Updated: Jun 16, 2020
I can’t get enough of these sour crunchy fermented cucumbers! Have them with smoked salmon bagels, falafel (as shown below), burgers or anything you want to add a bit of 'zing' to! Lactofermentation is completely different to pickling whereby the latter uses vinegar to preserve.
I have researched a lot of recipes (it’s what I do!) on fermented foods! Some use the addition of whey (a by product of cheese making) and some use additional vinegar. To get the true benefits of lactofermentation all you need is SALT and optional flavourings.
There is increasing research giving us evidence of how crucial a healthy microbiome is, not just to digestive health, but how it also strengthens our immune system, improves nutrient absorption, benefits our mental health and even determines our food cravings!
Probiotics capsules are helpful, provided they contain a wide range of bacteria strands, and enough colony forming units. But even then, some research suggests that they only really make a difference while we take them, and good quality probiotics can be very costly.
On the other hand, fermented whole foods contain exceptionally high numbers of bacteria : a serving of homemade, raw, unpasteurised sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) contains more bacteria than a bottle of good quality probiotic capsules. And they are very cheap to make at home - the only cost is the price of the produce, and a little salt. Include these naturally lactofermented cucumbers for a cheap and easy way to boost your family's friendly gut bacteria!
Why not have a go yourself? Here's how:
LACTO-FERMENTED MINI CUCUMBERS
750g mini cucumbers (I got these from Costco but my greengrocer usually stocks them)
2tbsp or 30g sea salt (I used the Himalayan pink variety)*
1 litre of water
Handful of Dill fronds
4-5 garlic cloves
6 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
1tsp black peppercorns
1tsp juniper berries
1tsp fennel seeds
Or honestly use any spice you have or fancy or that you think will complement what you are fermenting. I think the spices listed here complement the cucumbers very well!
You will need large Kilner jar 1.5-2litres capacity and a muslin cloth.
* A couple notes on the brine: Salt concentration is important here. Use a ratio of 1tbsp to every 500ml water so please scale up or down according to how many cucumbers you want to ferment. Too much salt may kill off all of the bacteria preventing fermentation. Too little and the cucumbers won’t ferment either and more importantly won't keep!
First and foremost wash your cucumbers. Feel free to cut them once lengthways or into chunky discs if you prefer but i prefer to keep whole and cut when i am ready to eat!
If your cucumbers are showing any signs of softness, you can perk them up by soaking them in ice water for an hour. Also, do chop off the blossom end of the cucumbers, as they are thought to contain an enzyme that encourages hollow pickles.
Prepare your brine by dissolving the salt in 250ml boiling water. Stir well to dissolve completely.
Roughly crush peppercorns, fennel & juniper using a pestle & mortar, bash garlic once or twice with a rolling pin, roughly chop dill and gently scrunch bay leaves. These will all allow flavours to infuse into your brine solution. Add to the warm brine then allow liquid to cool
Add the cucumbers, packing them tight, so that they will stay submerged when you add the additional water to top up. So now you guessed it, top up with 750ml cold water. If the cucumbers bob up try weighing down with something heavy. I have used a small jar filled with water with a lid to create a cheap weight or just find something sterile and heavy! NO need to buy special preserving weights (whatever next!).
Cover the jar with some muslin or a sheet of kitchen towel secured with a rubber band. You want to keep out foreign objects and insects, while still allowing the cucumbers to breathe while they ferment.
Allow to ferment at room temperature for up to a week. After a couple of days, start smelling or tasting the pickles daily to check whether they have reached your preferred level of sourness. To taste them, make sure you use scrupulously clean utensils and you pack the cucumbers back under the brine.
When you are happy with your pickles, transfer them to the fridge, where they will keep for several months.
Enjoy your pickled cucumbers as a snack, a side dish, in salads or in sandwiches.
I mentioned previously that some people add vinegar to their ferments. This is counterintuitive as it doesn't aid lacto fermentation. The sourness is created by the addition of vinegar and the taste is completely different. Pickling ie the use of vinegar is a method of preservation and improving texture by providing a distinct crunch
I had some cucumbers and brine that didn't fit in my lacto-fermentation jar so I simply added them to another smaller jar and topped up with vinegar with some mustard seeds to create a pickled variety which my children prefer! I am not complaining as any any thing which helps for them to achieve their 5 a day is a bonus in my eyes!!
So this is the final result of my half an hour of work in My Rainbow Kitchen but honestly I had a few other things on the go like preparing dinner for this evening and a spot of homeschooling / revision for good measure!