It’s peak produce season, everything is ripe for the picking, and you are ready to do some serious canning… but it’s the middle of a heatwave and your house is a million degrees. Do you really want to be slaving all day over a bubbling cauldron in a suffocating kitchen? Peak produce won’t last forever and waits for no man, let alone a break in the forecast. So what is one to do? Just bite the bullet, dig out your sweatband from tennis lessons, be grateful for the free sauna session and call it a detox? Or is there another, less soggy, way to get the task done?
Why not try Lacto-Fermenting your preserves instead? No heat required!
Beat the heat with our Lacto-Fermented Pickles recipe. You’ll stay cool as a cucumber. This recipe hack is so easy, it’s no sweat! No more complicated canning steps or sweating bullets waiting for jars to seal properly. Once you try making pickles this way, you’ll be so dill-lighted, you’ll probably never go back to traditional pickles. Enough with the puns already?? Ohhh… just one more pickle joke!
So what’s the difference between Traditional Pickles and Lacto-Fermented anyway?
Traditional pickling uses an acid solution to preserve. Typically this is a water, vinegar and salt solution that is heated to boiling, then poured over the food, fully submerging it, and then heat sealed; possibly requiring further processing. The acid inhibits the growth of microbial bacteria and the heat sealing vacuums out oxygen from the jar which would prevent any further oxidization or bacterial contamination. The shelf life on sealed pickles can be several years.
“Quick Pickles” or “Refrigerator Pickles” can also be made this way. This involves the same acid solution but simply poured over fresh fruits or veggies, without the boiling or heat sealing process. This process is simply for flavouring, and not preserving, as the shelf life for fresh pickles is only a few days.
Fermenting is an entirely different process. The food is submerged in a solution of water, salt and often a live culture or “starter” is used however, no heat is used in the process. This is because of the beneficial bacteria known as Lactobacillus present on the surface of the fruits or vegetables is needed to stay alive for the process. A “starter” culture may include raw apple cider vinegar or other unpasteurized vinegar, kombucha, water kefir or whey from yogurt. Fermentation is possible with simply a water and salt solution because these bacteria are not harmed by salt. They feed on the sugars in the fruit or veggies intended for fermenting, and produce Lactic Acid as a by-product – thus creating its own acid solution and “pickling” the foods naturally. The benefit of pickling this way is the probiotic and enzymatic digestive benefits that “living foods” impart.
Some vegetables such as cabbage, turnips or beets do fine in just a water and salt solution, but softer veggies like cucumbers benefit from having a starter culture to get the process going; to speed up the growth of the beneficial Lactobacillus bacteria which inhibits the growth of other harmful micro-organisms such as mold or bad bacterias.
This Lacto-Fermented pickling technique is ideal for beating the heat during the peak of summer to keep both your kitchen cool and your sanity. You can have yummy, probiotic pickles in 4 easy steps!
Step 1: Sanitize your jars.
This can be accomplished the traditional way by boiling them in water – however, since we are trying to avoid heating up the house, you can simply rinse your jars and lids with white vinegar.
Step 2: Making the Brine.
- 6 cups filtered water
- 1 cup Kombucha (I prefer a strong Kombucha that has brewed just past the point of sweetness, more on the vinegary side)
- 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp Kosher salt
- 1 tbsp Himalayan salt
Stir the water, kombucha, raw vinegar and salt together until all the salt is dissolved. Depending on the size of cucumbers you use, this is enough to make 2-4 quarts/ Litres of pickles.
Step 3: Pack your Jars.
Pack your jars with your pickling cucumbers (scrubbed and rinsed clean). Be sure to leave enough room at the top that your cucs will be fully submerged in brine, with 1 inch of space between the top of the jar and the waterline.
Optional: For extra flavour, consider sprinkling in some seasonings and spices such as mustard, coriander, cumin, peppercorns, clove, cinnamon, dill blossoms, lemon or orange peel, bay leaves, garlic cloves, ginger, chilies or any other seasonings of your choice, to taste.
A trick for crunchy pickles is to include a grape or oak leaf. These contain tannis that help keep your veggies crisp!
Pour the brine in to fully submerge the pickles, leaving some “head space” at the top. Seal, but not too tightly.
Step 4: Wait.
Here’s the tricky part. The length of time depends on the temperature of the environment the pickles are in. A hot kitchen is going to ferment much faster than a cool basement pantry. The temperature and time of the fermentation will also yield different results. Hot and fast ferments tend to be more tangy, with a softer texture, and shorter shelf life. Longer, cooler ferments will retain more crunch and have a chance to develop more complex, subtle flavours, and last longer.
You may want to try splitting your batch and placing in different areas (temps) of your home to get different results. As a general rule of thumb, check your pickles every 3-5 days to monitor progress. This also allows some of the gasses to escape so you don’t have too much pressure building up in your jars. 3-6 weeks is a fairly typical ferment time. You can also test for “doneness” by slicing into one of the cucumbers – if it looks sort of translucent all the way through, its officially fermented. If you want to let it develop a little longer for more complex flavours, simply move to a cool area such as cold storage or the fridge.
The idea is to have the flexibility to make them your way. Be experimental; try new flavour combinations and time durations. Enjoy the surprise that comes with opening each new batch and the different nuances of that particular living food. And be sure to let us know how it goes for you! Half the fun is sharing your results. We hope this new method of pickling will provide you with a new option for preserving food and including fermented foods in your diet and of course save you some time and effort in the process. Enjoy!