Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Natural Fermentation – The Pickled Cucumber

For many people I know including myself at times “maintaining health” is one of the most overlooked aspects in everyday life. We live in a fast paced world, the demands are many and the distractions are endless. We are simply too busy that good health is habitually taken for granted and undervalued. It is only when under painful or extreme adversity caused by terrible illness that the true value of good health emerges. It is during those dark days that all the wealth in the world will appear insignificant by comparison to simply alleviating relief and regaining the freedom of our physical and mental normalcy. Good health allows us to better appreciate all the things around us including the tea we drink. Good health provides us with the capacity to live a fuller life adding color and joy to our journey through life. With more research pointing to the importance of maintaining a healthy gut flora (Ref 80% of our immune system is in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract), this is where I will begin with the humble pickled cucumber.

In my books what you see before you is a superfood awaiting transformation (... think Clark Kent and Superman). The above picture show freshly prepared cucumbers  (w/ dill and red peppers) immersed in a salt brine solution awaiting natural fermentation to take place. By selecting the most natural ingredients available, you create an environment for natural bacteria and beneficial microbes to thrive. Natural fermentation does not require heating or pasteurization and is kept free from artificial preservatives in order to maximize the benefits. In this case only salt, water and fresh cucumbers make up the essential ingredients.

Natural fermentation enriches food with live lactobacilli and beneficial microbes, creating an environment rich in enzymes. The natural bacteria helps transform fermented food to a predigested state that is more bioavailable to the human body. The integration of living foods by regularly consuming naturally fermented foods can improve digestion, aid detoxification, maintain a healthy balance of gut flora, strengthen the body’s immune system and offer a great boost to our overall health.

The process of fermentation can be observed by the bubbles being formed, causing gas to be released.

I took photos of this batch of homemade pickled cucumbers at 3 different time intervals when the thought of writing this blog entry entered my mind. i) Day 1: freshly prepared cucumbers ii) Day 3fermentation in progress, the solution starts turning cloudy from lactic acid bacteria  iii) Week 2: almost all the cucumbers have been eaten and I have added a handful of garlic cloves to make use of the wonderful tart briny solution. - Note: I should mention that I started eating the cucumbers on Day 4. I also refrigerated the cucumbers on that day to maintain their crunchiness. Keep in mind that different climate conditions, temperature variations, pickling recipe can all cause variations in the fermentation process. To find out how my fermentation is coming along I will simply eat it.

In recent years there has been a revival of naturally fermented foods not just for the health aspect but for the sheer gastronomical delight that such foods offer in their richness and complexity of taste and flavors. With people like Sandor Katz (a leading revivalist) amongst many others there is a wealth of information available on the internet that provides DIY fermentation projects on a wide range of naturally fermented food such as sauerkraut, yoghurt, kefir, kombucha as well as various pickled vegetables and many more. The information is available at your fingertips.

I share with you 2 videos (below) on - How To ... - naturally ferment the humble cucumber. The pickled cucumber is one of the easiest vegetable to ferment and appeals to arguably the biggest audience. I encourage you to start fermenting and eating your own pickled vegetables and to reap the benefits. >>>> A healthier body contributes to making our 5 basic senses (hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste) all the more sensitive and powerful and to better attune our connection with our physical body. It could change your tea experience!

Make your own kosher dill pickles!
Fermenting Pickles - Back to the Homestead

6 comments:

  1. This is a big reason many groups drink Fermented puerh tea, as a necessary addition to their diet. My ethnic heritage is sauerkraut And pickles. My Polish aunt added the garlic along with the cucumbers and whole dill. And then she added something else but would never say what. Her pickles were the best I've ever had and alas she never wrote down her recipe.

    One important thing is, when buying pickles or sauerkraut, avoid the ones with added vinegar. Get the ones in natural brine. Companies nowadays are straining out the brine and putting the finished product in vinegar. The health benefit is also in the brine as you noted.

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    1. Thank you Cwyn. Agreed (for those looking to buy), pickles in vinegar will not provide you with the same benefits of living bacteria found in a salt brine solution. Additionally modern commercial foods are prioritized towards self life and the consistency and stability of the product. Whilst initially this sounds great, these processed foods undergo heat treatment as a part of pasteurization that kills off generally all the living bacteria found in food. LIVING food becomes DEAD food.

      I am sorry to hear about your aunt’s recipe being lost. The mystery of the secret ingredient is intriguing … perhaps you could create a new recipe. I am turning over a few ideas in my head for future projects and really we are only limited by our own imagination.

      Best, Varat

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  2. I want your recipe for pickles!
    M

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    1. Hello M,

      I don’t have an exact recipe. I should mention that I tend to go by taste and my own logic when I deal with food. I am happy to guide you through the main steps.

      For the above I used Himalayan rock salt (sea salt would also be fine), a handful of dill, enough cucumbers to fill a jar, about 4 to 5 red chilies, and a handful of freshly peeled garlic cloves. Making sure that the vegetables are tightly packed in and immersed below the brine I’ll leave it out for 3-4 days in a dark cupboard for the fermentation to kick in and for the brine to turn slightly tart and tangy. I’ll then refrigerate. I find it to be really good after about a week in the refrigerator. The times may have to be adjusted if your climate is different from the hot tropical climate of Thailand. A cooler climate means a slower fermentation so more time is likely to be needed. If you’re unsure just munch on a cucumber to see if it’s ready in meeting with your taste preference.

      PS: I try to judge the strength of my salt brine solution to be on a par with my favorite commercial pickle. I use to buy a brand called Butchers at Foodlands before I learned to make my own pickles. IMO homemade natural pickles are not only healthier for you but also tastes much better!

      Hope this helps. VP

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    2. Love the red chilies as well. I remember my mother doing something like this. I am thankful to have a recipe to pass down now that you have helped me.
      Sorry to be a bit absent as I lost my Father a while back and the routine has suffered a bit on my side.
      Thankful for sharing this recipe with me.
      M

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    3. No need to apologize. Family is quite rightly our first priority. I am sorry to hear about your Father. It is never easy losing a love one. Your feedback and comments are a most welcome addition to the posts.

      Best, VP

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