Pickle me pink! The joys of fermented food making

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you probably already know that I am currently on a pickling/fermentation streak.  That means that all of those gorgeous Italian swing-top jars I’ve been buying compulsively are finally finding their life’s purpose these days. Yet another reason to pat myself on a shoulder — we are trying to only keep the items that are actually being used, so there you go.

Home made farmer cheese and buttermilk

Home made farmer cheese and buttermilk

I didn’t invent anything new in the world of pickling. I am just following a tried and true formula for salt-to-water ratio and add some spices at will.  I use fresh room temperature artesian well water, I never boil or super-sanitize anything, and  I add raw milk whey as fermentation agent. Most of the vegetables take 3-4 days to pickle (some, like lettuce, even shorter), after which they can be moved into cold storage.  I am making reasonably small batches of various vegetables, just to see if we like this or that and to figure out what works for my family of diverse-palated folks.

Homemade wild fermentation sourdough with homemade butter

Homemade wild fermentation sourdough with homemade butter

The new things I tried this year are beet kvass, rye bread kvass (a summer drink of choice back in my country), and making lacto-fermented condiments from scratch, which was fun.

Lacto-fermented pickled celery with ginger, garlic and allspice

Lacto-fermented pickled celery with ginger, garlic and allspice

While the fermentation experiment is still very much on-going, I figured, I’d share a few photos of things I’ve made so far, employing the wonder and magic of fermentation.

Beautiful golden beets kvass -- a refreshing and curative drink

Beautiful golden beets kvass — a refreshing and curative drink

Fermentation is no science, precision is needed only if decide to can your vegetables, in which case you’d have to sacrifice the live-enzyme action. Other than that, it’s wide open in terms of what and how much you can pickle/ferment.  Using very basic principles,  you can find what tastes best to you.

Homemade lacto-fermented mayonnaise, horseradish relish and ketchup

Homemade lacto-fermented mayonnaise, horseradish relish and ketchup

Above are the three condiments we’ve made at home so far.  Ketchup is extremely easy and inexpensive to make. We whipped it up in 5 minutes, my five-year-old helping me whisk it all together.

Mayonnaise is a tiny bit more time consuming (we are talking 10 minutes, not 5), but again, nothing complicated.

Horseradish sauce requires swimming goggles along with a grater, or a heavy-artillery of a blender with lid, so that you don’t cry in a process of making it, as horseradish root is very pungent and spicy. Also, takes 5 minutes all in all to put together if you have a blender.

Lacto-fermented Korean carrot salad

Lacto-fermented Korean carrot salad

Pickling is an awesome way to get rid of your gardening success evidence — those over-producing vegetables that you are sick and tired of already.  The photo below is a great example of us hiding the summer squash evidence. It pickles just like cucumbers — quickly and deliciously.

Lacto-fermented pickled summer squashes from our garden

Lacto-fermented pickled summer squashes from our garden

Have a few vegetables that are slightly wilted, a bit dehydrated or past their prime? Pickle them! They will taste great and will finish wilting in a process.  Below are two heads of lettuces that we haven’t used up. I removed the obviously bad leaves and pickled the rest. It also works beautifully with oldish bell peppers (you can roast them before pickling), dehydrated cherry tomatoes, celery, etc…

Pickled green-leaf lettuces

Pickled green-leaf lettuces

Basic spice mix for pickling cucumbers -- mustard, dill, fennel, coriander and caraway seeds crushed

Basic spice mix for pickling cucumbers — mustard, dill, fennel, coriander and caraway seeds crushed

Another overage in my garden — cucumbers. One day I just had way too many of them, and in the jar they go. Four days later I simply removed the dill clump from the top of the jar, and put the jar in the fridge. Wildly popular in my house.

A freshly packed jar of pickling cucumbers in brine

A freshly packed jar of pickling cucumbers in brine

Guess what else can basic fermentation/pickling do for you? You can make healthful soda and proudly hand it to your kids without fear.  You basically ferment any kind of juicy fruit for a few days with some milk whey to give it some good bacteria boost. Once it gets bubbly, strain, bottle, hold for 24-48 hours at room temp to induce carbonation and refrigerate.  Not only is it tasty and free of chemicals, but rest assured, it will deliver a very hefty dose of nutrients, readily available for absorption, thanks to fermentation process.

Sweet Potato Fly -- a refreshing and nutritious fermented drink

Sweet Potato Fly — a refreshing and nutritious fermented drink

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Categories: Appetizers, Baking, Batch Cooking, Better Than Storebought, Bread, Fermentation, Quick & Simple, Traditional Nutrition, Well Worth The Effort

Author:Eat Already!

I am a cooking and writing addict born and raised in a cosmopolitan city on the Black Sea coast. Currently my interests include, but not limited to gardening, traditional nutrition, raw milk, fermentation techniques, books by Sitchin, Weston A. Price ideas, artisan bread making, anything handcraft, and many other, quite random, things. I believe in making things from scratch, in unpretentious dishes, visually un-altered food esthetics. I believe in reporting on daily cooking endeavors, not just on special occasion dishes. I believe everyone should learn how to cook at home because it's a great way to connect with your loved ones without saying too much, with your heritage without becoming an archivist, and with the world without learning languages...

2 Comments on “Pickle me pink! The joys of fermented food making”

  1. May 13, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    Recipes for beet and rye kvass?

    • May 14, 2014 at 7:41 am #

      Beet kvass is eyeballing: 2-3 medium golden beets, cut into 1/2″ – 3/4″ cubes (with skin). Put into a glass jar, cover with 1-1/2 quarts of water, add 1/2 tsp unrefined salt and 1/2 cup milk whey. Let them sit until the beet juice changes color to bright orange (it will be bright lemony yellow at first) — depending on the weather and temperature in your kitchen it may take 2-4 days. Strain all but 1 cup of kvass into a bottle for drinking (can store in a fridge from now on), add 1 more quart of water to the jar (same old beets), add salt and whey as before and ferment again for 2-3 days. Second kvass will be not as strong, but also tasty. Then you can discard the beets and start new batch.

      As for rye bread kvass, there are many different ways to make it. Basic premise is: toast your stale rye bread until nicely browned but not burned. Pour boiling water over it, let cool, add sugar or honey, pinch of salt, milk whey, rye flour, or rye bread starter. Let ferment until nicely bubbly. Strain into an airtight bottle all but a cup of liquid. Add a few raisins to strained kvass. Strained kvass is ready when raisins are floating to the top. It will be very gassy, so as soon as you see the raisins float, put kvass in a fridge.
      Add cold water, whey, more sugar and salt to the original jar and repeat the process. Ratios vary from recipe to recipe, so you’ll have to find your favorite.

      I used very loose recommendations from Sandor Katz’s book Art of Fermentation.

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