Whenever I walk past our beds of dill, and happen to brush against them, I am taken back to my grandparents’ big farm kitchen in the summertime. There was usually a crock on the counter, packed with freshly-picked cucumbers, and large heads of dill. A weighted plate covered the top.
My mother, when she came up to spend summers with us, carried on this tradition by fermenting some of our cucumbers in her little cabin. I certainly liked eating them, but how they were made remained a mystery to me, until I received the book “Fermented Vegetables”, by Kirsten K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey for Christmas a couple of years ago. Anyone interested in fermenting foods would find all they need to know in this highly informative book.
Now that we are finally getting cucumbers-the best we have ever grown- I have just packed my first 3 quart jars with them to ferment, along with a jar packed with green beans.
The process is so simple, and even more simple-and foolproof- since we ditched the old airlocks from the homebrewing days, for a 4 pack of “Pickle Pipes” from Masontops. We also purchased a 4 pack of glass weights, made for wide mouth canning jars. Gone are our issues with mold.
Unlike Grandma, we do not use a crock. The wide mouth canning jars are so convenient. When the fermentation is complete, we just swap-out the Pickle Pipe on top for a plastic jar lid, and put the jar in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to a year. Since sunlight is not our friend when fermenting, the tops of old socks are used to slip over the jars to block the sunlight.
So here is what I did today: I picked enough cucumbers to fill 3 quart jars. These are called “Shintokiwa” from Fruition Seeds. They are long and slender, crisp and sweet, and have tiny seeds. I halved or quartered them to help them fit tightly in the jar.
I put a generous head of dill in each jar, along with a crushed garlic clove. I then added a piece of horseradish leaf, which is intended to add tannins to help keep the pickles crisp. Others use grape leaves. We do not have grape leaves, but we do have a whole herd of horseradish.
I mixed up a brine using a ratio of 3/4 cup salt to each gallon of water. We use sea salt, but canning salt works. I made 1/2 gallon of brine, so used 87 grams (6 tablespoons) of sea salt. The brine is added until the cucumbers are covered, the horseradish leaf is added, and then the glass weight (follower). More brine is poured in to bring the level up to the top of the weight, which must be below the jar top. A Pickle Pipe is placed on top, and a metal jar ring secures it.
I used the same brine for the beans, but added 3 cloves of crushed garlic, along with the dill, peppercorns, and horseradish leaf.
A sock top is slipped over each jar, and they will sit on our counter-out of direct sunlight- for a good 6 days for pickles, and more like 10 days for the beans.
Somewhere down below here is a blog about fermenting leeks. Take a look at that one, since it shows the Pickle Pipes and weights, and is one more exciting way to ferment food.
Enjoy the harvest!