My first try at fermentation!
Let the fermenting begin! My first attempt ever at fermenting anything. I originally posted this journey in our Christian Prepper Gal Facebook group and decided that I would go ahead and share it here, with you.
I did not know anything about fermentation when I first decided to give it a try. I was actually looking for different ways to preserve our over abundant cucumber harvest. I had already dehydrated some cucumbers. You can see that experience by clicking/tapping here. I also explain in that article the reason I wasn't comfortable doing any canning this year.
I am so thankful that we had such a great harvest because it has given me the opportunity to enlarge my food preservation experience and knowledge. I'm also thankful because I learned about the probiotic benefits of fermented foods. Fermented pickles are actually healthy! In fact, they are healthier than canned pickles. Although, I haven't found any recipes for fermenting bread and butter pickles, lol. In fact, I'm pretty sure there aren't any. So, we will have to stick to dill pickles for fermenting. But, I'm okay with that because I love pickles of most any type 🙂.
So, here we go! It took seven Boston Pickling Cucumbers to fill the four pint sized jars in the above picture. In the bottom of each jar (before adding the cucumbers) I put Pink Himalayan Salt, peeled garlic cloves, and organic dried dill. Then, I cut up the cucumbers (that I had washed, dried, and stored in my refrigerator over night) into spears and shoved them into the jars. Once I got all of the cucumber spears I could in the jars, I filled the jars with bottled water. Up to about an inch from the top of the jars. Then, placed the lids and rings on the jars. Very simple and super easy! But, I can't tell you how uncertain I was as I was doing this. After all, it was something that was completely new to me!
If you look closely at the jars in the above picture, you can see the dry ingredients hanging out in the bottom of the jars. I wanted so badly to shake up the jars and mix the spices and garlic cloves in the bottom of the jars, but the information I was following did not mention to do such. So, I left the jars alone. What would you have done? Would you have gone ahead and shaken the jars up to blend everything? I must admit, it was hard not to do so. But, I wasn't sure what would happen if I did, I was actually afraid they might explode or something, lol. So, I left them alone.
Knowing I was going to be trying my hand at fermentation, I had ordered some pickle pipes (special fermentation lids) from Amazon. But they weren't here before I wanted to get these pickles started. So, I decided I would just change out the lids once they arrived. In the meantime, the canning lids and rings worked just fine. In fact, some prefer to use those instead of the pickle pipes. Some use air-lock lids. You can even use regular lids if that's what you have available.
The fermenting cucumbers were then placed in a dark, dry, and cool area and would need to sit there for approximately five to seven days. If using the canning lids or regular lids, the jars need to be “burped” once or twice a day, depending on how active the fermentation is. Burping just means you need to release the air. It is best not to let any air seep in when burping your jars. All you really have to do is twist the lid, or the lid ring as in my case here, slowly until you hear the air release. You don't have to open the lid all the way. Then, just re-tighten the lid ring or lid. If you are using the pickle pipes or air-lock lids, there is no need to burp them.
It is also recommended that you place the jars inside a shallow bowl as they will sometimes have liquid drain out of the lids. I just used some paper (disposable) bowls that I had on hand.
On the morning of day three when I went to "burp" the lids, the ingredients were moving all around the jars. I didn't think quick enough, but after burping the lids I thought I should have videoed the ingredients moving around! I've included the original picture (above) of the pickles with the ones from the third day so you can hopefully see the difference in them. Please note, I did not shake up the jars (to mix all of the brine) yet at this point. I still was not sure what it would do.
The pickle pipes were delivered on day three! So, I went ahead and changed out the canning lids with them. By this time, I had joined a Facebook fermentation for beginners group and discovered that I should have put a weight of some kind on top of the cucumbers to keep them buried under the liquid brine. They like to rise up and peek out of the liquid, which could cause the cucumbers to mold. So, I decided that I would take the opportunity of changing the lids to weight them down. Only, I did not have any of the fermentation weights that most use for that. So, I searched other things that could be used and discovered that a small jar or something like that would work. I had some small round Tupperware containers that happened to fit just perfectly in the jar and on top of the cucumbers. So, I used those, open side up, and the lids held them down into the liquid. I know, plastic. But they were at least food grade. And, they worked great! Some also said rocks could be cleaned and used if you had nothing else.
On day five, I pulled out a cucumber spear and tasted it. Apparently, that's the only way to know if your pickles are done fermenting. Well, I was happy to learn that they definitely could now be considered pickles! But, they still had a little bit of a cucumber taste to them. But, not much! So, I figured a couple more days and we would have bonafide dill pickles! After all, they were scheduled to take anywhere from five to seven days to be done.
If you look closely at the pic above, you can see that the water had become a bit cloudy. That means that the fermentation is working! Also, you can see that most of the dried dill has floated up to the top of the jar. Remember, I had said I wanted so badly to shake the jars and mix the spices up? Well, I never did do that. Once the fermentation process started, the spices mixed themselves up and the dried dill floated up to the top.
On day seven they were getting so much closer to tasting like kosher dill pickles! I could taste the garlic and salt a bit more today than on day five. And, way less cucumber taste. I know I said before they just needed a couple of more days, but seriously, they weren't quite ready to be transferred to the refrigerator yet. I decided to let them sit for another couple of days before taste testing them again.
One thing that I did notice was that there was salt settled down at the bottom of the jar. That could have been because the fermentation process was slowing down some, I don't really know. However, I decided at that time to go ahead and shake it up so that the salt would disperse into the liquid. I took the chance, and they did not explode! I was happy about that. This was done after I had taken the picture above.
Comparing the pics from the first day you can see how the water has turned darker and is quite cloudy. It's so hard to believe that cucumbers, garlic cloves, salt, dehydrated dill, and filtered water can make pickles! But, it's true! At this point, I felt like I couldn't wait till they are all the way done! 🙂
And, we have pickles! I tasted these babies on day nine, and there was no more cucumber flavor in them at all!! They tasted just like kosher dill pickles!! Except, and/or but...they were a bit too garlicky for me. Each jar had two cloves of garlic (and they were quite large cloves) in them. So, in hoping to tamp down the garlic flavor a little bit, I removed one garlic clove from each jar. Then, I put the regular canning lids back on them and put them in the fridge for storage. Yay!!! I made pickles without canning them! They should be good stored in the fridge for up to a year and maybe a little bit longer. But, I will probably go through a jar a month.
That was such a fun experiment!! Would I do it again? You bet ya! Only next time, I hope I would be able to find fresh dill sprigs instead of having to use dried dill. The dried dill settled on top of the pickles and I didn't really like all that dried dill on top of them when I opened the jar to take out a pickle. It liked to cling to the pickle! Funny thing is that I had dill seeds to plant this year and had forgotten about them when I was planting my other herbs. It may be time to start those seeds and grow them indoors 🙂. And, in future batches, I would only add one garlic clove if they were huge like the ones I had for these.
All in all, I'd say that fermenting dill pickles for the first time was a great success! I'm really looking forward to making some more of them in the future! Below are the before and after pictures. The pics do not do them justice, but you can definitely tell a difference in the coloring of the liquid from when they started until day nine.
Fermentation would be a great way of preserving foods should we ever find ourselves without electricity in the future. I realize that if we did not have electricity we would not have working refrigerators. However, way back when this method of food preservation was actually discovered, refrigerators had not been invented. Root cellars were used to store foods throughout the year and off season.
If you don't have a root cellar, how would you store fermented foods with no electricity? Well, you could always dig a hole in the ground and place the jars (wrapped in cloth or plastic to keep the dirt off them) in the hole and cover them up. I've not researched this, but common sense tells me that the jars would need to be buried deep enough to maybe cover the tops with at least six inches of dirt. That should be enough to help keep the heat out. I read somewhere that fermented foods should be stored below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just another option for food preservation. I know I will keep the ingredients and equipment on hand needed for making fermented vegetables. In fact, since this little experiment with making pickles, I have also fermented some fresh salsa using some ingredients from our garden. It turned out delicious! But, it supposedly does not have as long of a shelf life as the pickles and other vegetables. Someone actually told me it only lasts for a couple of months. So, unless I find out differently, I will not be posting that recipe here as I prefer to focus on long term food storage. I only mentioned it to give you an idea of some other foods that can be fermented. I've also seen where others have fermented green beans, carrots, peppers, and all kinds of vegetables. I can't wait to try some others! Oh, and the most popular I've seen is honey and garlic. To be used as an antibiotic for colds, flu, etc. Look it up when you get a chance!
If you have any fermentation adventures you would like to share with us, please do so in the comments section below. I look forward to learning new things and love it when you share with me/us.
It is my prayer that you will allow God to lead and guide you in your preparedness goals. For He knows what we need better than we do.
Until next time...happy prepping, and God bless!
Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen. (KJV)
FERMENTED DILL PICKLES RECIPE
Individual pint sized jars
Shelf life up to 1 year or more
Store in refrigerator, or in an area below 50 Fahrenheit
1-2 pickling cucumbers (sliced or spears)
1-1/2 teaspoons unrefined salt (such as pink Himalayan sea salt or celtic sea salt. Do not use table salt.)
1-1/2 teaspoons dried dill (or 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh dill)
1 to 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1. Make sure your jars and lids are dry and have been sterilized or cleaned in hot, soapy water.
2. Add the salt, dill, and garlic cloves to the bottom of the jar.
3. Add cucumber slices or spears. Be sure to pack them in tight.
4. Pour in filtered water, making sure to leave at least 1 inch head space.
5. Place a weight on top of the cucumbers.
6. Place an air tight lid on jar and tighten. You may also use a pickle pipe or air-lock lid. (It is at this point that you can shake the jar up to distribute the dry ingredients into the water.)
7. Place jar in a bowl to catch any spill over.
8. Place jar and bowl in a dark, cool, dry place. Inside a cupboard or pantry would be ideal.
9. Burp the lid at least once a day, twice a day if it is spilling over between burps.
It can take anywhere between 5-7 days, or longer, for the pickles to be ready. Taste the pickles after two to three days. (I just tasted mine when I burped them.) If they taste like cucumbers, they are not ready yet. Continue to taste each day until you no longer taste the cucumber. When they taste like dill pickles and not cucumbers, they are done and ready to place in the refrigerator; which will stop the fermenting process.
Be sure to remove the weight before placing in the refrigerator. And, if you used a pickle pipe or air-lock lid replace with a regular lid before placing in the refrigerator.
NOTE: As tempting as it may be to remove the lid and constantly check the pickles. Do not do so! In order to stave off mold, you do not want to let any air enter the jar than what is absolutely necessary. When you go to do the taste test, take out a pickle and immediately place the weight back in and put the lid back on the jar and tighten. Don't leave the jar open while you taste.
Air can cause mold. If you see mold, you will have to toss the pickles and start over. If that happens, make sure you sterilize the jar and lid. Bubbles are not mold. The liquid will bubble when it is fermenting. But, if you see a white foam that is not bubbles, it is most likely a mold. Some can grow a dark mold. So, if you see anything dark growing in the jar or anything that looks like it could be mold, toss the pickles and start over.