The first thing I do when I get to the farmers’ market is scan the stalls for unfamiliar vegetables. Some are similar enough to vegetables I know don’t ferment well that I feel comfortable passing them by. Then there are others, total weirdos I’ve never encountered before (or never noticed before; you know, like when you learn a new word, and suddenly the whole wold is saying that word a ton?). Those I usual try to ferment because I’ve come across some serious pickling gems that way. I don’t always share those here because I know that while most people can buy, say, bell peppers in the grocery store, lemon cucumbers can be harder to come by.
I kinda changed my tune on that recently, though. The nature of new-to-you ferments could well be that finding the ingredients to make them is challenging, and maybe, if you come across some of the fun veg I play with, you’ll buy it because you’ll have an idea of what to do with it. So in that spirit, look for all the normal veg ferments you see here in the summer, but please don’t leave annoyed comments about how you can’t find the vegetable in your area. If you don’t have these ingredients in your area, just think of these posts as inspiration for you to ferment the things you find in your area that I may not ever have had access to.
Today’s special vegetable is celtuce. Celtuce is my new best friend. It’s a “stem lettuce,” which is not a thing I was aware existed before I stumbled across it at the Plowshare Farms market High Street on Market on Saturdays. It was a fortuitous stumble, though, that got me all hyped on cucumber texture with hazelnut flavor. Seriously, that’s what celtuce tastes like. I fermented it with normal, basic starting recipe and I did it plain so I could see how the flavors changed during fermentation.
Fermented Celtuce Pickles
Because I was only able to get my hands on celtuce a couple times, I haven’t tested this “recipe” as thoroughly as I usually would. It’s just a basic pickle, though, and I’ve made enough pickled vegetables of all varieties this way to know that it works. One thing I did differently between batches was to remove the peel (but include it in the jar), but include it during fermentation. It wasn’t necessary, and in fact, the outer area was the sweetest and most delectable part of the vegetable. In a few bites, the inner celtuce was a touch bitter. So leave those peels on, minus and discolored or soft parts. If you get a bit of peel that’s tough when you’re chowing down, consider it extra fiber or discard it.
- 1 pound (460 g) stem celtuce
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (16.5 g) kosher salt
- 1.5 cups (355 ml) filtered water
(If you need more brine, mix 1 tablespoon salt to two cups of water, or a 4.5ish% brine)
Wash celtuce and remove leafy part. Cut out any soft parts or anything that seems super tough.
Slice celtuce into 1/4 to 1/2 inch rounds (think cucumber slices). They’ll weep a little milky liquid. It’s NBD. Place celtuce slices into a quart (1 L) jar, but be sure to leave about 1 inch (5 cm) between the top of the vegetables and the rim of the jar.
Stir salt into water until it’s pretty much dissolved. Pour liquid into jar and apply your favorite weight to celtuce. The brine should cover the vegetables, but just barely. The vegetables will release more liquid, and the natural fermenty bubbliness can cause overflow if you overfill the jar.
Cover the jar. If this is your first time at the pickling rodeo, start here for tips on weighting and covering.
I stopped the batches I made at 5 and 6 days, and I thought they were very ready. I know it’s a short ferment, but this is a lettuce stem, after all, so we can’t expect it to stay crispy forever.
Remove the weight, secure the jar lid and store in the fridge. Enjoy within a couple weeks for best texture. If you’re still liking the texture after a longer fridge time, keep on enjoying them!