Loyal Readers, though your BloomingtonGirl is blue today --oh so blue with parenting woes and guilt-- she has, of course, had time to do a little pickling. A very little. In the late morning, I prepared two quarts of half-sour dills, which are fermented at room temperature for three days and then refrigerated for another three. Then, they are ready to eat. EASY PEEZY! They are called half-sours because the salt content is such that the cucumbers never get entirely sour as they would in a higher salt brine. I am just parroting these words from the book. I don't yet have a deeper understanding at my command. But, stay tuned. I imagine that if this all goes on much longer, I will.
If you are interested in making some Half-Sours -- and of course you are -- you just run out to your garden and pluck off a quart size harvest of little pickling cucumbers (the ones that have not yet succumbed to the dreaded cucumber beetle.) Rinse them gently and prick some holes in each one. Place them (stuff them is more like it) into a quart size mason jar (wide mouth probably works best) into which you have already placed a generous 1/4 tsp crushed black pepper corns, 1/4 tsp crushed coriander seeds, a dry bay leaf and a roughly chopped clove of garlic. Add in a large stalk of dill & a chile pepper. I put a lengthwise slice in the pepper so that it would submerge and ooze its flavor better. I didn't have two peppers so I just used a generous shake of hot red pepper flakes in my second quart.
Here are the cucumbers in the jar.
Next, mix up a brine of three cups of water and 1.5 tablespoon PICKLING salt. Use pickling salt rather than regular table salt because it is pure sodium chloride with no additives that can cause cloudiness. Pour the brine over the stuff in the jar, leaving an inch or so head space at the top. Make sure the brine covers everything. Stuff a quart size freezer bag into the mouth of the jar (the open top remains out) and pour the remaining brine into the bag and seal the bag. The brine bag is to keep the cucumbers submerged and make a seal so that air doesn't get in. (This is an anaerobic fermentation.) You'll have to finesse the bag so that it balances and check it from time to time, but this isn't a hard thing to do.
The entire process (excluding the actual harvest of the cucumbers) took about ten minutes. I was surprised when my kitchen began to smell a bit like my Polish "Baba's" kitchen soon after I started the pickles. It is a delicious smell and I cannot wait to try the finished product. It is amazing how easy the process was. If possible, use the freshest cucumbers you can get in order to take advantage of the bacteria on the skin for the fermentation process.
Yesterday, I started a batch of sauerkraut. I didn't photograph the process for some reason. As I write, the ten pounds of shredded cabbage in a salt brine is fermenting away in our basement. I was unable to locate a crock in town, so I call the good folks at the Marsh bakery and picked up three of their used frosting pails. So far, so good. The kraut should be done in three to four weeks if all goes well.
Thanks to anonymous for the ebay link to a crock. I think that I am going to try to make a trip to Clay City Pottery and pick up a couple this week. They are very reasonably priced and locally made.
Last but not least, I picked a couple of gorgeous Hydrangea from our bushes just behind our house. They might be my favorite flower.