Soon after this article on making your own pickles was published in the New York Times, a friend and mentor sent it to me. Though she is a mentor for reiki and energetic practices, and I see her regularly for massages, I’m quite sure she wasn’t trying to encourage me to eat more raw food or get into the fermentation fad (but you can read lots about how some raw foodists fetishize fermented food by using your favorite search engine). I think she just thought I’d like making pickles, and she was right.
I’m now on my fifth or sixth batch. The first batch I did exactly according to the directions in the article. The second, I did exactly according to Mark Bittman’s recipe in How to Cook Everything, which I found used a few years ago at my favorite used bookstore in DC–The Lantern-A Bryn Mawr Bookshop. After that, I experimented with a little less salt, a change of spices, and different ways of slicing the cucumbers. The cucumbers for this most recent batch were a little older and seedier so I added carrots and ginger to improve the flavor of the cucumbers. I also added garlic, a few chili peppers, and some coriander seeds from the garden. A grape leaf or two helps make the vegetables stay crisper; they aren’t needed, but if one has a grape vine in the garden, as I do, why not?
For my birthday, though you don’t really need one, I just bought myself a nice fermentation crock. First up: sauerkraut and then when I’ve had an opportunity to go shopping in Chinatown for supplies, a big batch of kimchee.
This latest kitchen venture, is mostly because I’ve always loved the taste of pickled food, and because it is amazingly easy to make them. Pickles and other fermented foods are now added to my list of love to make foods that with a little attention and some planning and patience yield big results (like sprouting and slow cooker beans and stews). That my yogi friends who are crazy into raw food would also be excited about what eating fermented foods might be doing for my health is just a bonus.