Wednesday, September 17, 2008
More on brine pickling
Jars of recently brined pickles: mixed vegetables on the left and summer squash on the right.
Earlier this summer, I blogged about one of my favorite old-fashioned, probiotic ways to preserve vegetables -- pickling them in salt water. (See the original post, Coming Home to Abundance for brine-pickling instructions, references, and background).
Brine pickling has been such an ongoing, everyday part of life at our house over the past few months of heavy harvest that I wanted to write a little bit more about it, with specific comments on various vegetables for brining.
This summer, I've brine-pickled cucumbers, squash, okra, onions, garlic, radishes, beets, carrots, and cauliflower, all with good results. Fresh dill, basil, and parsley all pickle well, too, and add great flavor to brine pickles. I have a crock going now of baby squash, the last of the summer carrots, and okra with dill flowers. I'm sure I've brined other things in summers past, but I don't remember them all!
I do remember that I tried fingerling eggplants once with disastrous results (mushy and moldy), so I don't recommend brining eggplant. Other things I DON'T recommend brining include: ripe tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and lettuce. I've known friends to brine watermelon rinds (very delicious) and green tomatoes successfully, too.
I've found that squash and cucumbers do great pickled whole and then de-brined (soaked in cold water), sliced, and stored in a 4-to-1 water/vinegar solution. They'll last almost indefinitely in the fridge that way.
You can store the pickles in the original brining liquid, which is cloudy and full of beneficial bacteria, but it's generally a bit salty for my taste. I like to pour it off and save it to use for other things, including just pouring a shot of it into sauerkraut or pickles when packing into jars for storage.
Okra is really tasty brined whole and either sliced and packed or just packed as whole pods (they look cool that way). This is an outstanding way to keep up with the okra overload when your okra plants are producing faster than you can possibly come up with clever ways to disguise okra for fresh consumption.
Small carrots are great brined whole, and are a surprisingly yummy snack - salty, crunchy, and crisp.
Onions do better quartered than whole, unless they're pretty small. Pearl-sized pickled onions are GREAT.
An easy way to get started with brine pickling is to fill a crock or big jar with all the brine-able veggies that you have lying around needing to be used. Make sure they're washed and prepped as described in my earlier post and then pour a strong brine solution over them (1/2 cup salt to 1 quart water). Press down (I use a plate weighted with a full jar on top), make sure they're submerged, cover, and wait. In warm weather, the pickles will be salty, sour, and pickled in as little as 10 days. It really is like magic!