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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Okay, So I Lied: Probiotic Pickles

Opening the fridge this morning, I noticed someone had been rummaging about for something because things normally in the back were front and center. And the item most prominently placed (and therefore, probably what the 'rummager' was after)? Pickles!

In my recent run down on probiotic foods, I mentioned the exalted pickle, but then neglected to expand. Shame on me. Pickles are awesome.

And, truly, before this little research project, I had NO idea that they were probiotic. I knew they were delicious, mind you, but full of healthy microorganisms? No idea at all.


Store bought versions pf pickles typically have very little, if any, probiotic value, though. Commercial fermentation and processing kills most of the healthy bacteria and enzymes off.

We're not merely talking about cucumbers, either, my friends. Vegetables of all kinds can be pickled. . .pearl onions, carrots, celery, cauliflower, asparagus, cabbage (as in sauerkraut), etc. Since spring is right around the corner (though it feels like it is already here on the West Coast!), you might want to make plans for an extra row or two of your garden favorites in order to pickle some this year!

Don't start sweating and getting your knickers in a knot, though! It doesn't have to be the huge ordeal that it was in your grandma's time! When I was a kid, our extended family got together and put up at least 100 quarts at a time, or it wasn't worth the bother. We had mounds of cucumbers, hundreds of cloves of garlic, pounds of spices, canning and brine pots galore, and OH was the kitchen HOT!

There's another way, though. . .and I'm going to show you how:

Easy Counter Pickles:

Equipment:
  • Glass container, (at least a half gallon) for brine
  • Long Spoon
  • 4 Quart sized Mason (or similar) jars, with new lids (used rings are okay, so long as they aren't damaged)
  • Cutting Board
  • Knife
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring Cup (1 cup size)
  • Small pot of water 
  • Clean hand towel
  • Fork

Ingredients:
  • 16-20 small Pickling Cucumbers (depending on size. . .you need enough to PACK your jars)
  • 2 Quarts Filtered Water (if you don't have a filter and your tap water has chlorine in it, leave it out overnight and the chlorine will dissipate)
  • 3 Tablespoons of Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
  • Spice mix (you can buy pre-made pickling spices, or make your own blend, too):
  • 12 Black Peppercorns
  • 16 Cloves of Garlic, sliced lengthways in half (I LOVE Garlic, but adjust to your taste)
  • 3 Tablespoons Mustard Seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons Coriander Seeds
  • 12 Cloves
  • About 2 Cups of fresh Dill Flowers and Leaves (or 4 Tablespoons dried if fresh isn't available)
  • 2 Inch Horseradish root, sliced
  • Hot peppers, hot pepper powder or fennel seeds, optional

Method:
  • Wash your cucumbers well and then leave to soak in ice cold water for at least an hour while you prepare you other ingredients
  • Thoroughly wash your jars in hot soapy water 
  • Put your lids and rings in your small pot of water and bring to the boil. 
  • Turn off and leave until use.
  • Assemble your spice mix (adjusting to your taste, of course. . .the combinations are endless!)
  • Divide spice mix equally between your four quart jars
  • Add salt to water and stir until the salt is completely dissolved
  • Remove cucumbers from cold water bath and pat dry with clean towel
  • Cut small bit off of the flower end (this will help pickles stay more crisp)
  • Use the fork to poke holes in the pickles (about 4 stabs each) to help the brine to penetrate
  • Pack jars with as many cucumbers as you can fit in, though keeping in mind that they need to be under at least a 1/2 inch under the brine level when it's added
  • Fill jar with brine, ensuring that it's 1/2 inch over the ends of the cucumbers
  • Remove sterile lids from the hot water (carefully!) and place on jars
  • Hand tighten as much as you can
  • Set jars out of direct sunlight, but in a warm place (such as your kitchen)
  • Set them on the towel to catch any juice that might escaped during fermentation
  • Leave for about 3 days (or until the bubbles subside)
  • Move jars to a cool place (basement/cellar/garage, etc.) and leave for about 6 weeks before eating (if you can!!!)
  • Enjoy!





(photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net and can be found here)

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