More Pickles?

As if 30 quarts of dill pickles wasn't enough, I decided to make more pickles this last weekend...

I had a good reason - these pickling cucs were leftover from our big pick at The Tree Farm, and I
couldn't let them go to waste. Our garden plot has finally started producing a few cucumbers as well, so all in all I'm just about cucumbered out - which is not a bad thing exactly.

In the interest of variety and time I decided to use these extra cucs in two different pickle recipes, neither of which require canning: refrigerator bread and butter pickles, and raw fermented pickles. I'll give the full recipes for each at the bottom of this post, but first I'll walk you through all the steps.

First, the bread and butter pickles.

I soaked the cucumbers in ice water to ensure crispiness. I don't know if this step really does anything, but I've seen several sources recommend it, and I figure it can't hurt. I let them soak for about an hour.

Pretty local onions. I used the recipe from the classic cookbook, Joy of Cooking. It calls for peppers and onions, but there's not too many local peppers available yet so I skipped them and added extra onions instead.

Onions sliced thin in the bottom of a large bowl.....

Followed by a layer of thinly sliced cucumbers.

Another layer of onions.

Then finally a layer of cucumbers with 1/2 cup salt on top.

I weighted this all down with a plate and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

Like my new bowl? I was gifted with a $100 gift certificate to a shop in Madison that features local artist's wares. This bowl caught my eye. It's the kind of thing I would never be able to spring for on my own, but it's wonderful to have!

I had to switch plates mid-way through - the cucumbers shrank considerably and the red plate was too big to sink down enough. This is what it looked like the next morning.

It's hard to see here, but there's a thin layer of water over-top the sliced cucumbers. The salt drew out the water and sort of "cooked" the onions and cucumbers. They were VERY salty, even after I rinsed them a few times... I was a bit worried that they were too salty, but I trusted the Joy of Cooking enough to keep on going with the recipe as written.

The next step was to bring the brine (apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and spices) to a boil and slowly add the sliced cucs. The smell of the brine brought memories of summer flooding back - my Mom used to make bread and butter pickles every year.....

The finished pickles went into clean jars and into the fridge. The recipe calls for putting them in a hot water bath to can them, but since I only had four quarts, I decided that the fridge was an easier route. I'll give three of these away and keep one for myself. I tasted a few before I put them away and was relieved to know that they weren't too salty after all - the strong flavor of the brine must counteract the salt enough that it's not overpowering. The pickles themselves pack quite a punch - sweet, salt, vinegar. Yum.

OK, now for the fermented pickles. This is the older way of preserving cucumbers - fermenting was a common form of food preservation before hot water canning was invented in the early 19th century. Like other lacto-fermented foods, this method uses beneficial (or probioic) bacteria to preserve the food. I've always wanted to try it, and now seemed like a good time.

My go-to book for fermentation is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Her pickle recipe calls for whey - it helps get the lacto-fermentation started and ensures that the good bacteria will be present in large numbers. The best way that I know of to collect whey is to strain yogurt. The "juice" that drips out is whey. I have this handy yogurt strainer, but I'd bet that a drip coffee filter would work just as well. I set it on the back counter to do its thing while I prepped the other ingredients and filled the jars.

I cut the remaining cucumbers into spears and packed them into clean canning jars. I didn't have dill, so I used fresh garden basil to flavor them instead along with a few cloves of garlic for each jar. I'm curious to see how the basil turns out - dill pickles are so common it's hard to imagine anything else, but it's also hard to imagine that basil wouldn't be good.

This "brine" doesn't use any vinegar - I used celery seed, mustard seed, salt, weigh, and water. (the exact proportions are in the recipe below.)

By the time I was mixing the brine, I had 12 Tablespoons of whey collected from the yogurt. To be true to the recipe I needed 16, but I decided that 12 was close enough. The remaining yogurt was thick and still usable - more like Greek style than when it started.

I poured the brine into the jars, covered them loosely, and let them sit on the counter at room temperature for two days to ferment. The result was amazingly good - a mild basil flavored pickle with a pleasing fermented aftertaste. I'll have to make more of these next year!

Here are the recipes!

Refrigerator Bread and Butter Pickles (based on The Joy of Cooking)

4 Quarts pickling cucumbers
3 Large white onions
1/2 cup pickling salt
4 cups apple cider vinegar
4 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 Tablespoons mustard seed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

Cut the cucumbers and onions into the thinnest slices possible. Layer vegetables in a bowl. Pour the salt over them. Place in refrigerator for 12 hours, covered with a weighted lid. Drain vegetables. rinse in cold water, and drain again thoroughly. Combine the remaining ingredients and bring just to the boiling point. Add vegetables gradually with very little stirring. Heat to the scalding point but do not boil. Pour the pickles into clean jars. Seal and let cool, then transfer to the refrigerator.

Lacto-Fermented Cucumbers (based on Nourishing Traditions)

16-20 pickling cucumbers
2 Tablespoons mustard seed
2 Tablespoons celery seed
8 sprigs fresh basil ( or dill)
8 peeled cloves garlic
4 Tablespoons sea salt
12 Tablespoons weigh
4 Cups filtered water

Wash cucumbers well. Cut them into spears and stuff into four clean quart jars, along with two sprigs of basil and two garlic cloves in each jar. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over cucumbers, adding more water if necessary to cover the cucumbers. The top of the liquid should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jars. Cover loosely and keep at room temperature for 2 days before transferring to cold storage.

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  1. I love that bowl. Is that a local potter?

  2. It is. I thought it was signed, but I just looked and I can't find the signature. It was at Absolutely Art on Atwood St.


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