Thursday, February 21, 2013

Confessions of a Pickler

I have a confession to make. Once a month I skip church. At 8:30 AM I leave the house to drive 50 minutes away to the Kimberton Waldorf School's beautiful farm and kitchen. About 14 or 15 others also converge there. Some come from as far away as Carlisle, the Poconos, and South Jersey. We are all attending a year-long series of workshops called Fearless Homesteading, on practicing permaculture. In October we pickled vegetables in brine, and in November we made wheat bran starter for bokashi composting, and melted beeswax and calendula oil together to make calendula salve. In December we looked at how to make a rocket stove. In January we started growing mushrooms, and learned about growing herbs.
Why do I do this? Because I want to understand nature better and take part in its rhythms, patterns, and energies instead of fighting, ignoring, or trying to work around them. And? It's fun. This workshop is taught by Melissa Miles, a permaculture design expert and manager of the Two Miles Microfarm in Montgomery County. The herbalism part of the course is taught by Susan Hess, of Tthe Farm at Coventry.
Here is how you can pickle some vegetables at home using the brining method. It's not a super precise recipe. It just depends on what you have and what you like. If you don't like garlic, don't put any in. Or try some peppercorns. These lactofermented pickles are delicious and great for your digestion. And so easy to make. Just do it.

Pickled Vegetables


A fairly wide-mouthed, very clean jar with a lid, or a food-grade plastic container with lid. Or several smaller jars.

Something to push down veggies (pestle or potato masher, depending on how big your jar is)


2 tablespoons (or more) uniodized salt (sea salt or kosher)

Quart of filtered water (or you could let a quart of tap water sit out for 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate)

Carrots, sliced in thin coins or grated

Cabbage, cut into shreds

Cabbage leaf to cover the pickles

One whole garlic clove

One half of a small hot pepper, seeds included, if you like some heat

Radishes, thinly sliced or grated


Dissolve the salt in the water.

Add some vegetables to the jar and pour some salt water to cover. Gently push the vegetables down with your potato masher or pestle. You want to crush the cells a bit so salt can be easily absorbed. Add more vegetables and more water until you're a half inch or so away from the top. Keep packing down the veggies. If you have an uncut cabbage leaf, set it over the top to help keep the veggies submerged. Screw the jar closed, loosely, for the air that will escape. Set it in a semi-darkened place. Mine was on my kitchen counter out of direct light, and it was fine. Since it's winter, the kitchen is probably cool enough, but in the summer you probably want to keep your fermenting pickles in the basement.

Taste the pickles in four or five days. Keep tasting every day or so until you like that level of pickledness (is that a word?) and then store in the fridge. It will last a while in there. But you'll want to eat them before then.