Monday, September 19, 2011

Pickling Everything

Left to right: Half Sour pickle, Kosher Pickle, Sauerkraut and Kimchi.
I am currently in the process of learning how to pickle things. I took a class on fermented foods this weekend in which I learned how to make small batch pickled foods like Kosher Dills, Sauerkraut and Kimchi, which sit on your counter for one to six weeks like little pets. Besides being really informative and fun, the class gave me the confidence that I needed to continue on my own.
With the fermentation method your pickles need to breath so you cover the jar with a cloth or napkin to keep out dust (or dog hair). It's a little like making beer.
I have canned several fruits and jams but I have never pickled anything. I know pickling seems pretty basic, but since both my Mother and my Grandmother really hated cooking anything that wasn't absolutely necessary, they never got into any long process cooking activities. Such are the pitfalls of growing up in the Betty Crocker era.

Then as I had a family and set up my own pantry, I looked and asked around for information on pickling and there was very little. Sure there were a few old books, but really what I needed was some hands on instruction to build my confidence.

These cucumbers are wedged into the shoulders of the jars so they won't float up out of the brine and spoil. You want at least an inch of brine above the vegetables for the fermentation process.  

With small chopped things like this Kraut and Kimchi you will need to have something that holds down the vegetables. Here our class was taught to use a ziplock baggy full of the brine to hold down the chopped cabbage. You fill the bag with brine instead of water so that if it leaks into the jar it does not dilute the fermenting pickles and cause spoilage.

Our County Extension office, which was severely underfunded for the last decade, has started teaching again. That is because of our states resurgent interest in food growing and preservation. Now they are adequately funded to give food preservation classes. Hooray! It pays to vote.
These are some Pickled Spicy Beets that our Extension Agent and students canned at another class.

Tomatillos,carrots and beets slated for pickling.
I am in the process of planning to pickle everything I can think of. I feel completely capable now, and they gave me a "hot line" phone number to call if I feel my confidence wavering, or if my pickles get slimy
This picture makes me feel sick.
I really love pickles but have not been able to eat them for a long time because EVERYONE puts onions and garlic in their pickles and I am allergic to the Allium family, i.e. onions and garlic. It's made me very sad (and sick) until now. Now I can make pickled foods without the offending ingredients and eat them to my hearts content.

The class instructors were very vehement about following only research based recipes, since the acidity of ingredients can vary drastically, which can in turn allow dangerous bacteria to grow in your pickles. Research based recipes are the ones that you will get from Universities and Extension offices. Ball Blue Book of Home Canning is another reliable source and was recommended.

Our OSU Extension Office has an excellent PDF on "Pickling Vegetables"
Another good recipe book is from the Clemson Cooperative Extension "Pickling Foods"
There is also a PDF from Iowa State about pickling and the National Center for Home Food Preservation site which is recommended by our extension office.


  1. I've been pickling like crazy as well (cukes, beets and more beets, cauliflower, carrots). I'd like to learn a bit more about how you did your sauerkraut. I've never seen a small batch done like that. I tried to make a few pounds of it a couple months ago, but it came out terrible.
    Do you mind sharing the process for the kraut?

    (oh, and I really enjoy your blog)

  2. Hi Little Farm! This is my very first batch of kraut and I will just let you know the basics of what I was taught in the class and then give you link to the actual recipe.

    The instructor had us shred and weigh out 5 pounds of cabbage in a big steel bowl and then mix our salt in the cabbage, tossing it around like a salad. Then pack it down into a gallon jar with a wooden mallet or your hand, just get it packed well. Then pour the brine over it until you have at least an inch above the cabbage. Then put your brine bag on top. Let some brine out of the bag if it will not flop nicely over the kraut. The brine bag shuts out air but lets gasses bubble up and out of the jar as the kraut ferments.
    It seems that 5 lbs. of shredded cabbage fits a one gallon jar perfectly for making kraut.

    Here is the recipe we were given from the extension office: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/sites/default/files/documents/sp50611makingsauerkraut.pdf

    And just in case you want to do a post-mortem on your last batch, here is a trouble shooting cheat sheet for kraut: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/sites/default/files/documents/sp_50-745_problems_and_solutions_sauerkraut2009.pdf

    Let me know how it goes. I'm still eagerly waiting to see how mine turns out. So far so good. No funny colors or textures so far (knock on wood). Happy fermenting!

  3. Hi Phoebe: Is it too early to tell how your fermenting experiment is going? Those pickles look yummy! It's great that your County Extension office is giving those courses again. It's good to keep the knowledge going.

  4. SF, We have sampled the pickles and they are AMAZING! The Kraut and Kim chi are a couple weeks away from being done. I'll report back when we taste them though.
    I agree, it would be a shame to lose these methods of eating well.


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