Foment a Ferment

This week we have pickling cukes again if anyone wants to buy some. Did you know that you can make lacto-fermented cucumber pickles with very little effort and no processing?

Lacto-fermentation is the process of harnessing naturally occurring yeasts in the air to ferment foods, making the foods change flavor, store longer, and impart greater health benefits. Lacto-fermented foods are in a sense predigested (by the beneficial bacteria), making their nutrient content more accessible to our bodies, and those same bacteria create additional nutrients just by being alive. Fermented foods improve digestion and boost the immune system and really are just very good for you in so many ways, as well as being fun to make. We would really encourage you to learn more about making your own ferments – the book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz is a great place to start.

Here are some examples of fermented foods:

sauerkraut

kim chi

sour pickles

vinegar

soy sauce

beer

kefir

sourdough starter

wine

yogurt

kombucha

tempeh

Some of these require specific bacteria cultures (which you can order from a supply house like GEM Cultures (www.gemcultures.com) or can obtain from a pre-existing source, as in yogurt making, where you just use a spoonful of already made yogurt to culture the new batch). The pickle recipe we’re about to give requires only that you create the appropriate conditions and then allow the local yeasts to move in and do their thing. Some folks who are really into fermenting foods will tell you that they can taste different flavors in the finished product depending on where in the world the ferment was made.

Sour Pickles from Wild Fermentation

  • 3 to 4 lb cucumbers
  • 6 T. sea salt
  • 3 to 4 heads fresh flowering dill of 3 to 4 T. of any form of dill (fresh or dried leaves, seeds)
  • 2 to 3 heads garlic, peeled
  • 1 handful fresh grape, cherry, oak, and/or horseradish leaves (if available) – the tannins in these help keep the pickles crunchy
  • 1 pinch black peppercorns

Soak cukes in very cold water for a couple of hours. Rinse, and scrape off any residue of the blossom.

Thoroughly dissolve salt in 1/2 gal. of water (this is your brine).

Using a ceramic crock, food-grade plastic bucket, or large glass jar, first clean your vessel very well. Then place the dill, garlic, leaves if you’ve got ‘em, and peppercorns inside.

Place cucumbers in vessel on top of the other ingredients.

Pour brine over the cucumbers, then place a (again, very clean) plate over them, topping it with a (very clean) jar filled with water, boiled rock, or other weight. The purpose of the plate and the weight is to hold the cucumbers completely underneath the brine. If you’ve not got enough brine to completely cover the cukes, make more at the ratio of just under 1 T. per cup of water, and add it to your crock.

Cover with a cloth if you’re worried about dust or flies, and store it somewhere fairly cool (not the fridge).  Check your crock every day. Skim off any mold from the surface, and rinse your plate and weight well, but don’t worry if you can’t skim all the mold. If your cucumbers are completely submerged in the brine, they are sealed away and safe from the mold.

After a few days, taste. The process of passive fermentation is a personal one – it’s up to you to decide when you think it’s done. It should take from 1 to 4 weeks, depending on personal preference and how warm it is. So keep tasting every day or at least every few days. When you like the way it tastes, move your pickles to the fridge. Enjoy!

And what’s for regular pickup today? Mustard greens, green cabbage, slicing cukes, pattypan squash, tomatoes, cranberry (red) potatoes, and eggplant. Here’s a recipe for some tasty coleslaw which we make huge batches of and snack on for days.

MINT COLESLAW – I think maybe this is a Weight Watchers recipe

Servings: 4

  • 1 cabbage, chopped in whatever shape you prefer for coleslaw
  • 1 bunch green tops from green onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ c. slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 T. sesame seeds
  • 2 tsps.-1T. toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 T. granulated sugar
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 3 T. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 T. fresh mint, chopped
  1. Toss all ingredients in large bowl.
  2. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour before serving.

We love the Moss family for supplying us with approximately half the recipes we post on here! Here is one using eggplant that Patsy recommended after a trip to Majorca (Mallorca?):

Tumbet – Majorcan Baked Vegetables

  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound new potatoes, sliced
  • 2 large green bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Serves 6.

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and blot with paper towels to remove excess liquid.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the potato slices and cook for 5 minutes, turning frequently, until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add the peppers to the oil and cook for 2 minutes, until just softened. Remove with a slotted spoon and blot on paper towels. Rinse and drain the eggplant and cook in batches in the oil approximately 2 minutes or until golden on both sides. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 375. Coat a large baking dish with nonstick vegetable cooking spray and set aside. Add the garlic to the skillet, cook 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes to thicken. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Arrange the cooked vegetables in the prepared baking dish in layers, seasoning each layer. Pour the tomato sauce over the top, cover, and bake for 30 minutes until vegetables are tender. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Just discovered that there is a Wild Fermentation website (http://wildfermentation.com/ ) which has the sour pickle recipe from above in more detail, plus a sauerkraut recipe if that’s what you feel like doing with your cabbage. The sauerkraut process is not terribly different from the sour pickle process. Just go to the website, then under the “Resources” tab at the top is a drop-down menu where you can choose to click on “Making Sauerkraut” or “Making Sour Pickles”.

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