Fresh vegetables, salt, water, and some spices or fresh herbs are all you need to make Lacto fermented pickles. You don’t really need a recipe, not any more than you need one for baking bread, provided you keep in mind the right proportion of salt to the water.
Although brining is slower than vinegar pickling, the process is remarkably simple and trouble-free. You just put your fresh, clean, unwaxed vegetables and aromatics into a clean crock, jar, or oak pickle barrels. Then you mix up a brine, stirring pure salt into water until the water first clouds and then clears again. You pour the brine over the vegetables to cover them well, then weight them so they stay immersed.
How Long to Lacto Ferment Pickles
You don’t have to limit yourself to cucumbers, either; other vegetables, such as cauliflower, snap beans, peppers, zucchini, peas, tomatoes, carrots, and brussels sprouts, are also very good brined. Among the world’s Lacto fermented pickles, brined cabbage—whether it’s called sauerkraut, kimchi, or something else—is probably even more popular than brined cucumbers. You can even brine some fruits (apples or plums).
Within three days, usually, fermentation will have begun. If you’re using a clear jar, you’ll see tiny bubbles rising inside. A yeasty scum may begin forming on top. You’ll want to skim off most of this every day. The room will fill with an irresistible aroma, and if you taste the brine you’ll find it quite tart. (You’ll understand why some people prefer the brine to the pickles, and use it as a soup stock, a hangover remedy, or just a refreshing drink. For many women in eastern Europe, it is also a cosmetic. )
Within a week, two weeks, four weeks, or six, fermentation will have slowed, and your Lacto fermented pickles will be deliciously sour. If they are cucumber pickles, they will be olive-green throughout. They will be ready to eat.
If you’re making kimchi or another Asian pickle, the fermentation time may be only a few days. In this case, the brine gets sour, but the vegetables don’t completely ferment. These are pleasantly sour but still fresh-tasting pickles.
How Much Salt to Lacto Fermented Pickles
Old-time picklers, though, couldn’t rely on volume measurements, since there was no guarantee that the density of one year’s salt matched that of the preceding year. Without kitchen scales, old-timers couldn’t weigh their salt. So their recipes often called for “enough salt to float an egg.” This meant a 10 percent brine, which resulted in very salty pickles that would keep all winter in the cellar, but would have to be soaked in fresh water for days before they became edible (after which they might be pickled anew in vinegar and sugar).
If you don’t like salty pickles at all, conversely, you can make them with a brine of only about 3 1/2 percent, using 1/2 cup salt for each gallon of water. If you’re fermenting cucumbers, you can call these pickles half-sours. They will be ready to eat within a week. They won’t be suitable for canning, though, since they may not be sour enough to prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms.
If you want fully sour Lacto Fermented Pickles that aren’t overly salty, use a 5 to 6 percent brine; at room temperature, the fermentation will last two to four weeks. Full sours are suitable for canning.
If you like salty pickles and want a slower fermentation — of six to eight weeks, use a 7 to 8 percent brine. With stronger brines, though, lactic acid fermentation happens slower, so more yeast and gas develop, and cucumber pickles often become “bloaters”—hollow, floating pickles. Mold is more likely to develop, too.
You don’t need a cold cellar to ferment vegetables, although cellars are useful for storing finished pickles. Traditionally, pickles are fermented in an out-of-the-way corner of the kitchen.
The lower the temperature, though, the slower the fermentation. At 55 to 60 degrees F, fermentation in a 5 percent brine may take five to six weeks. Generally, a temperature of 70 to 75 degrees F is preferable, especially in the beginning, as fermentation gets underway.
Temperatures of more than 80 degrees F may encourage the growth of microorganisms that make the Lacto Fermented Pickles soft.
The vegetables in your crock, jar, or barrel must be fully submerged in the brine, or they’ll eventually get soft and off-flavored. One protruding pickle, in fact, may spoil the whole batch. Some people use for weights well-scrubbed rocks other – water-filled jars.[penci_recipe]