided to do another pickle, too. Pumpkin and butternut squash.

Pumpkin and butternut squash pickled and cannedI know what you’re thinking. Well, maybe not. I try not to use those words. But seriously, who pickles pumpkin? Or butternut squash? Well, apparently Linda Ziedrich, author of the Joy of Pickling does. Using her recipe for a sweet and sour pickle brine I cut up the remaining pumpkin and butternut squash left on my counter and canned the little suckers. I’m a little nervous about this one. I mean, especially the pumpkin. It’s been on my counter for a long time. I can’t even remember when I got it. I would venture to say…well…months. But it was still hard on the outside. The squash, too. The insides were a little dry but they smelled ok.

Ok, I’m justifying. But it was either pickle them or throw them away, and how I hate to toss good food. So there are three pints of pickled pumpkin and squash sitting in my pantry waiting patiently three weeks until they are supposed to be fit to eat. I’ll report back.

Pickling broccoliSince I was up to my ears in cool pickle recipes, I went a little hog wild. I pickled a LOT of stuff as refrigerator or “quick” pickles. I pickled broccoli. I pickled apples and onions (yes, together.) I pickled beets in a kind of Moroccan style brine with toasted cumin seeds (which by the way I found only at one Whole Foods that had them in bins where you could buy in bulk – or in my case by the table spoon).

Now, the beets are good. Very unique and tart Pickling apple and onionand kind of savory thanks to the cumin. I like ‘em. Those are the only ones so far that are ready. The rest of them I have to wait at least a week before eating. A WEEK. Rude. Now that’s a pickle. I want to eat them, but I don’t want to have them before their prime and add to the anti-pickle bias with a bad pickle. So I’ll be patient. I’ll stare at them a minute each day and wonder how they’re coming along with their bad selves, pickling away in the dark recesses of my Maytag. This is going to be a long week or two.

Pickling beets

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How about two cents?

Who doesn’t like pickles? Well…test subject Bill is a self-proclaimed pickle hater. With this in mind…well…I made pickles anyway 🙂

With Alton Brown’s refrigerator pickle recipe recipe in hand, I was determined to produce the best pickles ever. Or, at least something edible. His recipe calls for “pickling spices.” I visited three different stores, including two different Whole Foods, but there were no pickling spices to be found. So I sought out my own pickling spice recipe. A fellow blogger was kind enough to provide her pickling spice recipe so I thought I was good to go:

PICKLING SPICE I

2 cinnamon sticks, broken
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon crumbled whole mace
1 teaspoon dill seeds
4 dried bay leaves
1 small piece dried ginger

Mix together all the ingredients.

Store in a small, airtight jar up to 2 months.

Makes about 1/4 cup.

Well…a few of those ingredients were hard to come by. I tore Whole Foods and Publix apart but had to substitute ground ginger for the dried ginger and ground mace for the whole mace. I made my pickling spice and hoped for the best.

Cucumbers waiting to become pickles.

Cucumbers waiting to become pickles.

Using a combination of cucumbers from my CSA box and the Saturday farmer’s market, I got to work slicing and mixing. The recipe is suprisingly easy – I can’t believe I didn’t do this before. I filled up nine small canning jars and one large one with cucumbers and onions, simmered the spices and vinegars and water together and poured them over the top of the veggies.

Alton’s recipe calls for half a cup of sugar. I don’t like using so much (plus I think sweet pickles are gross) so I did one batch with the full amount of sugar, one with half the sugar and one with a quarter of the sugar called for. I guess I just can’t leave things alone – must experiment!

After the jars cooled to room temperature, I lidded and refrigerated them. The great thing about these pickles is that they are ready almost right away. I tried some the very next day and was pleasantly suprised. The sugar wasn’t overpowering and offered a nice balance to the tartness of the vinegars. I didn’t taste too much difference between the full sweet and half sweet ones, so I think I’ll just use half the sugar from now on. The quarter sweet ones I also enjoyed, although they were a bit more sour than the others. The substitutions I made in the pickling spice didn’t seem to have had an adverse impact on the final product. Yay!

Oh pickle my pickle!

Oh pickle my pickle!

Test subject Bill finally taste tested them tonight. “These taste better than pickles,” he announced. (All according to my plan…slowly but surely I will turn him…) I have to agree – they are superior to store bought pickles and not difficult to make. The only problem is that they only last two months.

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