Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fermented Fabulously Crunchy Pickles

Yeah they really are fabulous.
Especially in comparison to my first attempt at fermented pickles where I ended up with squishy gross slimy things. They were pretty hard to stomach. These new pickles are wonderful because of the simple little trick I used to make them crunchy and the method that I used to prevent mold formation. Its a pretty common work-around I have seen on other fermenting pages as well.

This post is primarily about the methodology of making good fermented pickles instead of recipe based. 

First thing you will need to do is to locate a good fermented pickle recipe. Make sure it includes at least 1/2 Tbsp salt per cup water and lots of garlic such as this one:

To get the fermentation process started you need to place your sliced cucumbers into a wide mouthed glass jar and fill with salt water and spices.

In order to make the pickles crunchy the secret is to add tannic acid in some form. Surprisingly tannic acid is in many types of foods. Of these are green tea, black tea, fruit leaves, wine, unripe fruits, and many types of nut tree leaves. I chose to use butternut leaves in my pickles, but for those that can't find this fragrant walnut type tree, the more common oak tree leaves will work as well. The more fragrant the leaf, the better it will retain crunchiness in your pickles.

White oak leaves (left) are the better choice if you can find them, but red oak (right) will probably also work.

Wash about three or four leaves, cut them in quarters, and pack them around and on top of the cucumbers. You can also use the leaves to hold the vegetables below the brine surface.

Now for the fermentation setup:
 Simple, I know.
This step is necessary to keep the pickles submerged to prevent mold. For that reason it is important that you clean the bottom of the cup you use to weight the pickles down well. 

I used a racquetball to add enough weight to keep the pickles below the water line. Now you can walk away for a couple of weeks and let your pickles develop at room temperature. Make sure the weighted cup sits loose in the top of jar so your bacteria can breathe.

Other notes:
Be careful not to add a tight seal to your jar. If you use a tight seal, the bacteria might blow it off of the jar as pressure builds up from the fermentation process. Finding a cup that covers the majority of the top of the jar will prevent dust and things from getting in. Don't sweat it. Being clean really isn't a big deal here. The acid the bacteria produces will sterilize the food.

Also don't throw away your first batch of pickles! You can use juice from the first batch as a starter culture for the next. It considerably speeds up the process.

Happy pickling!