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Fermentation Friday™ - Plan a Pickling Party

"I can read in red. I can read in blue. I can read in pickle color too."

~ Dr. Seuss


Robin Bacon - Foraging and Farming - Pickling

Introduction

It’s all about the plan and knowing the volume of supplies needed for pickling those delicious and hearty heirloom varieties. Veggies are bountiful this time of year, and if you love heirloom varieties like my family, I’m sure you are ready to preserve what’s left of this season’s take. Abundance is upon us, and we are prepared to begin with a plan to pickle everything under the sun. Before heading out to the garden with your bushel basket, survey your potential, determine your materials list, and drop that group text. Planning is everything. Where do you begin?



Pickles

Building a plan to make the most of your harvest and working with a group of friends makes a difference when buying supplies and pickling in bulk. What kind of salt and spices will you use? Do you have all the necessary equipment to pickle up 50 quarts of cucumbers, cabbage, green beans, and asparagus? Sugar? How will we get it all done within 24 hours of harvest? That’s the hook: Pickle what you and your family will need for the season, ½ year, or even the whole year. Plan and pickle the green beans for New Year’s Day and Mother’s Day Brunch Bloody Marys.


Bloody Mary

Harvest Yield - Pounds To Quarts Produced

Once you have communicated with your collaborators and set a plan to harvest, purchase supplies, and prep the work area for a day or two of pickling, it’s game on! Double-check the supply list and space needed to process your pickled veggies. It makes a big difference to pickle with friends over a long weekend. If I pick 50 pounds of veggies, how much vinegar and salt do I need? How many wide-mouth canning jars do I need? Planning, it is all in the planning…..


Harvest Yield

Selecting The Salt

The first time I entered the foodie world, I bought a bunch of pencils and journals to keep notes, reminding myself of what worked and what didn’t go so well. I might have changed the recipes and taken measures to note what happened during my experience. Today, I do the same with any food project worth the extra attention. Each time I attempted pickling cucumbers and cabbage (sauerkraut or kimchee), I made it my mission to understand what Pickling Salt is and what it does. Over time, after reading several technical books on the art and science of pickling, I learned that the finer the salt, the easier the dilution.



Kosher Salt

Pickling salt is designed to dissolve faster in water, based on the Michigan State University research. There are varying opinions on using Himalayan salt when pickling veggies. It is essential to know that your salt should come with NO anti-caking solution to be most effective. Second, if you prefer Kosher Salt to Pickling Salt, use it, but add twice as much Kosher variety to get the saline levels up in the water. Whatever recipe you use to pickle, do not modify the salt measurements.


Sourcing The Vinegar To Make The Brine

Good quality vinegar is essential for taste and fermentation, and the pH must be at 5% because you don't want spoilage or bacterial growth. Otherwise, you must throw out your product and start over next season. Most experts will tell us novices that distilled white vinegar is the best for pickling. Apple cider vinegar is good but offers a more mellow flavor profile, especially if you try to use unfiltered cider vinegar products. Combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a stainless pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower heat to simmer for 20 minutes.



Cider Vinegar


Sweetening The Pot

Your brine will require sugar; the sweeter pickles and organic white cane sugar are highly recommended. Light or dark brown sugar comes with a molasses blend, which causes darkening of the pickled product.



Sugar



Where To Get Pickling Spices?

As a practice, I plan and order supplies before settling on a pickling spice. Whole Spice Napa Valley, owned by Shuli & Ronit Madmone in Petaluma, California. They take the time to describe the spice product, regions grown, flavor profiles, and what it can be used for. I first met them through a friend, who collaborated with them at the Marin County Farmers Market in San Rafael.



Pickling Spices


At first, I bought fresh Madagascar Vanilla Bean and Pickling Spice in bulk. The Pickling Spice comes with Coriander Seed, Yellow Mustard Seed, Black Peppercorns, Fennel Seeds, Allspice Whole, Bay Leaves, and Chili flakes. The good news is that you can order up to a 5-pound bag and ship it overnight to your home. Maybe consider growing some fresh Dill Weed to accompany the layered flavor profiles. If not, you can buy it at your local grocer or floral shop - special order. Don’t forget the fresh garlic cloves!


Using a Firming Agent for Preservation

It is important to clean your veggies in a prep sink under the faucet, removing all dirt and stems. Fill a large bowl or bin with cold water and 3 pounds of ice cubes. Submerse the clean veggies into the bin or bowl, soaking the veggies for 4-5 hours. If you choose to use Food Grade Lime, you must make sure to clean and remove all lime to avoid the risk of botulism. Once re-cleaned, re-soak in cold water for an additional hour.



Icewater


Pulling It All Together

Making a list can be helpful, especially when you are making a large batch of pickled veggies. Over the years, I created a list of materials document to navigate shopping and cost. When buying in bulk, the overall price breaks are helpful when pickling over 1-2 bushels. Once supplies are delivered and the friend group is ready to go, let's the set it up and begin! Good luck!


List of Materials




















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