Pickle Party 2009 a Success!
We had our pickle party on Sunday, and it was a huge success! There were 7 or 8 different people making pickles and sauerkraut, I had the smoker and grill running all day, and another friend made a huge scoff of Sausages and Sauerkraut that was eagerly gobbled up as well. In this picture you can see a bucket of cabbage that has "the pickle up" as my wife's grandfather taught me - after a good deal of stomping, the cabbage juice comes out. You have to stop until you have enough juice to cover the cabbage.
We started off in the side yard sitting around a makeshift table, cutting our cabbage and cleaning our cucumbers. Some people chose to chop their cabbage coursely and quickly, while others chose to do their fine and with a great amount of detail and attention. We started out the evening using a big (full) juice can as a stomper, but I quickly realised that this was far from ideal, so I grabbed the chainsaw and a piece of applewood that I'd had set aside for making a stomper, and cut away until I had something workable, with a built-in handle. In the end, everyone was able to use this to stomp-up enough of a pickle to submerge their kraut.
Here is the stomper after a really good workout - unfortuantely I did not capture the handle that I cut out on the chainsaw - that is what he is holding on to at the bottom. The basic recipe for Sauerkraut is pretty easy
- chop cabbage
- add non-iodized salt, about 1/4 cup per 5 litres of stomped cabbage, which is about 1/4 cup per large head
- put a plate on top to hold cabbage under the "pickle"
- check every day for the first week, skim anything fuzzy. Keep anything slimey.
- let ferment
Properly made kraut will store indefinitely right in its bucket, due to the acidity of the natural lactic acid that gets formed during fermentation. My Ukrainian grandfather used to always have a big barrel of sauerkraut and another of fermented dill pickles in his side porch.
They way both work is that lacto-bacillus bacteria live naturally on the fruit. As we know, the job of fruit is to carry the seeds of the plant. The fruit attracts animals, who carry off the fruit to eat later. This distributes the seeds to allow the plant to spread. Well, the bacteria help the fruit break down to provide fertilizer for the seeds, and they live right there on it. They thrive in the right concentration of salt, which is why it is important not to reduce the salt content too much.
For making pickles you have to wash the cucumbers, and trim off a few millimeters from the blossom end. That is the end opposite the end that was attached to the plant. The thing is, there are enzymes in the cucumbers which also help them to break down to provide fertilizer for the seeds inside, and most of these enzymes are in that blossom end. So trimming it gets rid of them, and helps make your pickles crispy.
Once you get your bucket filled with your cukes, you cover them with water, but make sure to measure how much! For every 8 cups of water, you add :
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/4 cup 5% vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dill seed or 4 or 5 heads fresh dill
Then it is the same deal as the cabbage - let it ferment! Put a plate on top to keep the pickles below the water level, and cover the bucket. Check it every day for the first week to 10 days, and skim anything fuzzy, but keep anything slimy! In a month or so they should be done and ready to bottle.
You should have already read a book on home canning!
Realistically, pickles and kraut can be stored for extended periods without any special processing, because of their extremely low pH, caused by the bacterial fermentation. But it is usually more convenient to bottle them. Just fill the jars, affix lids, and immerse completely in a boiling water bath. Carefully bring up to 190F and hold there for 25 minutes.
Please read a book on home canning!
I don't think there is any commentary required here, other than "yum"!