just call me the pickle queen
It's the height of summer produce season and this year I took advantage of the pickling cukes available to actually make dill pickles. But not boring old vinegar-based-need-the-pressure-cooker-pasteurized-bleh pickles, oh no! I hauled out my "Wild Fermentation" book, which has already provided me with entertainment in the form of mead, to see what Mr. Katz has to say about lacto-fermented dill pickles.
In a nutshell, you figure out how salty you like your pickles, make a salt brine accordingly, then clean your cukes, stuff them in a jar with some garlic and dill and some grape leaves to provide tannins that'll keep the cukes crunchy, pour the brine over the whole mess, covering it completely, close up the jar, stuff it in a closet, and forget about it for a couple days. Start tasting a pickle every other day or so until they're the sourness you want, then do a happy dance and put your pickles in the fridge, and enjoy them over the next few months. Or days, if you're me and you go on a big pickle binge. Then you make more, and maybe keep some of those, and maybe you don't because you made the mistake of letting your friends try them and now they all want some too.
Ok, yes, lacto-fermented pickles are good for you and stuff, but that's not why I'm going to keep making them. It's because they taste so bloody GOOD! These are dill pickles like you want dill pickles to be - perfectly balanced between sour and salty, loads of dill and garlic flavour, and lots of crunch.
For the record, my brine solution I *think* is about 4% salt, which is slightly less than Mr. Katz recommends, but I find he's a bit of a salt fiend so I usually tone down his recipes by eliminating 10-20% of the salt. Anyway, I used a heaping tbsp of Brittany sea salt (fine grind) in a pint (2 cups) of filtered water, and that turned out to be just perfect.
I also made some green bean pickles (same deal, except you don't need the grape leaves), with Dave's fantastic beans, the second batch of which is ready as of today and SO amazingly good that I've just about finished the first jar all on my own in the last 2 hours.
I'm also trying some chard stalks as recommended in my "Farmers of Some French Co-op" book (that I've obviously forgotten the actual title of), some with dill & garlic and some with ginger & garlic. This afternoon, child temperament permitting, I am going to turn the remains of our garden carrot crop into ginger-garlic-sesame carrot pickles. I hope. This is getting kind of creative for me, and I don't know how the sesame seeds will work. Maybe I'll just do a couple jars with the sesame, and use just garlic and ginger in most of them. It's not like carrots aren't widely available if it turns out good.
Oh and my little garden has actually produced at least one jar's worth of my OWN pickling cukes, and I can probably even salvage some dill that the aphids didn't get, and the last bunch of grape leaves I purloined were from Emily Carr House (with permission!), so with the exception of the garlic (which I get from Dave's farm), they'll be uber-local pickles. Now if only there was a Bernardin jar-manufacturing plant nearby...
(Oh, and btw if anyone needs some canning/pickling/jam/whatever jars, let me know. I cleaned up my pantry a little while ago and sorted all my jars and I really do have rather a lot.)