We learn as we go, on good days, here's the latest batch of pickling points:
- Salt; Many pickling guides and recipes state that pickling salt (pure NaCl) is what you're supposed to use. It offers a greater degree of control over the processes at work in the jars we're pickling. Iodized salt is not good to use in pickling, the extra stuff works against our aims, so it's easy to avoid. We've been using sea salt for a handful of years now and it's never been a problem but we tried pickling salt on our last round of pickling (which came out to about six gallons). It's cheaper, so that's good. Everything came out too salty, however. We wound up pouring off most of the liquor on the 3 gallons of Escabiche and replacing it with water. Never had to do that before, though we do now have half a gallon of bloody mary/michelada/dirty martini mix! We're sticking with sea salt and all its extra nutritiousness.
- Pre-Brining; The night before this last pickle, we filled an ice chest with the peppers we were going to use and poured in about a pound of salt. This set up an osmotic imperative, whereby the water inside the peppers was compelled to start vacating the pepper. This is called "sweating". When we dumped these peppers into our crock, they were then more ready to soak up the loving, living vinegar inoculant.
- Temperature; Most of our pickles want a pickling temperature range of 69 to 75 degrees F. Stuff ferments more quickly as temperature goes up and slows down as it drops. Going below about 69 shuts down the fermentation and going above it enters the range for Botulism. Cabbage is different, it's happier between 55 and 65, which explains why we're so challenged to make good cabbage-based batches. The famous Peanutbutter mix was pickled in December; Kimchee is held at this range by burying the pickling crocks in the ground. We're learning to stop fermentation after only three days on sweet stuff like tomatoes, sweet peppers, or beets, treating them as a chutney.
- Plastic baggie airlocks (instead of sealing with olive oil) work great! Here are the details as they're working out for us: Into a clean jar, measure your salt and inoculant, whey or unpasteurized vinegar. Close the jar and shake that stuff around so that it coats the inside of the glass. Fill and mash your stuff down as normal, leaving the same inch or more of headspace and brine covering the veggies. Then dip the outside of a sandwich baggie in your inoculant and stick it in the jar on top of the veggies, spreading it out and filling all the headspace. Fill the baggie with a bit of water and stick a tall water bottle in there as a weight. You might have to poke something in there to convince the bag to fill as much space as possible. You're aiming to have the liquid in the jar come real close to the rim of the jar and the full baggie pressing everything down. Fold the baggie over the rim and LIGHTLY secure it with one of the rims from a lid assembly- the liquor inside the jar needs a way to burp itself out once the ferment is going. Put your jars on a cookie pan or something with a rim around the edge to catch this liquid, just in case. This process leaves little room for mold to form, as well as inoculating the inner surfaces that it has access to.