From now through the end of produce season(s), I’ll be hitting up the farmers markets in search of the best seasonal vegetables to ferment. I’ll share my successes and favorite flavoring combinations with you on Thursdays until the produce becomes sad and sparse. If you don’t get the reference, please watch this hilarious video clip that approximately 3,000 of my closest friends and family members have sent me. If you are unfamiliar with lactopickling, please refer to my post on submerging during fermentation before you start a makin’.
I scaled way, way back on my garden this year. Partially I was just too busy when it was time to plant seeds and partially I had some sense in my head when it was time to plant seeds. I knew that I planned to go visit my parents for a week of poolside work this summer. I thought that asking my dear and accommodating friends to spend an hour a night on my roof with a hose and a watering can might be a bit much two summers in a row. I did buy an irrigation system from Greensgrow Farm at the end of last year, but still, my friends are good to me, no need to take advantage.
When I talk about scaling back, I mean from small to really small. I might do some homesteading, but I’m still a city girl. So rather than 20-plus container tomato plants I had last year, I scaled WAY back to six. Instead of six purple tomatillo plants (huge monsters!) I’m growing three. I also have 5 hot pepper plants, some very varied rooty surprises for you and lots and lots of new-to-me and medicinal herbs (more on those another day). I also have the usual (and perennial) suspects going strong, although again chopped down to size for my limited available time. 4 kinds of basil, rosemary, mint, chives, summer savory, 3 kinds of thyme, oregano and parsley keep our meals tasty and nutrient filled in the summer months. So when I’m making pickles, I sometimes like to skip the spice drawer altogether and instead head straight for the roof or balcony.
When I got these smooth, small hakurei turnips from Blooming Glen Farm at the Headhouse Farmers Market a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what I would use to flavor them. My first instinct was to grab some mustard seeds. You might have noticed that I use mustard seeds a lot in my pickling. That’s generally because I ferment a lot of brassicas and mustard seeds (also brassicas) seem to be a great complement to them. But I was a bit bored, and I had an herbstravaganza in my yard so I decided to snag a few sprigs of mint for this one.
A few words on lactopickling with herbs: depending on the hardiness of the herb, it will likely breakdown more quickly than your vegetables. You have a few choices.
- Deal with it. Your herbs will get a little slimy, but nothing bad will happen. Pack them in the bottom for maximum slime-avoidance. This might work better than the other options for crock fermentation.
- Strain your pickles out of brine and add them back in to a lightly salty brine. You’ll lose the good bacteria in the brine, and flavor may be a little compromised.
- Keep the herbs in for a limited time, which will mean keep them accessible using a linen tea bag or the like. You also need to be aware that every time you access an anaerobic ferment during fermentation, you are potentially putting a kink in the works. Allowing air in, changing temperature, introducing new yeast and bacteria, allowing something to float to the surface: these are all ways that you could “mess up” a ferment. Hasn’t been a huge problem for me but be aware that it could be, and for that reason I don’t usually use this method.
- Add the herbs after fermentation, just before refrigeration. This method will take a bit longer, and you will still need to remove the herbs after a few days.
I have used and do use all of these methods, but my preference is for the last one. You still have to remove your herbs after a few days, but I find the flavor infuses really well this way, almost like a cold-brew iced tea, and you don’t have to risk introducing air during fermentation to get them out. This also allows flexibility for how you choose to keep your veggies submerged (crocks, pickl-its, swingtop jars with gaskets all can be used with this method). If you choose the first, you will have to put your pickled veggies into fresh liquid and that raises the question of salt level. If you put them in plain water, salt will leach from the veggies. If you put them in brine, you are going to be double-salting them. You also lose all the good, lactic acid bacteria present in the brine you get rid of. My recommendation is reflected in the recipe, but you can decide what works best for your fermenting method.
MINTY TURNIP PICKLES
Yields a quart of pickles, easily scalable
I’m aware that the choice of mint might seem odd, but I’m feeling a little too proud of myself for how unexpectedly fresh, unique and delicious these taste. In fact, I served these as samples at my last two classes at the wonderful Blooming Glen Farm and the amazing Fair Food Farmstand and I had several people comment on the particular deliciousness of those two, and a few even replicated them in the class. Give it a shot. They kind of rock.
If you’re new to lactopickling, please check out my Pickle FAQ before you get started!
- Quart jar
- Something to use as a weight during fermentation (smaller jar, boiled rock, plastic bag full of brine, etc)
- A cloth to cover your jar
- A rubber band or string for attaching cloth to jar
- ~2 lbs of hakurei or other small turnips, washed but unpeeled
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- ~2 cups of filtered water
- 3, 3-inch sprigs of fresh, garden mint
- Chop your turnips as you see fit. Mine we small enough to quarter precisely. Leaving a centimeter or so of greens on top has a pleasing visual effect.
- Put turnips into jar. It should be a little more than 3/4 full.
- Mix a room temperature brine; hot brine will kill the lactic acid bacteria which are necessary for fermentation. I used 1 tablespoon of salt to 2 cups of water. You can adjust this to your taste preference.
- Once salt is dissolved, pour brine over vegetables, and use your preferred method to submerge the vegetables, ensuring that there is about a 1/2 inch of liquid at the top.
- Use your preferred method to submerge your vegetables. Here is a post explaining how I tend to do it when fermenting in jars.
- Cover with a cloth and secure the cloth to prevent bugs from getting in. Stick someplace room temperature, away from direct sunlight for 2 weeks.
- When your pickles are suitably acidified, remove the weight and stick your mint springs into your brine, weighing them down with pickles.
- Put a lid on the jar and refrigerate it.
- After 2-3 days, remove the mint sprigs. Your minty turnips are ready to eat!