Wild and Lazy Fermentation

Fractal Pickles

These pickles are fun even if you hate geometry!

This weekend I attended Philly BarCamp, if you don’t know what BarCamp is, you should check out this link.  It’s an excellent, fun, nerd-filled unconference in which participants show up to learn and teach.  If it sounds a little chaotic, it is.  This year, we had a great app to help manage sessions and schedule, which was enormously convenient.

I attended some truly wonderful sessions, including one on language and design, one on Net Neutrality and how screwed we pretty much are and one on expertise.  These sessions were so good, that when I decided to give my own semi-unplanned fermentation talk late in the afternoon, I was actually quite nervous.  I say “actually quite” because I really enjoy public speaking, and there are few things I like talking about more than fermentation.  But it turned out fine!  I had a really active and inquisitive group that grew rather than shrank as my talk continued.  And though I might have scared some people with my political angst about anti-bacterial soaps and the American fear of mold and microscopic life, I hope at least most people learned something.  I plied them with samples of apple cider kefir, kimchi, desem sourdough bread and carrot and radish pickles.  As a bonus, I’ve been invited to join up with a few people as the Head of Food Preservation when the zombie apocalypse inevitably comes.

So, in honor of BarCamp, and the many awesome nerds who gave their participation, time and expertise to make it a great day, I give you a ferment every nerd can love:  a fractal pickle!  Be warned, this is an advanced pickle.  Not because making this is in anyway challenging, but because sometimes cauliflower, broccoli and their close  relatives have an especially funky odor in a lacto-fermented pickle.  I love it!  But you might want to try a smallish batch to make sure those you feed will like it too.


On their way to funkytown

Fractal Pickles

2 small heads romanesco broccoli, or any other fractable (get it? fractal + vegetable) you find at the farmers’ market

4-8 cups of brine, depending on the size of your container (I used a half gallon jar, tightly packed and used about 7 cups of brine)

  1. Rinse Romanesco well
  2. Pull heads apart into individual points
  3. Pack heads tightly but carefully into container.  Avoid crushing or breaking them
  4. Pour brine (I like 1T of salt: 2 c water) over vegetables until they are totally submerged
  5. Place a weight (a rock, my ghetto jar submersion system, your crock weights) on top of vegetables to make sure they remain underneath the surface of the brine
  6. Place jar in a room temperature spot away from direct sunlight and other ferments
  7. Let it sit for 1-3 weeks, depending on your acidity preference
  8. Go look at pictures of other beautiful fractals or learn about them from the master


  1. Maureen Batali
    Posted April 2, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    You said”Place jar in a room temperature spot away from direct sunlight and other ferments” does this mean I cannot grow my kombucha SCOBY, make kefir water and make vinegar in the same cabinet? I totally just did all of that today and was hoping to store them all in the same cabinet in my room where it is warmer.

  2. Amanda
    Posted April 2, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Hi Maureen,

    So the only possible issue would be if you put two cultured ferments in the same, small space (like two different strains of yogurt, kefir and kombucha, etc). The word is that those cultures could cross somehow and ultimately weaken each other. A pickle and a cultured ferment are fine together. Also, I’ve read in The Art of Fermentation that this is bunk anyway. According to Mr. Katz there is no real risk of cross-contamination. I keep my ferments separate from each other by habit now, and if I’m culturing two different yogurts, I do try to give them a bit of space. Same for my kombucha, water kefir and milk kefir. You’re most likely fine, though.

    One thing: remember that your kombucha and vinegar need a lot of air for proper fermentation. I’m sure your cupboard is fine, but that’s just something to keep in mind if you start having problems with any of your cultures.

    Good luck! Let me know how they turn out!

  3. Maureen Batali
    Posted April 3, 2013 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for the clarification…they all have a place of their own and a bit of breathing room. Better safe than sorry first time around! I’ll let you know my results…

  4. Amanda
    Posted April 3, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Cool! You could totally try to put a closet full of ferments together with spare stuff and see what happens. SCOBYs and water kefir grains would be good candidates since they reproduce so fast. If you have success with that, please let me know.
    I completely and utterly trust Sandor Katz, but some habits are hard to break!

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *