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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wild Fermentation: Sauerkraut and Sour Pickles

As of August 8th, five quarts of sauerkraut have been residing in our fridge.That makes us so happy! Did you know that members of the Brassicaceae family like cabbage, brussel sprouts, and kale are cancer-fighting? Further, a study in Finland found that fermented cabbage may be even better at warding off cancer. We decided against process-canning the sauerkraut because in processing, many of the beneficial live bacteria are killed, and we're planning to regularly eat sauerkraut for pleasure and for health benefits, so the jars won't have to time to go bad.

While we wait for the next round of cabbage to be ready, we're utilizing the crock to make sour pickles. Just like I mentioned that I had nostalgia when it comes to sauerkraut, we've found pickles create that feeling in many people we know. When we mentioned that we had a crock, Andy's dad recalled that as a child he often ate crispy pickles straight from the crock. He explained that the cucumbers were placed with grape leaves whose tannins held the crispiness. Shortly after that conversation, I told my parents what Andy's parents had said. My dad's face lit up, and he said he had the same pickle experience growing up on the family farm with his parents. So, we decided to consult one of the Backyard Market Bibles ~ our copy of Wild Fermentation. Sure enough, in both the book and on the website, we found explicit directions for "Sour Pickles."

Check out the Wild Fermentation book or website for the specifics or here are our easy directions:
3-4 heads of garlic
2 or more hot peppers
handful of grape leaves
pinch of peppercorns
3 to 4 flowering heads of dill
3-4 pounds of small- to medium-sized cucumbers
1/2 gallon of water
6 Tbs of salt

weight (we used a gallon of vinegar as a weight)

1. The bottom of the crock will contain all of the grape leaves, garlic, peppercorns, pepper, and dill. So, put desired amount of each in.

2. Then, add cucumbers.

3. Mix salt and water together, making sure the salt dissolves. Pour onto the cucumber mixture.
4. Make sure the brine covers the cucumbers. If not, add more. General rule of thumb is 1 Tbs. of salt per cup of water.
5. Place the plate on top of the pickles. Put the weight on top of the plate. Cover with a towel.
6. Check daily. Depending on temperature, pickles are ready in 1-4 weeks. We started tasting ours when the color faded. We've been enjoying them ever since.

Today, we noticed our brine has started going cloudy. That means, it's time to put them into sterile jars.


7. Sterilize jars.
8. Drain pickles, reserving the brine.
9. Boil the brine. Let it cool.
10. In the jars, put fresh spices and the pickles.
11. Pour the cooled brine over the pickles.

12. Refrigerate.

They should keep for a few months. With all this live food in our fridge, we're going to need to get a new one soon to make room for everything else!


  1. Nice! I've been meaning to get a copy of Wild Fermentation. Sour pickles!! Awesome.

  2. I love the book! I've read it cover-to-cover, honestly. I learn so much every time I open it up. The sour pickles are delicious, by the way.