Monday, April 12, 2010

Pickles (Lacto-Fermented)

I've been seeing pickles everywhere on Manhattan menus. It seems that the way to make it cool is label them house/home made and use vegetables the majority of people would not think of as pickles. A menu that reads, under the starter/appetizer/snack section of menu, "Plate of Seasonal House-made Pickles $10" is becoming more common. All of these are going to be made with some spices, salt, and vinegar. Most will probably include some sugar or something else sweet. As much as I love vinegar pickles, I decided to try and develop an easy way to ferment pickles at home with nothing more than salt, water, and the veggies. This method produces pickles that taste like the vegetables. Also, the flavor of the lactic acid that is produced is very different from the acetic acid in vinegar. This is not a new idea, but here is what I found works best.
Make enough brine for the amount of vegetables you want to pickle. They need to be covered in brine. Do this by making a 3.5 percent salt solution with room temperature water and salt (100g of water 3.5g salt). Then add to this brine 20 percent of the weight of the water in whey. Place your vegetables into a quart container(or another container you can easily prevent air from getting to the vegetables with) and cover with the brine. Take another quart container and place on top of the brine. Add enough water to the top quart so that the brine moves up around the top quart, but not so much as the brine overflows (look at these photos to see how the top quart limits the air contact with the brine and vegetables). Let sit for 36 hours at room temperature and then stir and taste. The longer you leave the vegetables out the more they will ferment. I've never gone longer than a week, and that was with garlic(it turned blue!)

Additional Comments:
After they generate enough acidity at room temperature, these pickles will keep for a very long time in the fridge.
I generate whey by curdling milk to make fresh cheese. The basic process is heat milk/cream with an acid until it curdles, then strain. The liquid is whey.
Straining yogurt is another easy way to get your hands on some whey. The yogurt may be your best bet if you make it yourself, because this whey will have active lacto-fermenting bacteria already in it.
The whole reason I add the whey is to make the brine a happy place from the bacteria and yeasts that I want to grow. They like the brine and lactic acid more than the bacteria and yeasts I don't want, and therefore flourish and wipe out the unwanted ones. Plus the bacteria are going to make lactic acid which is already in the whey. You could just add some lactic acid powder if you have that, it works just as well as the whey. You could even skip the fermentation process all together and just make a very acidic solution of salt, lactic acid, and water and put the veggies into it. It would be a more clean and pure tasting version of this pickle.
Now that I have a farm going, I use some of the extra pickle liquid from old batches instead of the whey. I have so much that I never use the whey anymore. The old pickling liquid works to ferment the new pickles very quickly, so your subsequent batches need to be checked on more frequently.
Depending on what vegetable you want to pickle you may have to cook it slightly. I think crunchiness is essential for a true pickle, so most are great raw (cucumber, radish, turnip, carrot), but others benefit from softening a little(beet, rutabaga, parsley root). Although, some may even enjoy these hard vegetables raw. Keep in mind that the veggies will soften slightly during fermentation (especially softer specimens like cucumber).
I pickle my cucumber with calcium rich gray salt in the brine so that the end result is crunchier, the calcium and other ions in this impure salt help maintain cellular structure and generate a firmer pickle.
Plate it up!
Lacto-fermented pickles and pork rinds
Clockwise from the top left: radish, turnip, heart of palm, carrot, cucumber, and parsley root.
Pickles, sunflower sprouts, yogurt, sriracha, fish sauce, and short grain rice
(I eat this a lot after service, and because its for me I don't make it so pretty)



Evan said...

hey adam,

i love pickles. made some pickled ramps yesterday; so trendy it hurts. simple prep of rice wine vinegar, mustard seed, honey, misc peppercorns and salt. blanched the tops and had those with lamb sausage and fresh chicken eggs.

i like the blog.


Adam Starowicz said...

Yea, pickled ramps are always great. Did you make the sausage, and if so where did you get lamb casings? I'll be on the Bowery tomorrow looking for a hand grinder to expand my sausage making abilities. Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

Sounds very interesting I love pickles but I must admit I love the old Warsaw Falcon brand for Polish dills I grew up with. If you want I can send you my Polish sausage recipe for you to experiment with..

Adam Starowicz said...

Old school Polish dills are tough to beat, and I would love a base sausage recipe to start with!

Evan said...

No, didn't make the sauage myself. I bought them from a lamb farm from the Catskills at the Union Square Market. They have really great stuff! Found the ramps there too.

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