Monday, September 29, 2014

In A Pickle

Lacto-fermented dill pickles

We found ourselves in quite the pickle this weekend. As I mentioned, our dishwasher died when I had a big party planned for Sunday afternoon. Well, Sunday morning the disposal started leaking, as did the tube for the sprayer and the pipes. By around noon Sunday the cupboard under the sink had flooded three times. My poor husband spent the entire morning lying under the sink, working on it. Before the guests arrived he had replaced the disposal, the sprayer and hose, and tightened all the plumbing.

The dishwasher situation hasn't been resolved. Even though it means hand washing, I think I'd rather wait until we can afford a complete appliance package than just replace the dishwasher. We had this situation at our old house. The dish washer died and we replaced that. Then the oven hood broke, so we replaced that. Then the microwave died, and then the stove went. Then we got new counter tops... we ended up with a too-small kitchen where nothing matched. One of the reasons we were building a new house was that I was sick of our cramped house where everything felt patched together. Since we never got to live in our dream house and ended up in another old, too-small house I at least want matching appliances. They're all the same age, so I know if one goes the others won't be far behind.

I know I sound really whiny. My husband is always complaining about how spoiled I am. And really, I can't think of a single European house I've ever seen that had a dish washer. Usually there's a tiny clothes washer in the kitchen and that's it. In Italy I had to wash clothes by hand with a bucket and wash board and hang them out to dry. The land lady, Signora Bongini, had a rare clothes dryer and she would allow all the tenants to use it for towels and jeans and heavy things. So, I'm sure we can live without a dish washer for a while, but I'm not happy about it. Trying to host a party and scare up guests and working in a defunct kitchen made me really miss my friends from home and my hypothetical new house. The weather, dismal and dark and rainy all day, isn't helping.

Besides that, despite my new stepped-up exercise regimen, I've been gaining weight like crazy and my face is all broken out and my stomach has been really upset. I don't know what my problem is, but I'm a mess. I decided to add some lacto-fermented food to my diet. Lacto-fermentation is a form of canning that doesn't require cooking or the use of vinegar. The result is raw food cured with live cultures, like those in yogurt. These are really good for you and provide a hefty dose of probiotics and nutrients. Back when we had our big garden I made some sauerkraut from our homegrown cabbages using this method and it was delicious. I decided to make some dill pickles this year. I had just enough dill from our yard but had to buy the cucumbers from the farmer's market since ours did nothing, a bitter pill and another reason I'm frustrated with this house.

I am using a recipe from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions cook book, which I highly recommend. The resulting pickles are fantastic and much crunchier than any store bought kind, a result of them not having been cooked. I bought them from the farmer's market and pickled them within an hour. My family prefers more dill than is called for in the recipe. I ran out of whole mustard seed and used ground mustard, which is why the brine looks cloudy. If you're giving these as gifts you will want to make sure to use whole mustard for a prettier brine, but otherwise using the ground seed doesn't affect the result or taste. I get whey from making homemade yogurt, but you can strain the whey out of store bought plain yogurt by lining a colander with a cheese cloth, placing the colander over a bowl, and filling the colander with yogurt. You will have whey in the bowl in a few hours.

Lacto-Fermented Dill Pickles
Yield: 1 Quart

4-5 pickling cucumbers or 15-20 gherkins
1 TBSP whole mustard seed
2 TBSP fresh dill (my family prefers about double this amount)
1 TBSP sea salt
4 TBSP whey (if unavailable use 1 additional TBSP salt)
1 cup filtered water

Wash the cucumbers well and set aside. Wash the canning jar and lid in very hot water. You can boil and cool the jar if preferred before use to sterilize it. Place the cucumbers in the jar. A wide mouth jar will work best if you have one. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over the cucumbers, adding more water if necessary to cover the cucumbers. The top of the liquid should be one inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature for 3 days before transferring to cold storage in a root cellar, basement, or refrigerator.

And there it is. SO easy! And so much healthier! I have some store bought cucumbers I'm about to ferment in the same way. I'm not normally a huge pickle connoisseur, but my boys and their father always beg for those huge Kosher dill pickles at the fair. I like these pickles well enough to beg for them at a fair! I hope they'll help get me back on track.

I've been pretty unmotivated in general all day today. I'm still not finished washing the party dishes from yesterday. I have an enormous pile of Wendy-Kins dolls up in my office awaiting re-stringing, so I hope to talk myself into going up there and working at some point. Look for those in my store coming soon: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.

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