Recipe Roundup: Pickle Party!
by Lauren Steinhardt on 16 August, 2015
Hey, Bees! Lauren here. 'Tis the season for fresh fruits and veggies! Whether your garden is overflowing with bounty, or your kitchen is overflowing with farmer's market treasures, we're all enjoying the flavors of summer. Want to keep the party going? It's time to check out our favorite ways of stocking up on summer goodness.
Brining and Fermentation
Fermenting is a traditional way of preserving foods by cultivating the growth of lactic acid producing bacteria. Delicious foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and brined pickles are the result of this method, which has the added benefit of supplying healthy probiotics to your tummy. It might sound weird or complicated to try your own home fermentation project, but it's actually very simple. I love Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz as an all-around introduction to home fermenting, and Sandor's sauerkraut recipe can't be beat.
Fermentation basics: starting with a salt brine or salted veggies helps to select for the good kind of bacteria, a.k.a. probiotics, the same kinds of bacteria that are found in yogurt and kombucha. The probiotics produce lactic acid, which gives brined pickles their tangy taste. When making pickles or other fermented foods, the rate of fermentation is greatly affected by temperature. A hot day can send your pickling crock into overdrive, or even throw the whole thing off if it's in the sensitive early stages. It's important to check things on a regular basis, and keep out of direct sunlight.
My hands-down favorite recipe for summer garden bounty is brined half-sour pickles. I start with fresh pickles from my garden or the farmer's market, fresh dill heads, garlic and spices, and ferment them in a gentle brine. I like the crispy, fresh "new" dill pickles that come from only a few days fermentation. Leave them for a few more days and they become half-sours; another week and you've got a classic deli dill like Bubbe's. Real talk: I've been working for years to reverse engineer the deli pickles of my youth. If you're ready to throw down old country style, check out this recipe from 90 y.o. pickle maker "Moe"...looks LEGIT.
Some of the benefits of fermentation include preservation of nutrients, healthy probiotics, and the unique and delicious taste of traditional foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. Most fermented foods will last months in the refrigerator, but for real long-term, shelf stable storage, canning is the way to go.
Canning and Vinegar Pickles
Home canning is the classic method of "stocking up" and preserving garden bounty. Canning works by creating a sealed sterile environment within the canning jar. Canned jams, pickles, and veggies will remain shelf-stable for years.
Start with canning jars, lids, and rings, a water bath canner or pressure canner, tongs, and hot mitts. Some people like to get fancy with canning tongs, special funnel, and magnetic lid lifter. You will want to sterilize the jars, lids and rings in the canner before filling the jars. Use the tongs to place them on a clean towel to dry. Fill the jars according to the instructions in the recipe you are following, being sure to leave the proper amount of headroom.
IMPORTANT: Follow all instructions regarding processing time. This is what keeps your food safe and shelf-stable. Low-acid foods like meats and veggies need longer processing times than high-acid foods like fruits, tomatoes, and vinegar pickles.
Dill pickles are a classic food canning recipe. This dill pickle recipe is pretty straightforward and includes links to homemade pickling spice mixture. Some great tips: get the freshest pickling cucumbers you can find; farmer's markets or a local farm are your best bet. For crunchiest pickles, use small cukes that are free from blemishes. Once you get the basics down, it's fun to experiment with different flavors. I like using apple cider vinegar in mine.
Green beans are another vegetable that stands up well to canning. I love making several jars of dilly beans every year. I also love this lemon-rosemary recipe from Emeril. It's the perfect garnish for a Bloody Mary!
If you've been getting tons of turnips in your CSA box, check out this recipe for Lebanese Pickled Turnips. These bright pink beauties will add pizazz to your hummus, falafel, and baba ganoush. The rosy hue comes from the addition of beet slices to the mixture.
You may have noticed that I haven't posted any sweet pickle recipes. This is because of my sincerely held belief that sweet pickles are FROM THE DEVIL. So I can't help you there. But if you do have a sweet tooth, tune in next week when we cover jams, jellies, and fruit preserving.