When my Australian husband first moved to the United States some years ago after we first got engaged, he commented that Americans must really love pickles because no matter where you go in the US, deli sandwiches are almost invariably served with some sort of pickle on the side.
It’s true. Americans do love pickles. Sweet pickles, sour pickles, dill pickles, it doesn’t seem to really matter what type – Americans consider them an essential condiment, and the wide variety of pickles at the supermarket is a strong testament to this fact.
The problem with store pickles is that they are for the most part a nutritionless addition to a meal.
The heat required to can pickles or seal and sterilize them in jars that can sit for months or even years on the supermarket shelf or in your pantry without going bad clinches that deal. In short, they are pickled but not fermented. Fermentation is the process whereby cucumbers are pickled without heat which adds beneficial enzymes, probiotics, and sometimes additional nutrients.
The traditional principles of fermentation can be applied to cucumbers just the same as it can to other foods like beets, apricots, tomatoes, and cabbage all of which have been the subject of previous video lessons demonstrating the health building wonders of fermentation.
Why has it taken me so long to do a video lesson on pickles, you might ask? Given their tremendous popularity as a condiment, you would think pickles would have been one of the very first fermentation videos I would have filmed.
True all around, with one very big problem. I’ve never been very good at making pickles. They’ve always turned out soggy when I’ve made them in the past and who wants to eat soggy pickles?
But then, my friend Alex Lewin sent me a copy of his awesome new book Real Food Fermentation, and at last I learned the secret for keeping my pickles nice and crisp as they ferment into the enzyme and probiotic packed cucumber slices that easily beat any store pickle in both taste and nutrition.
I asked Alex if I could film his pickle recipe as a video, and he graciously said yes, so at long last, The Healthy Home Economist does pickles!
How to Pickle Cucumbers
2 lbs organic cucumbers sliced across into 1/4″ pieces (cut off and discard the blossom end)
1 quart filtered water or 1 pint filtered water and 1 pint organic apple cider vinegar that has been boiled and cooled
1/2 cup liquid whey or raw sauerkraut juice
Several fresh oak leaves, bay leaves, or grape leaves
2 Tbl sea salt (sources)
3-5 organic garlic cloves, peeled (optional)
3-5 dried bay leaves (optional)
Slice cucumbers and set aside. Be sure to discard the slice with the blossom end as this is where enzymes are located that can contribute to soggy pickles.
Place garlic cloves, dried bay leaves, and fresh oak, bay or grape leaves at the bottom of a clean 1/2 gallon mason jar.
Place sliced cucumbers on top of seasonings. Mix sea salt, liquid whey or sauerkraut juice with the quart of water (or a water/vinegar mixture if you prefer a more vinegar flavor to your pickles) into the fermentation brine water and carefully pour over the top of the cucumbers.
Leave about an inch at the top of the jar and screw on the lid.
Leave on the counter for 2 days. After 2 days, remove one cucumber slice with a clean fork and taste. If it is crunchy and pleasantly sour, then refrigerate. Your pickles are done. If not, leave on the counter for another day, tasting each additional day to determine when the pickles taste pleasantly sour and are yet are still crunchy.
If a small bit of of mold is on top of the brine water, it’s not a problem. Just remove it and refrigerate. If there is a lot of mold with long tendrils down into the water, the batch has not taken properly. Discard and try again using more starter and/or vinegar with the next batch.
Fermented, pickled cucumbers will last several months in the refrigerator.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Source: Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin