Saturday, 8 August 2015

Hello, August: Pickling and Fermenting Summer Veg

I'm not new to preserving, but I am new to pickling - we're just gonna go for it this year. Since I'm off sugar these days (it just makes me feel crummy - not worth it), I'm sticking to veggie preserving for now, although I may be tempted to put up some fruit later in the month. Anyway, using several methods, for the sake of experimentation, the most exciting of which is, surprise surprise, fermenting! These are radishes, and it really is the simplest recipe (from Phickle). Note how I'm using a smaller jar to keep the radishes submerged - that's really important.  

They will be ready in about a week at room temperature. Fermenting some daikon (mooli) as well, using a shot glass as a weight this time. 

I love this kind of cooking; anything that relies on a bacterial or chemical process (besides, you know, heating) to bring about a transformation just feels like magic to me. But it's not magic! It's science! Apparently, this is how veggies ferment: Their skin is loaded with bacteria, good and bad. We want the goods guys, in this case lactobacillus, to take over. Lactobacillus is salt tolerant, so a salt brine gives them an environment in which they can get a foothold. The other bacteria are still hanging around, mind, but as our good guys breed they also change the pH of the whole situation, which benefits them, and kills off the competition. So once our pickles reach a certain distinct point of sourness, we can be confident that the good guys won and our food is not only safe to eat, it's wonderfully healthful. Now, call me a nerd if you must, but I think that's cool.

I'm also doing some vinegar pickles, because I like them, and some quick pickles, which aren't intended for long term storage. 

There are some great recipes for quick pickles in Bryant Terry's excellent Afro-Vegan. It's not a preserving book, it just happens to have a handful of easy, yummy-looking pickle recipes. This is the cumin-pickled red onion. It's intended to go in the fridge and be eaten within a month or so. These babies are going to up our sandwich game significantly. 

Lastly, I'm doing some traditional vinegar-pickled cucumbers with dill, and some more radishes. I happen to dislike sweet pickles intensely, so these are spiced vinegar only. I'm using the Jams, Preserves and Chutneys Handbooks as a guide - it's a great book to learn with, for any kind of preserves, because it gets you started properly on the basics. I bought it several years ago when I was learning to make jams and chutneys - the recipes are a great jumping off point for experimentation. 

With the vinegar pickles, we won't have our bacterial Battle Royale keeping us safe, so we need to keep everything very sterile in the traditional way - I'd highly recommend sticking to a reliable recipe if you're a beginner like me. 

What about you guys, are you preserving this month? Whatcha makin'??


  1. Looks like fun! I just had my first adventure in pickling with watermelon rind, of all things. It was an attempt to be less wasteful. I used rice vinegar (because I was out of cider vinegar) and cinnamon sticks. They taste good, but now I have a jar of watermelon rind pickles and no idea what to use them on - any ideas?

    1. Hey lady! Maybe just on the side of some beans and rice? Or anything that needs a little tang? I have to say, having fresh pickles on hand is CHANGING MY LIFE. I'm going to have to make those pickled onions every week until I die.