My butt, January 2009

My butt,  January 2009
(who could miss it)

My butt, January 2010

My butt, January 2010
photos by Tom Peal

Welcome to You and All your Brilliant Parts!

In 2009 I lost 40 lbs and I got a new butt. How? Diet and exercise, that's the short answer. But all of the things I learned that made it emotionally possible, that allowed me to succeed when I had failed before - that will take longer. This blog celebrates the intelligence of the body. Please leave me a note to let me know what you think of this writing, if it's been helpful. I welcome your input and experience.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tom's cucumber pickles

Home pickling is way easier than I thought.  Tom and I have been trying different recipes and techniques for about a year, and we love making and eating these foods.  Honestly, what tipped us into home fermenting was our new lower-income lifestyle, brought about and intensifying over time since I quit my job as a teacher and became a full-time musician.  Plus, I was tired of dealing with all those condiment jars.  We don't have recycle service at our condos, and it's a pain to collect stuff (having to store trash around our little home) and take it to public bins (they keep moving them.)  I made a list of all the condiments we typically buy, and circled the ones I was willing to make.  Pickles, yes; mayonnaise, no.  Our subsequent results have been very satisfying for taste, and we've found out a lot more about nutrition.

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

You'll need:
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


  1. Sounds delicious...must try it!

  2. Yes to Have a Pickle Your Way!
    I am focused on making vegetables more desirable- al dente everything and addendum red pepper.

  3. Good work, Barbara Scout! Thanks for uncovering one of the secrets to happy lower-density eating: spices! Or, if you meant red bell pepper, color and vibrancy! You've given me the idea for a topic ...