Tag Archives: brine

Pickle Fail (with a decent recipe)

24 Aug

After experimenting with pickling projects like sauerkraut, kimchi, and chutneys, I finally attempted the classic pickle this month.  I bought a bunch of Kirby cucumbers at my local farmer’s market, and on August 10 I put them in a brine with spices, left to sit until the 22nd. The result of my rather improvised recipe could have been perfect, ingredient-wise, but  what I ended up with was a moldy mess. The problem was my mediocre way of keeping the Kirbys under the brine. So sad. I had thought my method quite ingenious too: I filled a plastic bag with water, and put that inside my glass fermenting jar to weight and seal the top, with the lid on above that. In the course of 12 days, however, both cucumbers and garlic managed to weasel their way around the bag and protrude into air, leaving themselves vulnerable to molding.  I may have been able to avoid problems if I had checked on the pickles more often.

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Mold on my pickles and garlic. 

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Here’s my water-filled bag acting as a weight. Notice all the schmutz along the edges. Yuck.

Mold is not always a calamity. It’s often possible to skim mold off the top of a pickling ferment and save the layers underneath. Unfortunately, these pickles had enough mold per capita that I decided to recall the whole lot. My birthday is next week, so perhaps a real pickling crock is in my near future….

Anyway, I decided to take a chomp on one non-moldy pickle-end, and it was quite delicious. If you can keep your cukes under water, I think this recipe will serve quite well.  The mustard takes them to the spicy side:

Cucumber Pickles

6 Kirby cucumbers
6 cloves garlic, peeled but whole
1T mustard seeds
2 sprigs of dill with seeds
1/2c yogurt whey
2T sea salt
Filtered water to cover

Combine all ingredients in a jar or crock.  Use a plate with a water filled jar on top it or your crock- top to push the pickles below the water. Leave them for about 2 weeks (mine seemed ready at 12 days), or until pickles are the consistency of your liking.  The longer you go, the softer they will become. Refrigerate your pickles when they are ready, and eat!  I hope you have better luck than I.  

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One of my fermenting shelves.   Notice that early in the ferment when I took this picture, my pickles were behaving.  Neither the plastic bag nor Bruce Lee managed to weight my pickles down in the long run, though. The pickle jar is on the far left, accompanied by a cherry spirits infusion that I will write about soon, and a 5 gallon carboy of T’ej in the back.

Sauerkraut with Carrots and Burdock

30 Jun

Summer is really here. July 4th is this week, and people are lighting up their grills all around. Today I stopped by Brooklyn Kitchen.  I was looking for one thing, and fell upon another: CHEESE DOGS. My grandma Baba used to make a microwave cheese dog for me when I was a kid. She’d slice open an Oscar Meyer wiener, filling it with American Cheese, and nuke the puppy for a minute.  In contrast, the dogs I got today are a little more sophisticated, pre-stuffed, a lot more natural, and I prepared mine on a cast iron skillet.  At this point in my life, eating a hotdog is really a thinly disguised excuse for me to eat a grand amount of sauerkraut. As if I need an excuse….

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A couple of dogs with my sauerkraut (and sauteed purslane)

Some time ago, I wrote up a master recipe for sauerkraut. My recent creation is a little more embellished, although the basics remain the same.

Sauerkraut with Carrots and Burdock

Finely slice 1 head of cabbage

Scrub clean 1 carrot and 1-2 burdock roots. You don’t need to peel them.

Grate the carrot and the roots. I use a box grater on one of the courser settings.

Mix all the ingredients together with 1T sea salt. Let them sit for an hour or more, so that the salt starts to help the veggies release their juices. After an hour, massage and pound your kraut, and then stuff it tightly into a jar. A quart sized mason jar should be large enough. Your kraut needs to be macerated enough that the juices rise above the salad.  Let it sit, covered for 3 days to a month.  The kraut is ready when you think it tastes right.  Mine sat for about 5 days so far, and  it’s good enough to use, but I’m still going to let it stay out a little longer to continue it’s fermentation.  During the fermentation time, you should check the sauerkraut every day or two for done-ness.  This is also helpful because as gasses build up from the fermenting process, the container needs to be “burped.”

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The Kraut is in the jar

On Mold

Kraut can last a long time in the refrigerator once it is done fermenting.  I made a large batch last year that took me about 6 months to finish, and it was none the worse for wear.  The one problem you might come into contact with is mold.  I made a batch of my basic kraut, only using red cabbage, back in March, and somehow it hasn’t had much luck.  I’m not sure why, except that maybe it’s always been a little low on fluid.  The good news is that mold only grows where your veggies are exposed to air.  The stuff under the brine is just fine.  I’ve kept eating this one, carefully skimming off the mold when it grows.  White mold, according to other fermenters I’ve talked to, is pretty innocuous.  If you have blue mold, that’s a case to throw it out.  The stuff below looks blue in the picture, but that’s just because my camera is picking up the hues of the purple cabbage underneath.

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mold growing on red sauerkraut

Basic Kraut

23 May

My latest completed project is a batch of saurkraut:  just in time for Memorial Day barbecues.  It’s a no-fool recipe, but a rather labor-intensive processs.  The finished product can last for months, so it’s a good investment.  This recipe makes a quart.

Shred 1 head of cabbage.  You can use a mandoline or food processor:  I just use a knife.

Sprinkle 4 t salt over the shreds, let it sit for about an hour so the salt starts to break down the cabbage.

Massage the cabbage thoroughly, then pound it.  This is the laborious part.  It might take a good 45 minutes to pound down.  Thus, sauerkraut is a good way to work out any pent-up anger you’ve been holding onto….

Pounding the kraut: I go back and forth between a pestle, a wooden spoon, and a potato masher.  This is not the whole batch you are seeing:  much of the cabbage has already been added to a jar.

When it gets really wet, stuff some of the cabbage in a quart-sized wide-mouthed jar.  Keep pounding it until the juices from the cabbage start to rise above the vegetable mass.  I recommend wearing an apron, as this can get a little sloppy.  As you have more juice, keep layering more cabbage into the jar.  Continue to pound until you have fit all the cabbage in.  Press the cabbage down below the brine you’ve created, and use a water-filled jar as a weight to hold it down.

Here the cabbage has been pushed below the brine. For this recipe, I used two pint sized jars instead of a quart sized jar. I added a tsp of caraway seeds to one of the jars for me, and left the other jar plain for my caraway-phobic boyfriend.  Those are caraway seeds you see floating on the brine.

You may want to cover this, as fruit flies find it very interesting.  Let kraut sit at room temperature for at least a week, making sure that the liquid stays above the level of the cabbage.  You may see some bubbly action on top.  This is normal.  After the week is over, taste it, see how you like it.  If it’s too tough or not sour enough, let it stay out longer.   Cover your jar and refrigerate when the kraut is fermented to your liking.

Variations:  Red cabbage makes a beautiful and more colorful sauerkraut.  You can also add things like shredded carrots or beets, though beets will turn it Very red.  Caraways seeds, dill, or other spices could also be added.

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