It’s odd, and somewhat difficult for me to admit this, but pickles are all I think about anymore. I’m fermenting and preserving everything, and just can’t seem to stop. First was the pickle-bucket. Basically, I took a bunch of leftover market cukes, cut them into pickle spears, and submerged them underwater in a 5-gallon bucket, along with salt, dill, carrots, garlic and a couple of oak leaves for crispness. That sat and fermented for around 3 weeks, during which time I pickled and canned large batches of green beans and peppers, in addition to the regular blanching and freezing of various veggies each week. Once the pickle-bucket freed up, yielding around 8 quarts of slightly mushy, but absolutely delicious natural dill pickles, I got a pepper ferment started by chopping a mix of hot and sweet peppers, and submerging them similarly with garlic and salt. After about a month, I plan to blend the fermented mixture for a large batch of some taste bud piquing hot sauce.
Then there’s the jar of minced mixed herbs that’s been fermenting on the countertop for a couple of days — hopefully becoming a zinger of a starter spice-mix — and the seconds carrots and beets waiting to be chopped and bucketed, which will turn into who-knows-what. Like I said, I just can’t stop.
There are a couple of impetuses for this. One is my possession of the book “The Art of Fermentation,” by Sandor Katz, which breaks down into simple and accessible language the processes for fermenting just about anything. The other is the massive excess of vegetables to which I now have access each week from the farm. Fanni and I have long discussed feeding ourselves primarily food that we’ve grown, and given the quantity of available food from Rising Sand, our newly-acquired chest freezers, and an abundance of canning supplies, we may actually be able to eat our own vegetables all the year round.
All this has turned me into a bit of a madman, however, and our house into a bit of a jungle — with random produce hiding around every corner, in various stages of some sort of processing or another. Cherry tomatoes on the dehydrator on the front porch; bunches of basil hanging conspicuously in the spare bedroom; mysterious jar of green liquid on the table; 2-gallon bucket of mixed pepper ferment in the laundry room. It’s become a bit of a sickness, and I find myself a mad scientist in our tiny kitchen on late nights — possessed by and obsessed with the piles and piles of vegetables surrounding me, systematically filing them into forms available for the cold, harsh winter.
One of the unfortunate truths of farming is that no matter how well you plan, there’s a literal ton of vegetables that end up on the compost pile if not accounted for in some other way. These usually entail market leftovers, “seconds” (slightly damaged produce that is basically unsellable), or vegetables that were simply misplanned and planted in great excess. I firmly believe that we need to incorporate food preservation into the fabric of our farm duties next season, because once we’ve planned, grown, harvested and washed these vegetables, we simply can’t afford to let too many of them go to waste. However, we’re just not yet at that point, so the preservation is left to be done on an individual basis. This makes it very hard for me to leave the farm cooler without at least a bin or two of unspoken-for veggies, and once they’re at my house, I’ve got no option but to do something with them.
Which is, of course, an absolute blessing. One simply cannot complain of too many organic vegetables to deal with, and I really do love experimenting with different forms of preservation and fermentation. Last night, though, while changing clothes, I noticed a tiny scrap of paper in the small key pocket of my jeans. Sometimes on rough days, I’ll carry a small note for myself — usually something insightful or uplifting — and it’s always interesting to stumble across past nuggets of insight. Excitedly and expectantly, I pulled it out, opened it up, and faced instead the last bitter remnant of my own personal truth.
4 lbs pickling cukes
4-5 heads fresh dill weed
½ c canning salt
¼ c vinegar
8 c water
Garlic, pickling spice
Same as others-cover-
There is no escape.