Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pickl-It: the perfect counter-top fermenting system

Half-gallon jars of sauerkraut

Does everyone know that I am crazy about fermented foods?  I am.  Crazy about them. 

All the fancy holiday meals that we ate growing up included cut-glass dishes of pickles and olives; what a treat it was to bite into something cool and tart and crunchy with a rich meal.  I remember it well.  

Over the years I've come to understand that my palate has always veered towards savory tang vs. sweet.  (My parents have told me that I ate tomatoes as a little tyke.  Tomatoes!)  I go ga-ga for sour dishes.  They are just so yummy.

Now . . . . add that to my whole foods gut-instinct, then stir in my recent grounding in traditional foods (approx. 5-6 years of study and assimilation), and voila! the path to fermented foods. 

I am crazy-in-love.

Sure, everyone has heard of yogurt.  Or buttermilk.  Or sour cream.  All of which are fermented.  Many tart side-dishes that we are so familiar with, like the classic dill pickle, were once fermented (vs. the current use of vinegar to preserve and give that sour taste).

But what about pickled beets?  Sauerkraut!  Pickled peppers, kimchi, gingered carrots, salsa, fermented bean paste, bread and butter pickles, pickled pearl onions.  And so on.

These delectable dishes are created by allowing chopped (or shredded) vegetables to sit at room temp in a brine of salt and water, or their own juices, in anaerobic conditions for several days.  Instead of decomposing, they start to sour.  They are preserved by the combination of salt and the lactic acid created by anaerobic conditions.  Once the initial ferment is over, they can be feasted upon immediately or moved to cold storage to age and develop a bit more flavor,  i.e. the refrigerator, cold basement, or root cellar.

I have been fermenting for a few years now, with guidance from Nourishing Traditions and Wild Fermentation.  I also participate in two Traditional Foods yahoo groups, which provide discussion and camaraderie for the "trad foodies".

Through connection to these groups, I have found the perfect counter-top fermenting system.  Forget about crocks.  Don't waste your time with canning jars that overflow and corrode.  Use a Pickl-It.  A Pickl-It!  These fermenting jars are so unbelievably worth the investment.  I cannot believe how wonderful they are.  The ease!  The intrigue!  The consistent results!  Production has definitely picked up.

And so . . . with no further ado . . .

May I please introduce you to the Pickl-It --

Initial ferment in the Pickl-It
Beautiful beets, both red and golden

It truly is the perfect fermenting system for the modern kitchen.  Why?
  • Small batches keep things in regular rotation.
  • Small batches allow for greater variety.
  • The airlock ensures perfectly anaerobic conditions.
  • You can see the fruit of your labor as it ferments.
  • It comes with a plug for the bung, allowing for easy storage after the initial ferment.
  • No decanting is required, unless desired.  Simply plug and store.
  • Its small size allows for easy storage in a variety of locations.

I cannot gush enough!  These vessels are AMAZING.  A true delight.  They work beautifully for both the fermenting enthusiast and the serious home preserver.  With two large gardens, I decided on the largest bundle and kept the jars in regular rotation this past summer, amassing a collection somewhere in the range of 30 quarts (around 7 gallons) of sauerkraut, 12 quarts salsa, 3 quarts pickled onions, 4 quarts pickled peppers, 3 quarts pickled beets, and 4 quarts bread and butter pickles.

As you can tell, sauerkraut is my favorite.  L-l-l-l-l-l-ove it.

With that much output, it is necessary that I decant after the initial ferment.  And because I have a fully-functional root cellar, we have plenty of storage space (awesome).  I decant into either quart or half-gallon canning jars, using new lids, and then transfer to cold storage.  No heat processing, as that would destroy the beneficial bacteria for your gut.  I've found this to be an effective strategy, and a good number of the jars seem to have even sealed, enough to keep air out and create a tight-fitting lid that does not "boing" when pressed.

Seriously?  Awesome.

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