Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.
I love to ferment vegetables in gallon glass jars, which I leave on the kitchen counter so I can watch the colors mellow. I especially like to do this with mixed vegetables.
A mixed vegetable pickle is not only a thing of beauty and an adventure to eat; it’s also a practical use for homegrown produce — in spring or fall, when your garden may provide you only a handful of this and a handful of that, or at any time of the year if your garden is small
What could be easier than combining these handfuls in a jar, adding some herbs and garlic, and pouring over some brine?
You can put what you like in your mixed pickle. In spring, replace the beans in my recipe with asparagus tips. In summer, you might use whole tiny cucumbers or larger cucumbers, cut into chunks. Turnips, kohlrabi, cabbage, and radish are all good additions in the cooler months.
If you want your pickles to stand out at a party, add a piece of raw beet to color them a shocking pink.
You don’t really need to weigh your vegetables. Just gather enough to fill your jar about three-quarters of the way to the top. This allows room for the brine to bubble and for a brine bag or other weight on top of the vegetables. For a gallon jar, you need about three quarts of prepared vegetables.
You can be creative with the aromatic ingredients as well with the main ones. I usually use licorice-like tarragon — except in the depths of winter, when my tarragon plant has died to the ground. Thyme and winter savory are always available in the pot on my deck, and they always go well in a mixed pickle. Sweet bay is a good addition, too.
When I made a mixed fermented pickle last week, however, I passed over all of these for young dill that had grown from seeds I’d scattered in late summer, intending for them to sprout in spring. Dillweed has a fresher, less bitter flavor than fully or partially dried dill seed, so I was happy to find a use for the little plants before they froze.
After fermentation gets under way, expect your brine to get cloudy. The cloudiness doesn’t mean your pickles are spoiling. Even the appearance of yeast or mold on top of the brine is little cause for concern, provided you keep the vegetables well immersed and skim off any scum promptly.
If you use a brine bag as described in the recipe, no yeast or mold will be able to grow. An airlock provides similar protection. It allows the bacteria in the pickle to release carbon dioxide while preventing airborne microbes from contaminating the brine.
At least one company, Cultures for Health, sells gallon glass jars whose plastic lids are fitted with winemaking airlocks. With such a setup, you’ll also need an appropriately sized weight (Cultures for Health sells those, too).
What I call pickling salt (it’s usually labeled “canning and pickling salt”) is fine, pure sodium chloride. If you would prefer to substitute a coarser kind of salt, such as kosher, measure it by weight instead of by volume. But don’t substitute table salt, which has additives that could discolor your pickles. Yield about 3 quarts
1. Toss all of the vegetables together, and pack them into a gallon jar, distributing the garlic and herbs among them. Dissolve the salt in the water, and pour enough brine over the vegetables to cover them. Add the vinegar.
2. Push a gallon-size freezer bag into the top of the jar, pour the remaining brine into the bag, and seal the bag. Make sure the bag presses against the glass all the way around. Set the jar in a bowl, to protect your counter and cabinets in case of a spillover. Store the jar at room temperature.
3.Within three days, if you look close, you should see tiny bubbles in the brine. After a week, you might start tasting the vegetables. They should be fully fermented in two to three weeks, when the bubbling has stopped and they taste quite sour. At this point you should remove the brine bag, cap the jar, and store it in the refrigerator.
4. The pickled vegetables should keep in the refrigerator for several months.
Linda’s books, Joy of Pickling, Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves, and Cold Soups, spring from both her experiments with produce from her vegetable garden and orchard and from her studies of culinary traditions around the world. Linda develops products for Crisp & Co., a pickle manufacturing company based in Delaware, and teaches preserving classes. She devotes much of her volunteer efforts to promoting good eating as a founder and coordinator of the Santiam Food Alliance, as an Oregon State University Master Food Preserver, as a board member of Slow Food Corvallis, and as a member of the Oregon Ark of Taste committee for Slow Food USA. She also blogs at A Gardener’s Table.
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