Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Lacto-fermented Cucumbers (Pickles)

This was the first time I tried fermenting cucumber and I am so happy I did it. The cucumbers I found in Vietnam are a little different than the Lebanese or European cucumbers I was used to back in Australia. They have a tougher skin but are really sweet which I thought would work well fermented. I never came across pickling cucumbers or maybe I didn't actually look well enough, so I never tried fermenting cucumbers as I wasn't sure if it would work with the Lebanese variety which were my favourite (if anyone knows, please tell me!).

They turned out so yummy, I didn't add any flavouring such as dill or mustard seeds. I left them plain, so I could eat them with any dish and not have any strong flavour overpower my food. It just worked out really well that I first tried them with my omelette stuffed with red peppers and dill! ahhh it was so delicious! This is just my preference as it also helps my kids try them out when I leave them plain, it just tastes a little sour and crunchy. Feel free to add any herbs or spices but just remember the fermentation process magnifies the flavours greatly, so if you are using garlic, 1-2 pieces would be enough.

Lacto-fermented Cucumbers (Pickles)
Lacto-fermented Cucumbers (Pickles)
I buy my cucumbers off this old man who grows his own veggies and passionfruit about 20mins away from where I live. He started growing his own produce due to his wife's current battle with cancer. He wanted to be able to ensure she was only eating organic home grown produce, rather than buying from the markets and not knowing where it came from and what pesticides may have been used. He ended up with so much excess that he sells it off or barters it at the markets for meat or anything else they need. I love that. I wish there were more opportunities for people to return to simple living practices. I feel incredibly lucky knowing were some of my veggies come from.

I recently got a really big bag of cucumbers and thought it was time I tried it out. I'm so glad it did! 

I always use Body Ecology Veggie Culture Starter, for my family's needs in healing my childs gut, I like to know I start off with all the right good bacteria. I also found out recently that the specific strain which is found in the Body Ecology Culture starter L. plantarum is the only Lactobacillus probiotic that can produce natural folate for the body (which it cannot manufacture on it's own).  How amazing is that?!

If you live in Australia, you can order your Body Ecology products from here. Enter discount code 'loveurbelly' for 5% off or order direct from Body Ecology USA.

Here is the recipe:

You will need:
  • 1 litre (1 Quart size approx) Jar with Flip Top lid/lock (e.g. Fido Jar)
  • 5 cucumbers 
  • 1 litre clean filtered water (boiled and cooled if unsure)
  • 2-3 tbsp natural sea salt
  • 1 sachet Body Ecology Veggie Culture Starter optional and 1/2 tsp organic sugar
  • 2 cabbage outer leaves or cut 2 wedges of cabbage (all the cabbages seem to have the outer leaves removed over here so I have been using wedges of cabbage, they end up fermented too so I also eat them with the cucumbers)
Method Using Culture Starter:
  • Take the sachet out of the fridge to allow it to come to room temperature
  • Clean the jar and all utensils (knife, board) with hot water and vinegar and sit on a dish rack or clean tea towel to air dry
  • Wash the cucumbers and sit on a clean tea towel to dry
  • In a small glass, add some of the water and dissolve halve a tsp of organic sugar (if using the Culture starter, skip if not)
  • Empty the sachet into the glass to allow the bacteria to wake up and start feeding on the sugar
  • Halve the cucumbers and using a teaspoon, scrape out the seeds
  • Slice the cucumbers to desired thickness and place in the jar
  • Fill the jar up leaving 1 inch from the top, press the cucumbers down using your hands
  • Make a brine by dissolving 1 tsp salt with the water, then add the culture starter mixture (salt is used to inhibit the growth of bad bacteria to give the good bacteria a good start to do their thing. Using a culture starter allows you to use less salt, if you prefer softer veggies you can reduce the salt further, increase the salt for more crunch)
  • Pour the brine over the cucumbers until just covered
  • Roll up each cabbage leaf (or place the cabbage wedges) and place on top of the cucumbers to keep them under the brine
  • Keep the jar on the counter out of the sun or in a cupboard for 5-7 days, they should keep for well over 6 months
  • Once opened, store them in the fridge
  • Don't forget to always use clean utensils - no fingers! this will keep your jar lasting a lot longer once it is opened.
Method Not Using Culture Starter:
  • Clean the jar and all utensils (knife, board) with hot water and vinegar and sit on a dish rack or clean tea towel to air dry
  • Wash the cucumbers and sit on a clean tea towel to dry
  • Halve the cucumbers and using a teaspoon, scrape out the seeds
  • Slice the cucumbers to desired thickness and place in the jar
  • Fill the jar up leaving 1 inch from the top, press the cucumbers down using your hands
  • Make a brine by dissolving approximately 2-3 tbsp salt with the water (not all salts are the same so you can adjust the salt to your taste but remember salt is used to inhibit the growth of bad bacteria to give the good bacteria naturally present in the veggies a good start to do their thing, if you prefer softer veggies you can reduce the salt. Too much salt can inhibit all the bacteria and the veggies won't ferment so I do not recommend using anymore than 3 tbsp per litre of water or any less than 2 tbsp without a culture starter)
  • Pour the brine over the cucumbers until just covered
  • Roll up each cabbage leaf (or place the cabbage wedges) and place on top of the cucumbers to keep them under the brine
  • Keep the jar on the counter out of the sun or in a cupboard for 5-7 days, they should keep for well over 6 months
  • Once opened, store them in the fridge
  • Don't forget to always use clean utensils - no fingers! this will keep your jar lasting a lot longer once it is opened.
I really recommend the below books if you want to know more about fermentation, I found them really useful when I first started out:

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz
The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates

Hope you enjoy! They are delicious! Don't forget to say hi to me on Facebook or Instagram if you make this or any of my recipes or you can follow me on Pinterest to keep updated with new recipes!

May xx

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