Note: Do try this at home, but read the USDA Home Canning Guide 6 first or take my pickling class. You’ll need all that information to explain to your family why you’re keeping a jar of bacteria growing in the kitchen.
Were you the kind of kid who liked to save french fries in your dresser drawer? Do you find yourself wondering why the zucchini you left out looks like an animal now? Does something in you want to put the molding leftovers back in the refrigerator for another week to see what happens?
Do I have a recipe for you!
My preserving share this year included 25 lbs of cucumbers, leading to a search for a good pickle recipe. I got tired of regular vinegar pickles and wanted something different.
Can you make a pickle any other way?
Why, yes! As a matter of fact, you can!
Pickles can also be fermented, just like milk can be fermented into yogurt. Fermentation allows bacteria to produce lactic acid, which in turn kills the microorganisms you don’t want.
It’s a safe and time honored method of food preservation that completely goes against our antibiotic modern sensibilities. Here is a picture of the top of the jar to prove that last sentence.
It basically works like this. First, you acquire a lot of small cucumbers and two 1/2 gallon jars. You could use a pickling crock if you can find one. Wash the cucumbers and put them into the jars. Make a brine of 1/2c salt, 1/4c vinegar and 8 cups of water. Make sure the salt is dissolved and pour it over the cucumbers in the two jars. Cover the jar with a lid or a plastic sandwich bag secured by the jar ring.
And then? Then you wait. In fact, you wait for 3 or 4 weeks.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? The salt pulls the natural sugars out of the cucumbers and bacteria on their skins turns it into lactic acid. At first, they bubble a lot, like soda. Then they form a white scum on the top and a white precipitate starts to cover the cucumbers. As long as they still smell like pickles and the cucumbers don’t get slimy, they are perfectly fine, even if they do remind you of that furry zucchini on the counter.
I am amazed every time that this strange process results in perfectly edible food. When I leave french fries in the drawer, they become less edible, not more!