You may have noticed that the market has been swimming in cucumbers lately. Here’s a great way to utilize cucumbers. This is a recipe I taught recently at an introduction to fermented foods at the Missouri River Regional Library. These pickles must be refrigerated after the fermentation occurs, just save a spot in your fridge – it’s worth it! The tannin in the grape or oak leaves help keep the pickles crisp. Make sure to use fresh ingredients. This is not a recipe for pre-chopped, bottled garlic. The library has some great books on fermentation, if you’d like to learn more.
CUCUMBER PICKLESAdapted from Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin Yield: 3-4 pounds Prep time: 10 minutes Total time: 3 days – 2 weeks
- 3 to 4 pounds small, thick-skinned cucumbers
- 2 quarts chlorine-free water
- ½ cup sea salt
- Seasonings: generous amounts of dill, whole garlic, bay leaf, red pepper, whole black pepper, mustard seed, etc. (optional)
- A few fresh grape or oak leaves
- Cutting Board
- 1 gallon pitcher
- ½ gallon mason jar, or a plain glazed ceramic crock
- Something to hold the cucumbers under the brine
- Clean dishtowel or cloth to cover the top of the jar or crock
- Trim the blossom end off the cucumbers.
- Combine the chlorine-free water and salt in the pitcher.
- Place the seasonings and leaves at the bottom of the jar or crock, followed by the cucumbers.
- Pour the brine into the crock or jar.
- Weigh down everything so it stays submerged.
- If needed cover the top of jar with a cloth and secure with a rubber band or twine.
- Store at cool room temperature. Every day after the second or third, pull out a pickle, cut off a piece with a clean knife and taste it. When the pickles are pleasantly sour, but still crunchy, they are done. Move them to a cool place (like the refrigerator)
If a little mold grows on the top of the brine, it is not a problem – just remove it and continue. But, if there is a lot of mold, and it has long tendrils reaching down into the brine, it is a problem. Chalk one up to experience and send your pickles to the compost bin.