Fermented pickles from my garden

Feb 10 2012 0 Comments Tags: cucumber, fermented, Nourishing Traditions, pickle, real food

I love the taste of gherkins/pickles, but when I wanted to buy some recently I found that every jar in the supermarket contained green food colouring.  That's when I decided that I'd better grow my own, because I wasn't going to buy any of them!

a pickling cucumber
With my own pickles, I can use a lactic fermentation rather than pickling with vinegar.  I did later find a jar of vinegar pickles at the markets that didn't contain green food colouring, and this has kept me going until I could make my own, however I would rather eat lactic fermented pickles than vinegar pickles if I have the option.

What's the difference between lactic fermented pickles and vinegar pickles?
Lactic fermentation is the traditional method of preserving vegetables using naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria to partially digest the vegetables and produce additional nutrients.  This also increases the acid content of the brine, which acts to preserve the vegetables against infestation of pathogenic or food spoilage bacteria.  When food started to be mass produced it was much easier and quicker to use vinegar directly to preserve food (lactic fermentation takes several days or weeks vs a few hours in vinegar), but this short-cut means that we don't get the benefit of the bacteria starting the digestion and converting the nutrients.  Fermented foods are known to add digestion and strengthen the immune system, but now we are all so used to vinegar pickling, most people don't even realise that lactic fermentation is the traditional method of making pickles (I didn't know until recently) and certainly don't know about the health benefits.  

So you can see why I was keen to try lactic fermented pickles as soon as I had enough from my three little vines!  Previous lactic fermentation attempts were sauerkraut and fermented beverages, which I was a bit nervous about eating, but I'm think I'm getting used to this now.....

a baby gherkin, awwww

Lactic fermented pickling cucumbers 
I used this method, but I didn't have grape leaves, so I used some mustard leaves, and I added a little whey to get the process started (and use up the whey), as suggested in Nourishing Traditions.  Lucky I planted lots of dill earlier in the year!  The hardest part was finding big enough jars, I'm looking out for them at op shops and trying to build up a decent collection.  I used a piece of plastic cut from a margarine lid (very old lid, don't eat that "food" these days!) as the "follower" that's supposed to keep out air and allow the lactic fermentation to proceed.  I didn't use anything with my sauerkraut, but I've read in a few places that I should have.

Pickles before

Pickles in the jar and starting to ferment (I hope)

When I'd finished I found this GIANT gherkin on the vine, oops!
I'll chop that up and ferment it as slices with the next batch....
unless the seeds are big and then I'll save them for growing more.

And three days later.....
I took this very out of focus photo of the jar, actually the colour
has got a little duller, but still looks quite green
Before I put the pickles in the fridge I took them all out of the jar and strained the brine to pick out the dill and mustard leaves, as I didn't want them to go slimy, and then replaced the pickles and the brine in the jar.  Of course we had a little taste as well, and they were very nice.  A bit crunchier than vinegar pickles, a bit saltier and slightly less acidic, the dill smells delicious too!  I'm really pleased with them and will be making some more as soon as there's a few more big ones ready.....

Have you tried making fermented pickles?  or anything else fermented?

See my updated pickle method and more on fermentation.


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