After the success of my homemade sauerkraut (I am still enjoying it regularly, and we ate it last night with a Czech braised pork and gravy - delish!) I have been itching to lacto-ferment more veggies. Last week, our CSA share included a bunch of dill, and I knew the moment had come. I am particularly eager to try making dill pickles, but cucumbers are not yet in season - my own cucumber plants are only a few inches high, although our CSA may have them soon - so I had to improvise. I had some embarrassingly aged beets in the fridge, two too many bunches of radishes, and a bag full of newly-arrived CSA turnips - together, they sounded like a plausible pickling combo. I peeled the beets and sliced everything into manageable toothpicks, then added a handful of fresh dill and peeled garlic cloves and mixed it all together in my crock. Then I covered it all with brine (~.75 Tbs salt per cup of H2O, per Katz), weighted it with a smaller container to keep everything under the brine.

Now, just under a week later, the beets, turnips and radishes are all nicely pickled. They range from tender to crisp, and from sweet to mildly biting, but they all have a nice bright dill and garlic pickle flavor. I am thinking they would make a delightful cool summer soup, tart and sweet and salty. I am also going to try to can these, since I sincerely doubt Greg and I will be able to make it through 12 cups of pickles in any sort of reasonable fridge storage time frame.

This project was noticeably different from the sauerkraut in a couple ways. Firstly, smell: the dill and garlic conspired, over the course of a couple days, to turn the pickle crock into a sort of inverse air-freshener. If my kitchen were a Gl*de commercial (which, wow, is actually my worst nightmare), right now there would be heads of garlic and vinegar bottles floating through the room on a beet-red breeze. I think that the canning process will bring this to a head, but as soon as that's done, I'll be tempted to bake a pie to chase the smell out. The second less-pleasant quality is the beet-infused brine, which is definitely a stain risk. Lastly, because of the size of the pieces, I was unable to keep all of the pickles under the surface of the brine, and a couple at the surface developed little moldy patches. I picked those pieces out, and it should be fine, especially since everything is cooked in the canning process. None of these things are deal breakers for me, but I can't really imagine doing this more than a couple times a year in my small kitchen (not that we would go through more pickles than that anyways!)

Practical Considerations

  • How much space does it need?
    Variable. You could probably do this in a quart or half-gallon jar, but a sizeable crock or food-grade bucket is probably better. You can keep it anywhere, however, as long as it isn't sweltering hot, like under a table or in a cabinet.
  • How much time does it take?
    About 20 minutes, depending on how you chop the veggies, plus a few days of fermenting.
  • Does it smell?
    Yes, at least if you use strongly-scented seasonings like dill and garlic.
  • Does it look grody?
    A little. Mold can form on the surface of the water, especially if you let anything float on the surface. You can skim this off, but it's not the prettiest.
  • Does it need special equipment?
    No
  • Is it worth it to do this by hand?
    If you can put up with the smell for a week, sure!

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