06 January 2011

Pickle and a Pickle and a Pickle

Happy New Year, Kids!

I'm back after four months of extensive pickling experimentation...well not really, but I've been doing a lot of pickling

a lot of wine-making

and miscellaneous food preparation such as this deboning of a turkey in order to stuff and re-sew it back together

But the turkey is for another time as is the wine-making, for it takes a good 6 months for the sarsaparilla wine to mellow and mature.

In my absence though, I have accomplished one thing though, and that is the standard Skipper pickle. It is an at first pleasant garlic dill but is followed by a spicy follow-up that left alone, meaning ceased consumption, will build to a sensible but not awful heat in the back of your throat.

Since the summer, my pickles have maintained their heat due to an abundant late pepper harvest despite the cool weather. I grew the ubiquitous jalapeno to the scalding Thai pepper. People with a palate for spice haven't complained about my generous 5-15 l batches of pickled goods of cucumber, carrot, and broccoli that I've given away.

It wasn't until I began running short of peppers that I was forced to rethink and adjust my recipe to a new beast.

I have a few friends that have multi-seasonal-fruiting citrus trees, and it was with this that I decided to work with. That and I had just finished painting a house that had a ridiculous number of lemons coming to ripeness.

I love lemons. There are endless dishes and dressings that call for it. I love making the simple lemonade and using them for my perennial need for Nước mắm, but that was the extent of it. I am aware that there are several ways of preparing lemons; such as, making lemon confit, lemon preserves, and candying it even. I like sour, but not enough to commit myself to a sour snack that would go rotten in month.

Then it occurred to me, why not ferment them. I checked through some casual online research that lactobacillus fermenting with lemons is common in parts of Italy, so it was a-go--leading me to simply add some lemons to my standard cucumber pickle ferment with a reduction in peppers.

I have to say that the results are very pleasant.

The cucumber has the standard dill taste that I would expect but with an additional brightness gained from the lemon's absorbic acid. This sour trait expectantly carries over to the other veg elements that were in the brine. The surprising component in the mix are the lemon slices. They have lost all their intolerable tartness and have taken on notes of the Thai chilies and garlic as well as some sweetness from the carrot. The end result is more of a sour savory fruit, which can hold its own along with any olive or other cured fruit or veg rather than hide in the background inter alios in a prepared dish.

I prepared this ferment over two weeks as follows:

3 l (12.5 c) 5 % salt solution (150 g kosher salt + 3 l water) (10.5 tbs salt + 12.75 c water 3.5 tbs salt + 4.25 c water)
3 lbs pickling cucumbers
1 lb celery
1 lb carrots
2 sliced lemons
1.5 heads garlic skinned cloves
1 half handful Thai chilies
1 handful dill seeds
1 palmful mustard seeds
1 palmful coriander seeds
4 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick

Check every two or three days, and skim off the "bloom" or scum on the surface. "Don't worry, everything submerged is fine and in anaerobic heaven."

2-3 weeks is the normal fermenting time in the winter due to the colder weather and the icy apartment that I keep. If you're doing it in warmer conditions, slice a cucumber after one week. If it's uniform in color, it's ready. If some parts are lighter than others, allow the fermenting to go another week.

When you're ready to package, place the vegetables in your jar and cover with the brine (after being boiled to stop the fermentation). Some fermentation folks say not to boil it because it kills the beneficial bacteria and the further development of flavor in the fridge. In my experience it continues anyways. These pickles will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely (supposedly) as long as they're covered in brine, but I've never allowed them to go that long. Mostly because I get sick of them and give them away because I'm already working on another batch. I need the space.

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