I love our weekly CSA box. It’s like Christmas morning every Friday when I go to pick up the box. But like those wonderfully appreciated but fateful Christmas presents you got as a kid, you never knew what you were going to get. One of the challenges of our CSA box is that it often has fruits or vegetables that I don’t eat. For folks like me who have to avoid certain foods, I ask the question “What, oh what, to do with the fruits or veggies we can’t eat?”. Most of the time everyone else in the family can happily eat the produce in question. But once in awhile there is something luscious that I can’t eat, and that the rest of the family won’t enthusiastically consume. So, since I abhor wasting food, it is time to get creative…
This time my creativity took the form of pickling! I love an excuse to make pickled or fermented foods… it’s creative cooking, communing with nature, and a science experiment rolled into one. There are tons of great resources on the web for methods and amounts. The following is my methodology. It is super wordy to explain the process, but once you get the hang of it it’s super fun and easy.
I am the first to point out that I am not an expert on fermentation. There are so many people out there that have great recipes, have done more research, and have way more experience in this area than I do. But what I do have is an adventurous attitude, and I maintain that that is all you really need. Well, an adventurous attitude combined with a willingness to weather a few culinary failures; yes, I have had to toss out entire crocks of sauerkraut – maybe if I was more daring I would have scraped the mold off and kept going, but I wasn’t feeling it that day.
As a general rule I go with about 2 tsp salt per cup of water. But this is super general since different veg will need different amounts of salt, not to mention that all our tastes differ. So experiment, try different amounts, see what you like. The basic principle is to dissolve your salt in your water, then add it to the veg in your chosen fermenting container, and let the little microbes do their microbe magic. This salt and liquid mix is called your brine. You can add spices, vinegar, even sugar (if that’s your thing) to your brine. Experiment, have fun!
*An important note is to make sure that whatever veg you are fermenting is below the level of your brine. Otherwise you get moldy veg. You may still get some mold or scum at the top of your concoction, but as long as your veg is below the brine level you can scrape this growth off and you’re good to go. As for the subject of mold, when in doubt, throw it out! I usually go by the rule of if it’s white in color it’s OK, if it’s dark green or black, not good. There is also the smell, but that knowing a good fermented food smell from a bad fermented food smell is one of those experience things. So, back to keeping your veg under the surface of your brine; you will need a weight to do this. They sell ceramic pickling weights, I use a stone that I boiled to sanitize. And then there’s the sanitizing issue. Some people say to boil your pots and tools every time, some people say never to, I usually sanitize the first time I use something, and if I get a bad batch. Otherwise I just clean as I do my regular dishes.
So that brings me to the container. Like brine recipes and fermenting techniques, there is a multitude of container options. I have a couple of big ceramic pots that I use when making big batches of kimchi or kraut, but for something like these Pickled Peppers, I like to opt for a mason jar with a waterlock in place of the lid. MakeSauerkraut has a great list of options.
Well, I think that’s about it, once your veg is ready to go, set it on the counter and wait for a couple weeks. You can taste test as you go to see when it’s at your desired sourness. Once you like the taste, put on a regular lid, and put it in the fridge. Your pickles will keep pickling in the fridge, but at a much slower pace. Eat up and enjoy!