Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Tom's cucumber pickles
Most pickles you can buy commercially are dead food. That's what most of us grew up with and are used to - cucumbers pickled in vinegar and pasteurized. Pasteurization kills bacterial cultures, which is a good thing in it's place. But what about the good bacteria - the cultures we need inside us to digest food? Is it possible that people are going around half-starved no matter how much they eat because of the absence of these traditional ferments from the typical diet?
Home fermentation is an ancient craft; it uses the healthy bacteria around us as food. Take heart: you can safely incorporate home ferments into your diet and reap the benefits - you can learn to recognize the difference between bacteria that's food and bacteria that can make you sick. In fact, I will say although I have no scientific support for this, I think the good bacteria helps you fight the bad bacteria. Neither Tom nor I has had a cold or other bacterial (or viral) illness this year - news for us.
Tom's Cucumber Pickle Procedure
3lbs of cucumbers; small "persian" varieties available at asian markets are especially nice.
1/3 cup table salt
3-4 clean, sealable quart jars
large mixing bowl
Wash the cucumbers and cut them into one inch slices. Put them in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle on the salt; mix with your hands so that all sides of the slices are coated with salt. Leave for fifteen minutes.
Put the salted slices into a colander and rinse them with fresh water; also rinse out the bowl. Drain the slices and return them to the bowl. Sprinkle or mix in seasoning; mix with your hands to coat.
Put the slices in jars, but don't pack them down. Leave at least one inch of space at the top. Seal with lids and store in the refrigerator. The pickles will be ready to eat the next day, but they mellow over time. Eat them up in about three weeks - they get mushy after awhile and the fermentation gets pretty intense.
Tom has tried two different purchased seasonings so far for our many batches of pickles. We like spicy pickles, so that's what I can tell you about.
First, he used Noh Foods of Hawaii brand Korean Kim Chee Mix, which can be purchased in a packet at asian grocery stores. Ingredients: chili pepper, garlic, ginger, shrimp, salt, sugar. Use half of the packet.
Later, he started using a jarred paste condiment found at Hong Kong Market: Master brand Chili Garlic. Ingredients: chili, garlic, salt, sugar, sesame oil. This was just an experiment, but it worked well, so we're using up the whole jar. Use 1/3 cup.
For his next batch, Tom intends to concoct his own seasoning mixture - I'll pass it on when he does. It's a logical progression for us to do this since we're moving away from purchased condiments and packaged foods. Especially foods that come very long distances; the Chili Garlic paste comes from Taiwan.
Thanks for asking, later, Jenni