I love pickles perhaps more than any adult person should. Any kind of pickle – I do not discriminate. Sweet, sour, salty, spicy – I’ve never met a pickle I didn’t like.
I’m not being hyperbolic.
My love of pickles, and inability to locate pickling cucumbers for purchase, was the main reason I decided to plant my own vegetable garden this year. I found some organic gherkin seeds, threw them in the ground, and hoped for the best.
To my utter delight, I harvested my first lot of pickling cucumbers this morning. It proved to be a bumper crop, with my plants still flowering like mad. I may need to buy a separate fridge to store all of my pickles in!
Although I find them delicious, I prefer not to buy pickles that are loaded with sugar and preservatives. I’d rather indulge my love of all things pickled, while at the same time working towards improving my health.
These pickles are lacto-fermented, meaning they don’t take the typical mass-produced short cut of using vinegar to give a sour taste. The sour taste of these pickles is produced exclusively by millions of beneficial bacteria; beneficial because they are what make these pickles utterly delicious, and beneficial because they can do wondrous things for your health.
There are many, many fantastic reasons to include fermented foods in your diet. Not only are they delicious, easy, and affordable to make – they also introduce beneficial bacteria to your digestive tract, which in turn help you more thoroughly digest and absorb nutrients from the foods you eat. Best of all, fermented foods can last months – if not years – if kept in the fridge.
Win, win, win!
This recipe could be used on just about any vegetable you can imagine, and the spices and herbs adjusted to your own personal tastes. The essential part is the salt water, and keeping the veges completely submerged until they’re ready to store in the fridge. Daikon radish, carrots, chilies… You’re only limited by the vegetables on offer near you!
500g cucumbers (or any other vegetable you may wish to use)
500 ml water
1 tbsp sea salt
2 springs or more fresh dill
2 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
1-2 chilies, depending on your own heat preference
1/8 tsp mustard seeds
1/8 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp whole peppercorns
1/8 tsp dill seeds
To prepare the cucumbers, slice off the flowering end and cut the cucumber into the desired pickle size. Removing the flowering end helps prevent the pickle from becoming mushy. Note that smaller pieces will ferment more quickly.
Place all spices into the bottom of a sterilized jar (to sterilize, simply wash and fill with boiling water and let stand for 5-10 minutes), reserving the dill weed.
Pack the cucumbers into the jar as tightly as possible. This will prevent the pickles from floating to the surface of the brine.
Wind the dill around the top of the cucumbers, leaving about an inch of space between the pickles and the top of the jar.
Combine the water and salt until the salt has entirely dissolved. Pour over the cucumbers until all ingredients are covered. There should still be about two centimeters of space between the top of the liquid and the lid of the jar.
Ensure none of the cucumbers are poking out of the surface of the brine. If they are, submerge them using a clean piece of rock, or a large chunk of onion. This will prevent mold from growing.
Allow pickles to stand on your kitchen counter for two to three days before tasting. If mold forms, remove it. It isn’t dangerous, but can alter the flavour of your pickles. Pickles will ferment faster in hotter climates, so should be tasted daily from about day two onwards.
Allow the pickles to stand on the counter until they reach your desired level of sourness and crunch. The longer you leave them, the more sour they will get, but also the more mushy.
Place the pickles in the fridge to prevent further fermentation once they are to your satisfaction.