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FarmSteady: Lacto-Fermented "Classic Dill" Pickles

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 27 August 2018 at 09:19
As I've mentioned before, the "Kraut Kit" from www.FarmSteady.com is quite versatile, and can be used to ferment many different vegetables, sauces, and other types of foods. Last Friday evening, 24 August, I started a batch of "Classic Dill Pickles," using FarmSteady's Recipe for them:

https://farmsteady.com/field-guide/recipe-classic-dill-pickles

I'll simply post the link for now, but I did take a few photos and will try to do a more detailed write-up with the recipe etc. when I am able to; it's all pretty much as described in the link above, but I was, happily, able to use locally grown cucumbers from a nearby Hutterite colony, as well as dill from my parents' place, just a few miles south of town.

For now, the pickles are looking pretty good - we'll see how they turn out! I plan to give them the full 5 to 7 days fermenting at room temperature; then, I'll put them in the refrigerator for a few days before sampling any.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 August 2018 at 11:41
Here are is a more detailed run-down of this project, based heavily on FarmSteady's instructions and recipe, which seem solid and reliable to me.

FarmSteady sells a "kit" for making the pickles:

https://farmsteady.com/shop/lacto-pickle-kit

As far as equipment goes, it is identical to their Kraut Kit and Fermented Vegetable kit:

https://farmsteady.com/shop/?category=Fermentation+Kits

Because of this, there was no need for me to purchase it, since I already had the Kraut Kit. I highly recommend any of these kits as a great launch pad into the world of fermenting vegetables; in my opinion, the convenience of the kit is worth the price; but even if you don't get one, you can make these pickles and other products at home, with improvised equipment such as a large, non-reactive bowl, a plate and some sort of weight with which to hold whatever you are fermenting beneath the brine.

These instructions are from FarmSteady's website:

Quote Classic Dill Pickles

Our favorite pickles are the kind you get from a barrel on New York's Lower East Side. Those snappy, crunchy full and half sour pickles owe their signature pucker to lacto-fermentation, the same process behind kimchi, kraut, and so many of our other favorite ferments.

Luckily, you don't need a giant wooden barrel to recreate these classics at home. And while having one of those giant wooden barrels (and the kitchen to fit it) from which to dramatically pluck our homemade pickles would be awesome, we're happy to pull them from our compact glass fermenting jars instead.

To make the snappiest, crunchiest pickles in your kitchen (no matter where it is), be sure to start with super fresh, firm Kirby cucumbers from the farmer's market. Adding tannins to the fermenter helps ensure a crispy snap. We use black tea leaves since we're not fermenting in a big oak barrel.

Fresh dill and crushed garlic round out the flavor of these classics. One bite of your homemade batch and you'll be transported to the Lower East Side. No need to run to the deli or book a ticket to New York to get your pickle fix!


Ingredients:

10 to 12 small, super-fresh Kirby Cucumbers
8 to 12 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/3 bunch of dill (mostly tops, sturdier stalks removed)
1 black tea bag
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 quart water

Directions:

Wash and trim blossom side of cucumbers. Chill in ice bath for 20 minutes.

Dissolve 2 tablespoons salt in 1 quart of water to make the brine.

Pack cucumbers, tea bag, dill, and garlic into fermentation jar. Pour brine over to cover. Add fermentation weight. You want the packed cucumbers to be completely submerged when weighted.

Top with lid and airlock. Let ferment for 3 days at room temperature out of direct sunlight, brine will turn from clear to cloudy. Taste pickles after 3 days. If you want them to be more sour, leave for another 1-2 days before moving to the fridge. Pickles are ready to eat immediately, but we like them even more after a week and will keep refrigerated for at least 2 months.

https://farmsteady.com/field-guide/recipe-classic-dill-pickles


To add to the knowledge, here is FarmSteady's YouTube video on making pickles with their kit:



With some browsers, the video doesn't show up, so here is the direct link to the video:

https://youtu.be/zOQ3Z4WOtBw

Next, I'll go through the process that I used in making these pickles, including some photos, preparation notes and other information.

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 August 2018 at 16:24
As is usually the case with these types of projects, these pickles were very, very easy to make and reinforce my personal opinion that there's no reason not to at least try them, if you have any interest at all.

Before starting, I made a quart of brine by dissolving 2 tablespoons of kosher salt into a quart of room-temperature spring water; I then scrubbed my cucumbers in cold water:



I do not know whether or not these are actually Kirby Cucumbers, but they were very good. I get them from a local Hutterite colony from time to time and have never been disappointed in them, whether fresh or pickled with a salt-vinegar brine, so I figured they should work very well here. The instructions state to use 10 to 12 cucumbers; but due to their size, I was able to fit 15 or 16 in the fermenting jar.

In order to help the finished pickles stay crisp, it is necessary to cut the blossom ends from them; because I am no fan of stems on my pickles, I removed both ends:



I then plunged the cucumbers into an ice bath for 20 minutes, in order to further promote a crispy end product:



While the cucumbers were taking their frigid swim, I peeled and crushed 8 garlic cloves:



The instructions say to add 8 to 12 cloves of garlic, which generally amounts to an entire head of it; in this case, all that I had left were four very small, very thin inner cloves that I chose not to use.

When the time came, I began packing the cucumbers into the fermentation jar, beginning with a teabag, some crushed garlic and some fresh dill that I had gathered out at my parents' place just moments before:



I gathered somewhat more dill than I figured I would need, as when I tried a similar project earlier this year using sliced cucumber "chips," the dill seemed rather subtle.

The purpose of the teabag is to provide tannins that are said to help the pickles stay crisp; often, this will be supplied by oak or other leaves containing tannin, but we have none of that here, so this seemed like a sensible option. The instructions specifically state to use a bag of black tea, which comes with the Pickle Kit if you buy it; however, I provided my own, courtesy of Sir Thomas Lipton. I have never tried this or anything similar before, so we shall see if it works, and to what extent.

After a few layers of cucumbers, dill and garlic, I ran out of all three, so I placed the fermentation weight on top and added brine sufficient to completely submerge everything:



Since lacto-fermentation takes place in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment, it is crucial to make sure that everything in the jar is weighted down and completely covered with brine; otherwise, you get mold and the potential for pathogens, illness etc.

Approaching the proverbial finish line, I screwed the lid on the fermentation jar and fitted the air lock:



I then placed the jar on the top shelf of our closet, where it will remain until a full week has passed; at that time, I'll take a look at what we've got, and hopefully have some good things to report back. I plan to make sure that I test one now and then, in order to see how they mature, until I reach a "peak" point.

As you can see, it doesn't get much easier than this, so if you've been thinking about stepping into some fermentation projects, this is a great one to begin with. I chose to stick to the recipe, but there is no need to feel bound to it; experiment with different ideas, herbs, spices and profiles, if you want to, and find something that you like...but if you want to keep it "traditional" and "classic," this looks to be the way to go. I considered adding a few small, crushed, dried chilis, but ultimately decided not to, preferring to try this method and recipe "as written," at least the first time.

More as it happens, etc. &c....

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 September 2018 at 11:02
Due to being busy at work, then out of town, I wasn't able to try one of these pickles until last night. In short, it was excellent!

The texture of the pickle was everything I could hope for: not soggy or limp at all, with decent crunch and snap; in these terms, it was as good as any pickle I've ever made, and better than many from the store.

The taste was great as well, with a nice "tang" from the fermentation. The salt/sour ratio seemed to me to be in good balance, and the garlic was just about right. The dill was much more prominent than it was with my previous "pickle. Having said that, I was very satisfied with this result, and the pickle was very, very close to being just right.

Based on what I know, the pickles can remain "curing" in the brine for quite some time. Looking at a cross-section, I could see that the "cure" had penetrated much of the pickle, but there were still a few lighter, mottled patches showing that some more time was needed for a complete cure.

I moved the pickles to our refrigerator, where they can mature and age a while. I'll try to sample one each week or so until they are gone.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 September 2018 at 10:45
Well, here we are, 4 weeks after beginning this project, and 2 weeks after my first sampling of the pickles. Last night, I tried another one, and was pretty impressed with the results.

The pickle was quite crisp and crunchy, in my opinion. I detected no more softness or "mushiness" than I would in any other pickle, and much less than it some. Cutting the pickle in half, I could see that it is fully "cured" in the sense that there were no mottled light spots, and it had all appearances of any other pickle I have seen:



As far as the taste goes, it was very close to perfect, in my opinion. The dill and garlic balanced very nicely, and the salt seemed to be right where it needed to be. The garlic was just right, I think, but the seeds in the dill were just a bit over-powering, to my own personal taste; they almost had a caraway flavor to them, so my own biases against caraway might be coming into play, here.

As for the fermentation "tang" (I can't think of any other way to describe it), it was well-represented and fit in with the flavor profile nicely. This is of course a different "sour" compared to pickles that have been brined in a salt/vinegar solution, so one who isn't accustomed to it might find it odd; however, it's a nice, fresh, clean flavor that can really grow on a person. My youngest son found it "weird," but The Beautiful Mrs. Tas was really enjoying it.

The next time I make these, I'll shake some of the seeds out of the dill or use a type of dill that isn't full of seeds; otherwise, this is an absolutely great way to make pickles with fresh, quality ingredients and always have them on hand. They are great on their own, but I can really imagine them in a potato salad, or chopped up in a sandwich spread...or sliced and served on a hamburger. The possibilities are many; one could even mince them and add them to a meat sauce or gravy.

I hope that these notes and observations are useful to anyone who might wish to give this a try - these pickles are very highly recommended!

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 September 2018 at 19:50
I tried another of these pickles today and it was excellent. I only have a couple of notes to add:

The "dill overload" that I perceived earlier did not seem to be a factor this time. I suppose it is most likely that I managed to bite into a dill seed or two last time, which led to my impressions described above.

The pickles and their juice did have a slightly "yeasty" quality to them. I picked up on it last time, but did not think to describe it. There's nothing wrong or bad about it, but it is different from what I am used to. I assume it is a normal result of the process; perhaps it is exaggerated a bit due to the extra week of fermentation that I have the pickles.

In any case, the pickle I had was great, the garlic and dill were in great balance, as was the salt. No complaints here, at all.
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