Last Saturday the Food Connections gang had a fantastic time at Bridgewater’s Growing Green Sustainability Festival. It was a beautiful South Shore summer morning and everybody we met had big smiles on their faces! It was easy to see why – the festival had music performers, a ‘walk and roll’ parade, an expanded farmers market, kids activities, and lots of booths with information on helping you live greener and healthier.
We were there to talk about making natural brined mixed pickles using lacto-fermentation, the ultimate method in low-energy food preservation. Just like sauerkraut, these pickles will become sour over time, simply by fermenting in a salt brine. This is a great way to preserve your veggies on hot summer days when the last thing you want to do is boil a huge pot of water to can your produce. All you need to do is use impeccably fresh produce (which wasn’t hard for us to do with vendors like the Broadfork Farm, Indian Garden farm, and Watershed farm surrounding our booth!) and cover it in a salt brine and maybe throw in some herbs. Then you let it sit at room temperature for a few weeks. That’s it.
We used a two-litre commercial pickle jar to brine our vegetables. You don’t normally want to use this type of jar for hot-water canning, but they’re perfect for a brined pickle. The jar is not sealed during the fermentation process so you can taste your pickles from day to day as they go through changes – in fact, you know when your pickles are done when they taste nice and sour! (Jars are a nice way to ferment small batches of pickles, but you could definitely use the classic method of filling a crock or big plastic pail and weighing your vegetables down with a weight if you have a big batch.)
We used plastic sandwich-sized Ziploc bags full of brine to cover our pickles. The advantage of using this method is that the liquid-filled bag changes shape to fit your jar really easily, and will ensure that your veggies remain submerged in the brine. During the fermentation process it is normal for a little bit of scum to form, and you can just lift the plastic bag out of the jar and rinse it off if it starts to develop.
Our three big jars of mixed pickles are now starting to bubble away in our kitchen at the Ecology Action Centre. I snuck a green bean out of one of the jars today, and I’ve got to say they’re tasting great. The transformation is starting to happen!