Shiso Half Sour Pickles (aka how I will be using up my CSA cucumbers for the rest of the summer)

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It’s been a long break! We moved and, with the general chaos that ensued, I haven’t been organized enough to get busy on new fermenting projects. I have been trying to bake a loaf of sourdough every week and have some updates to my first post coming soon. 

Life goes on.  We’re now happily picking up our CSA goodies every other week and trying to get creative using all the produce before it wilts away from neglect.  Last week included a bunch of adorable baby white cucumbers.  On day three, I realized they were starting to lose their snap and there was no way we were going to eat enough salads to win the race against time.  I’ve been wanting to experiment with sour (fermented) pickles for some time, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

It was also a chance to use a bit of the shiso I’ve been growing from seed on our fire escape (which is slightly more spacious than our last place and has not yet been surrendered to pigeons).  If you’ve got a pot and the desire – I really recommend growing shiso. It adds intrigue to everything it touches, is so pretty and is quite easy to grow (so far…).

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Putting this together was so fast and easy that I have very few pictures to post, but the prospect of having sour or half-sour pickles (the longer they ferment, the more sour they get) easily available in just a few days with nearly no prep was too exciting not to share. Sour pickles for everyone!

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Shiso Half Sour Pickles

Makes one jar – multiply with abandon

  • small pickling cucumbers (enough to fill a mason jar, I used four)
  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp yellow mustard seed
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled with root end sliced off
  • 3-4 medium to large shiso leaves
  • 10 grams fine sea salt dissolved in 200 grams cool water (a 5% brine)

Rinse the cucumbers well to clean off any dirt and soak in a bowl of ice water for about an hour to get the cucumbers crisp.

Cut the blossom end off the cucumbers – leaving this on can lead to off flavors.  I wasn’t sure which was the blossom end on some, so I cut both ends off to be sure.

Put the coriander, mustard and garlic in the mason jar. Pack in cucumbers so that they won’t float when you add the brine. Tuck the shiso leaves in amongst the cucumbers and pour the brine over to cover. Cover with the lid screwed just shy of tight (to let air escape during the fermentation).  Label and set aside at room temperature.

That’s it!  Fermentation time depends on temperature (warmer will be faster) and how sour you want your pickles. I like to taste the brine periodically with a clean spoon to check on progress.  Three days seemed like enough for this particular batch – it’s been very warm this week – but I will experiment for longer next time.

I’ve also read that adding a grape or horseradish leaf, or something with tannins (even a green tea bag), helps keep the pickles crisp.  I did not notice an issue with crispness in these pickles – although that might change as they continue to ferment in the fridge – but green tea and shiso half sour pickles sounds like an interesting experiment…

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