Canning buddy and I signed up for a pickling class last week, on the logic that we needed to broaden out beyond our jams and chutney comfort zone and try something new. We’ve done a few pickles — cukes and beets in particular — but there’s always stuff to learn.
We didn’t realize quite how new it was until we actually sat down for the start of the two hour lesson. Our pickles wouldn’t be regular vinegar pickles at all. We were using veggies, salt and air to ferment our food, in what teacher lady assured us was by far the safest method of preserving anything because the good bacteria slaughtered the bad.
I admit the whole thing was a bit of a shock to a system that’s been focusing frantically on sterilization, water baths and making sure no bugs come anywhere near our food, as my fellow classmates and I happily shredded a dozen cabbages and reshaped random veggies (beets, carrots, onions, garlic, turnips, ginger) into discs and wedges. You add salt (for cabbage) or brine (for veggies) and wait for the bubbles, the fermentation smell and the miraculous transformation.
If you look very, very carefully, you’ll see the little bubbles at the top, which shows the bacteria are happily doing their stuff as my jar of weighted down veggies sit on the kitchen counter.
The kraut was less happy, and (following another set of guidelines) I added a little brine today, which seemed to get it bubbling nicely as well. It smells pretty evil right now. I am told the good smell follows the bad one, so I am prepared to wait a bit, provided it doesn’t stink the kitchen out too much.
I’ll report back in a couple of weeks, but would welcome feedback from anyone who has actually succeeded in this particular sort of alchemy.