A great way to introduce you to the concept of fermentation is to re-introduce you to something that is, I’m sure, an old friend…the pickle. In his wonderful book called The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz defines fermentation in regards to food as:
“…the transformation of food by various bacteria, fungi, and the enzymes they produce. People harness this transformative power in order to produce alcohol, to preserve food, and to make it more digestible, less toxic, and/or more delicious.”
So in the case of the humble pickle what was once a simple perishable vegetable has been transformed by microbes, salt and water into a marvel that is crisp and nutritious long after the original specimen would have grown hair and decomposed in your refrigerator. The image that is most common in our minds when the word pickle is uttered, is the cucumber. But with the help of transformative microorganisms, many other vegetables can be fermented through the same process. Today we will experiment with cucumbers, carrots, green beans, eggplants, and peppers.
What you need:
- 4L of water
- 200g kosher salt
- Assorted fresh, trimmed and peeled vegetables (about a kilo in total)
- Various seasonings and spices (I used dill, garlic, chillies, peppercorns, coriander seeds, allspice, cinnamon etc.)
- Suitable jars for pickling
How it’s done:
- Bring the various seasonings, salt and water to a simmer to adequately dissolve the salt. Let cool to room temperature.
- Place the vegetables snugly in the jars, and pour over the cooled brine.
- Place a layer of plastic wrap on the top of the vegetables and then cover with more brine to create an airlock (this keeps out the bad bacteria).
- Place in a cool dark place (below 23C) for about 7-10 days.
- Try your pickles – they should have a crunchy salty sour taste.
- Place the vegetables in fresh clean jars and reboil the existing brine to remove any bacteria. Once cool, pour the brine over the pickles and store in your refrigerator indefinitely.