Thank you all so much for the lovely welcome back. I got so many great responses to my pickle post that I wanted to expand on it.
Of all the ways I preserve food, pickling is probably my favorite. It can be done with nothing more exotic than a vegetable and salt. I have used old jars that would have otherwise landed in the recycle bin (as long as the pickles are not going to be canned). Any number of pickles can be stored for months in a root cellar and many will last a good long time right on a kitchen counter-at least they would if my kids didn’t eat them first. People who profess that they hate vegetables (oh, the shame!) readily eat fermented broccoli and cauliflower. Nutritionally, there is even some enhancement in some cases.The live bacteria is an aid to digestion and will help keep your stomach’s flora in proper balance. Then’s there’s the variety. I have made pickles out of bits of this and that have turned into family favorites. And finally, pickles can elevate a rather pedestrian meal to something special. We go through a jar every night in the winter around here and my two favorite pickle books show it.I use Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz all the time.
The Katz book till teach you what you need to know about lacto-fermentation. I have not fermented beets this way as we like the sweet pickle variety but I I have done many other vegetables with just salt and water.
Now I don’t have a salt mine but I do have a food co-op and I bought an 80 pound sack of salt from mine several years ago. Salt keeps forever and if there is one food to purchase in bulk this is it. Mind you. 80 pounds of salt does seem to weigh more than 80 pounds of almost anything else so you might want to remember that when you think about whether or not you are going to try to carry it into the house yourself. Be sure to get a good quality salt. Regular old table salt will not do for this. You want a pure, flaked salt with no additives like iodine.
Water also matters. If you have heavily chlorinated water, coming from your tap, find a spring someplace or let your water sit until the bleach smell dissipates. Bleach will kill the beneficial bacteria you need to make a pickles.
Finally, watch your kitchen hygiene. You don’t want competition between the good cultures and the bad ones. I have never gotten sick from a pickle but I have lost pickle batches to random spoilage.
Today, I am making pickled turnip. My early turnips need to be harvested but my root cellar is to warm for storage. I hope I will have 5 pound of turnips to peel and shred. Mix 3 tablespoons of salt with the shredded turnip in a nonreactive bowl. Pack the mixture in a one gallon jar. Make a brine of 1 1/2 tablespoons salt with a quart of water. Fill a plastic bag with the brine and use this to weigh the turnip down in the jar. You don’t want any air to come in contact with the vegetable. Set the jar someplace where the temperature is between 60 and 75 degrees. Check to be sure thatthe turnip is below the level of brine every 24 hours. If you find some scum, don’t panic. Just remove the bag, skim off the scum, wash the bag and return it to the jar. You might find that you don’t have quite enough brine. Just add some of the brine from the bag to the jar. It will take 2 to 4 weeks for this to ferment. When it’s done, cap the jar and keep it in the refrigerator or in your root cellar if it’s cool enough. 38 degrees is about right.
You can can this in a boiling water bath (20 minutes for pints and 25 for quarts) or let pints or quart jars sit on 180 degree water for thirty minutes. I have not done this before but I plan to try it today as the result is not cooked and should retain more vitamins.
From a preparedness standpoint, know how to ferment could be a lifesaver. The power may be out but you will still have a way to preserve your food. Just don’t forget to stock up on the salt.