I was nervous. The temperature had been hovering around 75 all week, and that was the breaking point. Any warmer and horrible bacteria would start growing and ruin my first attempt at Natural Pickles.
Natural pickles differ from other pickles in that they contain no natural acid or vinegar at the beginning, which is usually used in pickling liquids. But when they’re done, these delicious pickles contain plenty of acid. Submerging vegetables into a salty brine, and leaving them at room temperature (less than 75º) will allow the desirable bacteria Lactobacillus to grow, but the salt will prevent harmful bacteria from growing. The Lactobacillus produces lactic acid, which further prevents dangerous bacteria. And after a week, you have sour, salty, crisp vegetables, that taste better than any pickles you’ve bought at the market.
The inspiration for pickling, as it should be, came from all the extra vegetables we had. Our cucumber plant has taken over the garden and has been producing wonderfully fresh, clean tasting cucumbers. And the local farmer’s markets have had so many interesting vegetables, I wanted to eat them all. So I bought yellow beans, kentucky beans, and okra to add to our cucumber mix.
I used the recipe from the insightful and inspiring book: Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.
1 3/4 oz / 50 grams kosher salt
4 1/4 cups / 1 liter water
8 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
30 black peppercorns
1 tsp fresh thyme
Mix all ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to reach room temperature. Clean and slice vegetables as appropriate and place in clean jars (32 oz Ball jars work beautifully). Fill jars with brine to cover vegetables. It is important that the vegetables be completely submerged. Air is not good for them. Sadly, the veg will float and poke out of the liquid. I balled up some plastic wrap to push the veg down and raise the level of the brine. Close the jars and leave in a cool place (60-75°F). Wait a week. Sample the pickles for sourness. If you want them more sour, leave them for longer. If you’re happy, remove the veg to a new jar, and strain the brine into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let the brine cool to room temp, pour back on veg and keep in the fridge indefinitely.
I was a bit nervous when the brine was taking on some cloudiness, but I held on to hope. When we sampled them, the cucumbers were unlike any pickle I’d ever had. They had a richness almost, somewhat like a sourdough bread. Sour, salty, spicy (from the red pepper). I am definitely on the look out for more veg to pickle. The remaining carrots on the roof are headed for the brine, and maybe some of the radishes, if Ben will let me have them. Any suggestions?
I also pickled some of the same veg using the vinegar method. But those won’t be finished for another two weeks, so I’ll let you know how that goes.