Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cucumber, garlic scapes, and dill fermented pickles recipe

Here's a very delicious fermented pickle I've had the privilege to make.  The garlic scapes are from my garden, but the cucumbers and dill are from the store.  I plan to make this again later in the year with my own cucumbers and dill, but use whole garlic instead of the scapes.  It's tasty enough, but the scapes add a special something that is really yummy.

The other day I was lamenting the price of cucumbers in the store.  It was considerably higher than normal for some reason, but fresh fruits and veg are doing this more and more frequently these days.  But I found some cucumbers that had just come in at my friends shop, and bought the lot.  They are those lovely small cucumbers, tiny little seeds, so crunchy and tender.  

A good 20 plus pounds of cucumbers plus a garden full of scapes, and a few other vegs tossed in the pot for good measure, means that I made 6 gallons worth of pickles in an afternoon.  This recipe isn't for that much, but you can easily scale it up or down to your liking.  I'll do it per pound, so per each pound of veg you add...x this and that... very simple.

My recipe is inspired from this... okay, it's basically the same only modified for the open vat ferment style instead of the small jar ferment style.  Very good recipe, but far too small an amount for how good it tastes.  The ratio of dill, garlic and cucs is up to you entirely.  If you want pickled garlic with a hint of cucumbers, do that, if you like cucumbers best, do mostly those.  If dill drives you crazy with love and passion, go nuts.  But basically, I tend for 10 to 50 garlic scapes per pound of cucs, or one bulb of garlic for 2 pounds of cucs - I love garlic.

Cucumber and Garlic Scapes Dill Pickles

  • cucumbers
  • garlic or garlic scapes or both
  • fresh or dry dill.
  • salt
  • optional - chili pepper, other veg like carrots
  • water
  1. Weigh out the veg.  For every pound of veg put aside 2 tsp of salt.  Add one Tbs of salt to the pile (for the pot as they say).  
  2. Cut up the veg how you like.  The more surface area the faster they will ferment.
  3. Layer it in a clean crock (no antibacterial soap, this will kill the bacteria that we need to ferment the pickle), layer of veg, sprinkle herb, layer garlic, layer of salt, layer of veg... and so on.  Save a good Tbs of salt for the top.  When you run out of veg, sprinkle the rest of the salt on top.
  4. Put a plate or cut a piece of plastic or wood or whatever you have on top of the veg/salt layers.  It needs to be smaller than the opening so it can weigh down the pickles, but not too much smaller that the veg can get around the inner lid and float.  Weigh it down with a jar of water or clean rock, or the like.
  5. cover the whole thing with a cotton or linen cloth to keep the bugs out and stop the dust getting in.
  6. Place somewhere at cool room temp, between 10 and 20 C is ideal and ignore it for 12 to 24 hours.
  7. The veggies will make their own liquid, but probably not enough.  Add clear, clean water to the vat until the veggies are submerged.  Cover it back up and ignore it.  
  8. After three days to a week, open up the vat and take out a few cucumbers (with clean hands/tools) to taste.  If you like it, put the pickles in jars in the fridge.  If you would like it more sour, replace the inner lid and weight to make certain everything is submerged.  Cover again with cloth and ignore for another week.
There may be mold.  It happens but is seldom harmful.  If the mold is black or the vat smells rotten - toss it it the compost immediately!  Otherwise, trust your senses to tell you if it's okay to eat or not.  Mold isn't always bad for you.  In fact, a great number of molds are good - antibiotics come from mold, blue cheese, miso soup, sake rice wine... all contain friendly molds.  Most molds don't care about humans one way or the other, some are helpful and some are harmful.  But the point is, not all molds are bad.  If you feel uncomfortable with mold, then don't eat the vat.  If you don't mind it, and it's not black mold, then scrape off the mold, maybe sprinkle some more salt, and make certain everything is submerged below the water.

If you are making this in the heat of the summer, which is likely given the way cucumbers grow, and don't want to eat it right away, then feel free to add more salt.  In the summer, I usually put in 1Tbs salt per pound of veg.  In the winter, when it's cool, I'll add a lot less salt, maybe 1 tsp per pound of veg (this is my basic guide for all vegi ferments like kimchi or sauerkraut).  

You can make these pickles for the flavour, or to preserve the cucumbers or for the health benefits of probiotics.  I find this recipe very affordable, especially when my own cucumbers are in full production... although if you are buying the cucs, then maybe wait for them to be on sale.  

This is a traditional method to preserve cucumbers, and also one very good for transitioning away from dependence on big business and long range food transport.  Make this in the summer when you have cucumbers coming out your ears, then you will be able to enjoy pickles well into the winter, maybe even next spring.  For preservation, it's helpful to keep it in a cooler location.

Yes, this is vegan friendly.

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