Last week I took a class in vegetable fermentation from a friend of mine. She is a bio-dynamic farmer and grows vegetables and cows. She milks the cows and we get milk from her every week. She took a class several years ago from Sandor Katz who wrote the book “Wild Fermentation”.
My friend brought about eight different ferments for us to taste. Gingered carrots, sauerkraut, beet kvass, zucchini pickles, kimchee and some others. They were all delicious!
Then she showed us how to make the zucchini pickles and the beet kvass and then let us make our own. After four days of sitting on my counter, I tried the pickles and they were excellent, just as good as my friends.
So with quite a few vegetable marrow (heirloom zucchini) from my own garden, garlic from my garden and dill..well…from my garden, I set out to make my own pickles at home.
Place all herbs or spices in bottom of a quart sized jar. I added dill weed and dill seed as well as garlic. My friend recommends adding either grape leaves or juniper berries to help retain crispness. I had neither at home.
Select veggies and cut into pickle wedges. If they are small you can leave them whole.
Insert veggies into jar, leaving an inch or more of head space. Pack very tightly!
Make a brine solution with 2T of all natural sea salt such as Redmonds(NO refined salt) if using whey. Use 3T of sea salt if you don’t have whey.
This is whey. It is the clear yellow liquid you find at the top of your plain yogurt. You can strain the yogurt through a yogurt cheese maker or through doubled up cheese cloth. This should give you enough whey. You will need 2T per quart. It acts as a starter for the lacto-fermentation process.
Add the whey and then fill the jar with the brine solution to cover the veggies. Put the lid on. Label your jar with the date and contents and leave it out on your counter. It will take four to ten days to become pickles. Here in Florida where it is 60’s at night(70’s in the house) and 80’s during the day, it will only take 4 days. Leave on your counter and keep an eye on them.
Even if you packed the strips tightly, they will shrink and float to the surface. This is why the spices go on the bottom. If the veggies are poking up through the liquid, you may need to weight them down with a glass.
When the pickles are done the liquid should look cloudy. If there is any white foamy stuff growing on the surface of the liquid just scrape it off with a spoon and you are good to go. You can taste the pickles at any stage without harm to you or the pickles. Sandor does it all the time. If you have never done this before or eaten something like this, you will be amazed with your results. I sure was. Sandor Katz book “Wild Fermentation” is available at Amazon.com and sometimes even through your local independent bookstore. Happy fermenting.
(Edited to add that when your pickles are “done”, meaning you like the flavor or level of fermentation, then they should be stored in a dark, cool place. It could be a root cellar, closet or a refrigerator. The warmer they are stored, the more likely the fermentation will continue. You could end up with some mushy veggetables, although still safe to eat. Let your nose be your guide. If anything smells or tastes foul or putrified rather than sour then don’t eat it. They should stay good for close to a year if refrigerated. You can hot water bath can the pickles, but then it destoys all the lacto bacilli. But store bought pickles don’t have any anyway, so do what works for you.)