Tuesday, August 29, 2017

End of Summer and the Picking is Easy

It's hard to believe summer is almost over! Today is August 29th, and still very warm outside. I had to wait for the garden to be cloaked in late afternoon shade before heading out to water. While outside tonight until 7:30pm, the breeze was so warm it felt like July, what a treat!! That warm breeze also kept the mosquitoes from taking flight so I had a glorious time in the garden... picking, watering and feeding on fresh, warm strawberries.

Seascape strawberries ~  huge, flavorful and juicy
The second crop of Seascape strawberries are magnificent this year... huge, flavorful and juicy. We are very lucky to still have an excellent, abundant supply of high quality, potable water at this time of year. Many farmers and gardeners have suffered in this long, dry spell. Some are experiencing very low water supply and the need to make a choice on where that water is rationed. Livestock and animals are taking precedence over their gardens. It is sad to let the veggies go. As for flowers, well, as I always say... "if I can't eat it, I can't be bothered growing it!"
Big, beautiful berries!!
As the weeks pass by, I'm picking larger bowls of strawberries every 2-3 days. However, I've also noticed more berries are being damaged by a possible rodent in my garden. It's pretty hard to keep all of nature out in organic gardening, so we'll just have to share. The June crop is always ravaged by the robins and their young, along with slugs, wood bugs and other assorted pests. In August, the picking is easy and although a different clientele of pests, we get a descent sized bowl full. These days, more than what we can eat fresh, so a few actually make it to the freezer for winter smoothies.

Corentine cucumbers
The Corentine cucumbers are still producing well. The 12 plants are picked  every 2-3 days to keep the size about finger length. Today's harvest will be packed in a 2-quart jar with dill weed, garlic, pickling spice and a salt brine then topped with my 'E~Z Pickler' fermenting lid. After five days, of fermenting at 21 degrees Celsius, they will be ready for the fridge. 

I leave a few cucumbers on the vine to grow large enough for salad and slicing... or to scoop up hummus or salmon salad. Near the end of their season, I leave more cukes grow larger for one of my family's favorite pickles. They make great 'Aunt Stella's Pickles in a Pail', from my cookbook 'For the Love of Food' page 227.

With September and Back to School just days away, who knows how much longer these balmy days and nights will continue. We are due for rain ...and desperately need it... but for now I'm enjoying this lovely weather and easy, plentiful picking from the garden!

Till next time... Enjoy a safe, long weekend... Happy Gardening and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae

Friday, August 25, 2017

Fermenting Dill Pickles

As we break records for the number of rain-free days, the Corentine cucumber plants have been producing well with dedicated watering. My 'E~Z Picklers' have been put into full production, with several jars fermenting at once. The extra fridge that I call my 'chocolate fridge', (because it was purchased to accommodate my Handmade Truffles), is now operating and filling fast with nine quarts ...so far... of half sour and full sour dill pickles. 'Half Sour' is a deli term referring to pickles in a brine of water and salt. With the 'E~Z Pickler', fermented, half sour dill pickles are easily transformed into 'Full Sours' by adding a small, measured amount of apple cider vinegar AFTER fermentation.
E~Z Pickler, fermenting dills
Lacto-fermented or brined pickles are made at room temperature using raw vegetables and just a saltwater brine. They are not preserved by cooking or canning. There is no need for a culture or starter because a spontaneous fermentation is created by beneficial lactic acid microbes that live on the produce. This is also known as fresh cultured, and lacto-fermented vegetables are self-preserving. After a few days of fermenting at a comfortable room temperature, they only need refrigeration. When pickling is complete, they are still raw, but have transformed into a more digestible food that stays fresh for months in the refrigerator.

Brine Pickling Basics with the 'E~Z Pickler' 
Follow the directions exactly and don't reduce amounts of salt. Don't make dill pickles as your first attempt. We all have a memory of these classic pickles but they were most likely canned in a hot vinegar solution. Fresh brine pickles have a sour taste without vinegar and don't contain additives to make the cucumbers stay crisp. First become successful and familiar with pickling firm vegetables like cauliflower, carrots and daikon radish. 
After a few batches, you can move to cucumbers which need a more practiced skill level.
~ Use filtered water; chlorine, soft or hard water may affect culture 
~ Use unrefined, mineral sea salt - do not use table, pickling or kosher style salt 
~ Use fresh vegetables; organic or untreated, locally grown and in season are best
The first few quarts, ready for the fridge
Storing Finished Pickles 
Once the pickles are finished fermenting at room temperature, store them in the refrigerator. These are not shelf stable pickles. Remove the fermenting lid assembly and separator cup then store in glass jars with the 2-piece snap lid; screw on, then slightly loosen. Mark the date on each jar. Pickles continue to ferment in the fridge at a slower rate. Brine pickles stay fresh in the fridge for 4-9 months... if they last that long!!

After you've eaten all the pickles use the brine in salad dressings or to make lightly pickled vegetables. I have heard the brine called the 'new Gatorade', rich in probiotics and electrolytes. I am not suggesting drinking a large amount but a little shot of chilled brine on a hot day is very refreshing!

I've had a great time at the Denman Island Saturday Farmer's Market this summer. Chatting with and meeting many food enthusiasts from around our province and some from as far away as Australia, Ireland and Germany to name a few. I welcome you to my Blog and look forward to comments and feedback from the new owners of my 'E~Z Pickler'!
Till next time... Happy Fermenting and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae