September 16, 2013 by Chef Sabot
In my ongoing attempts to lessen my reliance on the oligarchy for my food stuffs, I took a break from writing seditionist recipes to grow my own produce. The experiences I’ve gained in the last two seasons has changed the way I look at the Farm’s place in the Revolution and the priorities of action required to produce a free people unrestrained by Religion, Property or Government.
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But that’s a post for another day and another venue! Suffice it to say that here on the Asphalt Plains of the great Maritime Northwest we’ve been experimenting with long term storage of fresh produce. In the course of this experimentation we made pickles. Lots of them.
We even made fancy Lacto-fermented cucumber pickles. Instead of a piece of branded crockery costing half a Social Security check, we opted for a Korean food storage/kimchi bucket.
What you need to know is that the “lacto” in the name “Lacto-fermented vegetable” is short for “Lactobacillus” and refers to the variety of bacteria that along with yeast will engage in an Anaerobic reaction with the naturally occurring sugars in the foods to produce Lactic acid and preserve your food. There’s a whole lot of science on it, and it’s fascinating if that’s your bag.
If pondering the sciences is not your revolutionary skillset, the most important take away is that an “anaerobic” reaction takes place without any oxygen. That means we need to keep our veggies from reacting with oxygen. The kimchi bucket is food safe, has an airtight gasketed internal lid to keep your veggies under the brine (and thus out of oxygen) and a nipple on an access port so you can bleed off carbon dioxide (which builds up in the first few days of fermentation.) In the absence of a kimchi bucket or an insanely expensive piece of crockery with a german stamp on it you can use a food-safe bucket, a plate and a sanitized rock or jar of water to keep the plate and veggies below the brine.
One of the things I discovered while reading through all of that science, is that cucumbers are very hard (comparatively) to ferment without going mushy and unpalatable. Science says it’s because cucumbers have thin walls that don’t hold up well, and thus you need a source of tannins to shore them up and hold the water in (thus making a crisp pickle.) There’s a lot of workarounds out there from grape leaves to black tea. All of the oldest recipes I found called for white oak leaves. We have native Oregon white oaks in our backyard. Serendipity.
I had perfect pickles the first time. I suggest you find an oak.
Things you’re going to need :
3 to 5 pounds small fresh cucumbers
3/8 cup (6 tbs)sea salt per 2 quarts of water (I used a total of 2.5 quarts, it will vary by receptacle)
3 heads fresh flowering dill + 1 head gone to seed (or 1/4 cup dried dill of any variety)
3 heads garlic, peeled
1 “handful” fresh from the tree oak leaves. I counted 5 as a handful.
1 tbs black peppercorns
2 tbs mustard seed
3 bay leaves
3-5 dried hot peppers
Rinse cucumber gently and look for any bruised portions and strongly consider using those cucumbers for another purpose as the bruised flesh releases an enzyme that will probably produce mushy pickles.
Assuming you didn’t harvest the cucumbers right before you began this process, you will want to soak the cukes for 1-2 hours in very cold water to rehydrate them.
At some point while the cucumbers are hydrating you should drag your mind from the weighty matters that possess it, and dissolve your sea salt in room temperature or cooler water to create your pickling brine.
Remove the blossom end by slicing off the last 1/8 of an inch or so of the pickle opposite the stem. Leave a small bit of stem if possible, it holds sugars and helps your cucumbers to stay fresh. The blossom end has enzymes that will soften your pickle as well as make it bitter as hell. If you ever bit into a homemade pickle and it tasted like the dying memories of your childhood innocence you caught a blossom end. Luckily, this bitterness has no ill effects so if you miss a cucumber or two it’s really not a big deal.
Dissolve sea salt in water to create brine
At the bottom of your bucket drop in your dill, garlic and fresh oak leaves. That right
there would be enough for a perfectly good pickle, but I’m Jewish and there isn’t a decent deli within fifty miles of me so I went Kosher. Assuming you’re doing the same you’ll place the remaining herbs and spices in a cheesecloth, knot it twice and drop it in with the other seasoning.Then place the cucumbers in the crock and pour room temperature or colder brine over the cucumbers.
Cover the bucket to keep out dust and flies and store it in a cool place away from direct sunlight or drafts.
Check the crock every day and skim any mold from the surface. It won’t hurt you if you don’t get it all. Taste the pickles after a few days. You’ll notice them start to get more and more sour.
After one to four weeks the pickles will be fully sour. They will continue to ferment until you either consume them, or they go “bad.” When they are as sour as you’d like, moving them to a refrigerator or cold root cellar will slow the fermentation. Do not allow the pickles to freeze.
There are only two ways these pickles will go “bad.” One is that the texture will be unpalatable and you don’t want to eat them. Throw these away or compost them. If it smells so terrible you don’t want to eat it, it’s gone bad. Anything else and you’re fine!
When ready to store, I personally place mine in quart jars covered with the original brine. Damaged bits were removed and partial cucumbers were sliced into smaller glass vessels to receive the same treatment.
As always, I hope this information serves as ammunition in your struggle to fulfill your basic needs.