I've wanted to try brine pickle-making for a while, and at yesterday's greenmarket I saw some really nice kirby cukes and decided it was time to finally try my hand at the technique. This is just Day 2...and only time will tell how this little experiment of mine works out.
For background, I checked out the vegetable ferments chapter and sour pickle recipe in Sandor Ellix Katz's (aka Sandorkraut, the king of ferments) always-informative book, Wild Fermentation (such a terrific resource - sourdough bread, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, beer, wine - it has it all). First I made a brine by dissolving 2 Tbsp of Celtic sea salt in about 16 ounces of filtered water (A "light brine" consists of 1 to 2 Tbsp of salt per 1 quart of water -- since it's darn hot in these parts, I decided to make a saltier brine, hoping it would better preserve the cukes).
With only a couple of smallish jars on hand (one 16 ounces, the other 20), I decided to make two small batches: one with spears, the other with slices. I ended up using a total of about 16 ounces of brine.
I should mention that Sandorkraut also recommends adding a tannin-containing leaf (such as cherry, grape, or oak) to the pickles in order to keep them crisp. I didn't have any tannic leaves on hand, so that will have to wait for next time.
Unlike vinegar picklimg, brine pickling requires the jars be open to the air in order for the fermentation to proceed (so the Lactobacilli and other beneficial microorganisms can get in). In addition, the vegetables must be completely covered in brine, otherwise they can go moldy. So on top of the cukes in each jar I placed a smaller jar, partially filled with water, as a weight to keep the cukes completely submerged in the brine. The last step was to cover the jars with cheesecloth to keep out any bugs, and that's it.
Now the only thing left to do is wait -- which is the hardest part! I can't wait to taste these pickles. They should be ready in about a week; once they're nicely soured they can be transferred to the fridge for longer storage (refrigeration slows down the fermentation process and keeps them at about the same sourness level).
Have you brined before?