This morning Beth was going through stuff in the fridge, getting ready to start breakfast. She found a bag of cucumbers that had gone awry. I had let these poor little Cucurbitaceae go to waste unfortunately
I set out to make pickles today, and to stop wasting produce. Here is a nice quick guide to making pickles; its helpful to reduce the recipe to cukes + water + salt + dark for a few days.
- Start by washing the cucumbers, trimming the stems and halving them. Set the mason jar on its side and toss the cukes in. You want to pack these tightly so they don't float
- Mix a teaspoon of salt with water in a large measuring cup for each quart of water+cucumber (I have 3 quart jars, that were stuffed with cukes, and mixed a tablespoon in mith a tablespoon of pickling spices) and pour into the jar
- Cover with a cabbage leaf or lettuce leaf to further limit floating then fill jar with water leaving an inch or so empty at the top (during the fermentation process, CO2 will be produced and will create pressure)
- Set in the pantry for 3-5 days
- Are they floating? Pack tighter
- Did they not line up right? Set the jar on its side
- Don't have enough asparagus to pack tightly? Throw in some carrots, or whatever else you feel like pickling that is hanging around your fridge unused (cauliflower, green beans, garlic)
- Why'd you pickle asparagus? I must assume you've never had an amazing bloody mary
Here was some science-y stuff that was interesting:
Leuconostoc mesenteroides is a bacterium associated with the sauerkraut and pickle fermentations. This organism initiates the desirable lactic acid fermentation in these products. It differs from other lactic acid species in that it can tolerate fairly high concentrations of salt and sugar (up to 50% sugar). L. mesenteroides initiates growth in vegetables more rapidly over a range of temperatures and salt concentrations than any other lactic acid bacteria. It produces carbon dioxide and acids which rapidly lower the pH and inhibit the development of undesirable micro-organisms. The carbon dioxide produced replaces the oxygen, making the environment anaerobic and suitable for the growth of subsequent species of lactobacillus. Removal of oxygen also helps to preserve the colour of vegetables and stabilises any ascorbic acid that is present.
Organisms from the gram positive Propionibacteriaceae family are responsible for the flavour and texture of some fermented foods, especially Swiss cheese, where they are responsible for the formation of 'eyes' or holes in the cheese. These bacteria break down lactic acid into acetic and propionic acids and carbon dioxide.
Several other bacteria, for instance Leuconostoc citrovorum L. Dextranicum, Streptococcus lactis, S. Cremis, & liquefaciens and Brevibacterium species are important in the fermentation of dairy products. They are not discussed in detail in this manuscript.
D'oh - I modified the post to correct that sunlight (blue wavelengths in particular) inhibit healthful bateria from growing; in pickling you want the bacteria to give a solid go because they keep mold (bad) away. Thanks to Beth for correcting me on this one.