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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Fermented Dill Pickles

This past summer, much of my focus was on restocking the pantry.  Our house had been on the market for almost 19 months before it finally sold enabling us to buy our new home with a move in date of September 1, 2011.  We completed our move on September 12, signed the final papers on September 15 and flew out to our vacation home on September 18.  I had reduced my home canning to a considerably lower level for two years to accommodate the house sale and move.  It didn't help that the move and fall vacation coincided with the 2011 tomato harvest!  As a result, we were completely out of some of our home canned staples like pickles so I knew as soon as the busy canning season started that I would be quite busy.  This year I made zesty bread 'n butter pickles, best bread and butter pickles, dill slices, fresh pack dill pickles, fast favourite garlic dill pickles, freezer pickles, and fermented dill pickles that gave me a total of 31 jars (24 L total) of pickles in the pantry and 3 jars (0.75 L total) of pickles in the freezer.

fermented dill pickles
Fermentation gives a distinctive tangy flavour foods like pickles and sauerkraut.  It is a long process that requires consistent monitoring and attention to detail for a 3 to 7 week period.  The food to be fermented is prepared and placed in the fermenting container.  I used an 11.4 L (3 gallon) ice cream bucket to ferment the pickles.  The cucumbers were then covered with the brine and weighted down so they stayed under the brine for the fermentation process.  The container was placed in the lower level of our home where it remained at 21°-24° C (70°-75°F) for the duration of the fermentation process.  It is very important that the temperature remains consistent throughout the fermentation process.  Once the fermentation is complete, the pickles are drained.  The brine is strained and heated to a boil then poured over the pickles that have been packed into hot, prepared jars.  The pickles are processed in a BWB canner for 15 minutes.  Some do not process fermented pickles as it destroys the probiotics but rather store them in a large container in the refrigerator.

I started the fermented dill pickles on July 20 but didn't can them until September 21 as the fermentation process took a bit longer.  Once the fermentation begins, small bubbles form on the surface of the brine.  After that, a scum forms on the surface.  This scum must be removed daily.  Clearly, I needed to tend to the pickles daily during most of the fermentation period meaning this is not a process that has to be planned ahead so as to not be interrupted via impromptu overnight trips or going to our vacation home.  Fermentation is definitely not something I can do during the autumn months because we spend two extended periods of time at our vacation home.

I ended up with 6 - L of fermented dill pickles which is a fairly good yield from 4.5 kg (10 lb) of pickling cucumbers.  I was a concerned that the brine was just a bit cloudy when I was filling the jars.  Brine can turn cloudy if table salt is used or from minerals in the water, however it can also be a sign of spoilage.  I had used Windsor pickling salt so knew that wasn't a problem and there were no obvious signs of spoilage (eg. mold, foul smell, slimy feeling) so I went ahead and processed them.  During the cooling period the brine returned to crystal clear.  In this case it must have been minerals in the water I used for the brine.  Next time, I plan on using filtered water even though our water is soft.  All in all, I was rather pleased with the results!


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