I love pickles and I love all kinds of pickles, from cucumbers and onions to turnips, and everything in between. Last year I made bread and butter refrigerator pickles, which we liked, but needed some improvement to the flavor. I meant to make more, and experiment with the methods, but didn’t get around to it, until a few weeks ago.
I had purchased a Master Vegetable Fermenter from Cultures for Health a few months ago, in hopes that I would have a lot of garden vegetables this year to culture into things like sauerkraut, pickles, curtido and gingered carrots. Since we are still a few weeks away from harvesting any of these goodies, because we got a late start, I thought I would buy some cucumbers at the Farmers Market and get practicing. During that same Farmers Market trip I also got some garlic scapes, and decided to throw some in the mix as well. Just for seasonal relativity, I made these pickles about a month ago, right as garlic scapes were beginning to show up at the markets.
The process to making lacto-fermented pickles is easy because there is no cooking and so canning process involved. This food preservation technique goes back to a time where there was no refrigeration. You use sea salt or whey brine to inhibit the growth of un-friendly bacteria, and mold, until enough lactic acid is produced to keep the vegetables preserved for many months. In the old days, people kept these stored in their cold root cellars along with other winter storage veggies. These days, most people store them in their refrigerator. There are added health benefits to preserving vegetables this way as well, since the lactobaccili which produce the lactic acid enhance digestibility through supporting the growth of healthy flora and enzymes in our gut.
As with any recipe, starting with the freshest ingredients possible is very important. I used a recipe for pickles from Nourishing Traditions, and enhanced it with the garlic scapes, fresh dill from the garden, pickling spices and added raw apple cider vinegar after fermentation, since we do like the vinegar flavor of store bought pickles. My next batch, I am going to try a bread and butter version. Remember it is important not to add these other components until after the fermentation process.
This original batch was a hit. We had friends over for dinner last week, and they brought with them raw milk and fermented pickles to contribute to the dinner (we love our friends!) and we had a pickle tasting. I am not sure if they were just being nice, but everyone agreed that my pickles were the best. Think I am going to make a batch for them the next time we visit them? You betcha!
6 garlic scapes, chopped
1 TBS of pickling spices
2 TBS of fresh dill
2 TBS sea salt (or 1 TBS of sea salt and 1 TBS of whey)
1 cup filtered water
¼ cup raw apple cider vinegar
Wash cucumbers and garlic scapes well and place in the vegetable fermenter (or a large, half gallon wide mouth mason jar). Combine remaining ingredients and pour over the cucumbers, adding more water if necessary to cover the vegetables. The top of the liquid should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for 3-7 days and transfer to cold storage. Once the culturing is complete, add the apple cider vinegar and mix.
I have not made this recipe using the mason jar method, preferring the master vegetable fermenter method, which has a glass jar that includes an airlock set up which facilitates gas escaping your fermented vegetables while keeping air out. This allows you to make pickles, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables while greatly reducing and usually eliminating the threat of mold.
NOTES (paraphrased from Cultures for Health): Do not remove the lid from the jar during the culturing process. Removing the lid could introduce bacteria which can cause mold or scum. Check your vegetables through the glass every day to check for signs of scum or mold. If any is present just scrape it off the top, and obviously do not eat any vegetables that have mold on them.