Pickles: Raw, Fermented, and Cooked


Earlier in the season I posted a recipe for basic kimchi.  Perhaps it's not what immediately comes to mind when you hear the word "pickle," but pickle it is. For thousands of years people have been pickling foods through the process of fermentation. The basic principle is to salt food (or soak in a salt brine), store anaerobically (without the presence of air), and leave at room temperature long enough for the lactobacillus bacteria to kill off any unhealthy bacteria.  In this natural process of preserving perishables, a host of B-vitamins are produced, and the sour taste is an added bonus. At some point in history, vinegar (also a fermented product) became a main component in modern pickling. Most pickled vegetables in grocery stores have been processed with vinegar.  The reason for this is that the 5% acidity in vinegar is enough to reliably and consistently kill off bacteria and anything else that would produce a food borne illness.  The downside is that vinegar inhibits the growth of probiotics as well.  Heat processing, or canning will further reduce the natural vitamin C content, but allows food to be preserved safely for years.

We have used cucumbers, beans and corn, but you can try any of the methods with squash, peppers, or your favorite vegetable. If you are curious, and would like to do some experimenting of your own, here are three methods of pickling vegetables for you to try:

Method 1: Easy Dill Pickles by Chop Chop Magazine

(Click link above for the recipe)

This method uses the process of fermentation, while also using vinegar for flavor and faster pickling.  The vinegar inhibits the growth of  bacteria, so the fermentation will not be as active as a salt-only method.  However a benefit to this method is that because the cucumbers are never cooked or exposed to heat processing, the natural vitamin C content is preserved.

Method 2: Dilly Beans

This Method uses a traditional salt and vinegar brine and water bath canning for long-storage preservation.  The benefit of this method: Once canned and sealed, the jars of food do not require refrigeration and can be stored safely for years.  The downside is that much of the natural vitamins are reduced in the heat-processing. Nevertheless, these pickled beans are delicious!

Ingredients (for one quart of beans):

1 lb green beans, washed, stem end trimmed, and strings removed

1 Cup vinegar (5% acidity)

1 tsp kosher salt

1-2 Cloves of garlic, peeled

5-6 black peppercorns

1 Yellow cayenne hot pepper

3 Sprigs of fresh dill leaves, or one seeded dill flower head


In a 12-quart sized stock pot with lid and rack (a small aluminum disc with holes for raising jars slightly off the bottom surface of the pot), or water bath canner; boil about 10 quarts of water.  Have a second pot of boiling water available for topping up when you are ready to seal the jar.  Sterilize a quart-size mason jar and lid (wide-mouth is easier for this recipe).

Place the salt, cayenne hot pepper, garlic clove, peppercorns and dill in the bottom of the jar.  Pack the beans in the jar as tightly as possible.  You can stand them all upright if they are whole, or cut them into pieces.  Combine the vinegar and water in a small saucepan and boil. Pour the vinegar and water mixture into the filled jar, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Place lid and band on the jar, tightening to fingertip tight.

Using a canning jar lifter, place the jar of beans into the large pot of boiling water.  Top up with enough boiling water to cover the jar of beans entirely.  Place lid on the pot of boiling water and set timer for 5 minutes, (10 minutes if you are at an elevation of 1,001 ft or greater above sea level, 15 minutes if above 6,000 ft).

Once processing time is done, carefully remove jar with the canning jar lifter and place it on a cloth.  Let cool completely before checking that it is sealed.  Remove band and wipe away any moisture. Store in a cool, dark place for at least 6 weeks before opening and tasting.

Method 3: Pickled Beans and Corn

This is a traditional salt brine fermentation.  The corn and beans are blanched before brining to make the texture a little softer, but that step is not required.  This method makes the most of the natural pickling process.  Lactobacilius bacteria (present in the vegetables), converts sugars into lactic acid, which preserves the vegetables.  This process also produces B vitamins, while also preserving Vitamins C and A that are at their highest in raw vegetables.


1 lb of green beans, ends and strings removed, cut into 1-inch pieces

2-3 Ears of sweetcorn, shucked and silks removed

2 Garlic cloves

2 Yellow cayenne hot peppers (dried or fresh)

4 Tbs pickling salt


Clean two quart-sized canning jars and their lids and place a clove of garlic and a cayenne pepper in each clean jar.  In a large bowl combine two quarts of water and 4 Tbs of pickling salt. Set aside.

Boil a large pot of water.  Place ears of shucked and cleaned corn into the water for about 1-3 minutes to blanch (depending on how soft you like the corn), but not too long. You don't want to kill the good bacteria inside the corn kernels.  Remove the corn from the boiling water and dunk it into a bowl of ice water until cold.  Next place the beans in the boiling water for about 30 seconds, or until they turn bright green.  Remove beans from the boiling water and place them in the bowl of ice water until cool.  Drain.

Cut the corn kernels off the cob.  Place the beans and corn kernels in the bowl of salt brine.  Mix and let rest for about 15 minutes.  Using a canning funnel over each jar, scoop the beans and corn out of the brine solution and fill the jars snugly, leaving an inch or two of space at the top.  Pour some of the brine into each jar until the beans and corn are completely covered.  Place lids on the jars and store at room temperature for 1-6 weeks.  Open the jars every day or so to check that they are fermenting and to press the beans and corn back down into the brine.  You can taste along the way to see if they are sour enough.  Once they are done to your liking, you can eat right away, or store the jars in the refrigerator for several months.



Hummus Dip


What's so great about hummus dip?  Besides being a delicious dip for fresh sweet pepper sticks, cucumbers, raw squash sticks, and cherry tomatoes?  It is protein rich, with 2.5 g protein per tablespoon of tahini (pureed sesame seed butter), and about 7 g protein per 1/4 cup serving of chickpeas.   The rich and creamy taste of pureed chickpeas can be flavored in many ways.  This is a traditional recipe, but it is also delicious with a variety of spices or roasted tomatoes, peppers and onions pureed in the mix. Hummus dip with raw vegetables makes a great after-school snack, or can be a nutritious addition to school lunches.


1 Cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), or two cans of cooked chickpeas.

Juice from 1/2 lemon

1/3 Cup of sesame tahini

1/4 Cup of extra virgin olive oil

3 Cloves of garlic, peeled

1 tsp kosher or sea salt (if cooking your own beans, less salt if using canned)

Paprika, to taste

Toasted Garlic Drizzling Oil for garnish (optional)



If you are using dried beans: Rinse and soak chickpeas overnight. Drain the soaking water, then cover with more water and heat to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until tender.  When they are soft enough, drain off the cooking liquid, reserving a little for thinning the Hummus as needed. If using canned chickpeas, drain and rinse them. Do not reserve any of the liquid from the cans.

Place the chickpeas and the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Add water or reserved cooking liquid to thin the dip if necessary. Adjust seasonings to taste.  Serve immediately with freshly sliced vegetables, or portion into snack cups and refrigerate for up to one week.


Heirloom Tomato Soup



10 lbs ripe heirloom tomatoes (any color or variety)

1 Large yellow onion, diced

8-10 Garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/4 Cup olive oil

1 Cup dry white or red wine

1 Tbs Alchemy Spice's Kitchen Karma spice blend

2 Bay leaves

Sea salt and pepper to taste


Method #1 (lots of texture)

In a large stock pot, saute the onions on medium-low heat with a little oil. Wash tomatoes, cut away the core and any bad spots. Chop the tomatoes into large chunks and place them in the stock pot with the onions.  Add the garlic, wine and spices.  Let simmer for at least one hour, but it's great if it simmers for several hours, with occasional stirring.  Taste occasionally and remove from heat when it is suitably done to your taste. Discard the bay leaves. Puree with an immersion blender.  Serve warm.


Method #2 (smooth texture)

Boil 6-8 quarts of water in a large stock pot.  Fill a large bowl with ice and water.  Cut an "x" in the bottom of the tomatoes. Plunge 3 or 4 tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, or until the skins begin to curl away.  Remove the tomatoes with a large spoon or sieve and place them in the bowl of ice water long enough to cool them.  Repeat until all of the tomatoes have been blanched.  Remove the skins, cores, and any bad spots.  Chop the tomatoes into large chunks.  Continue with instructions for Method #1.


Serve with Grilled cheese, tomato and basil sandwiches.


Easy Tomato Baked Chicken



1 1/2 - 2 lbs chicken (portions from a whole hen or boneless thighs)

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 yellow onion, sliced into wedges

2-3 medium heirloom tomatoes, diced or quartered

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Chopped fresh basil (optional)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

2-3 Tbs olive oil

Serve with cooked quinoa, pasta or brown rice




Place all ingredients in a baking dish and combine well. I like to use my hands to massage the tomato mixture into the chicken.  The acids from the tomatoes help to tenderize the meat, so if you want to cover and refrigerate the mixture for up to 24 hours, you can prepare this part ahead of time.  When you are ready to bake, place the chicken and tomato mixture in a preheated oven set at 375 degrees.  Bake uncovered for one hour, (or longer if you want the juices to reduce).  Serve with cooked quinoa, pasta or brown rice.

Kimchi and the Micro-Universe of Probiotics


One of the many reasons why we choose to farm organically is because we want to protect the natural ecosystems of life.  Much of what we see in terms of "pests" that nibble holes in the broad leafy greens, are only a tiny portion of living organisms that depend on vegetables for life and health.  When pesticides are used, It's not just the beetles and caterpillars that are eradicated; even the organisms that are healthy and necessary for digestion are disrupted. Bacteria are part of the life cycle, and for humans and other animals they are necessary in the process of digestion and absorption of necessary nutrients. Lactobacilli is the main naturally-occurring pro-biotic that lives on fresh fruits and vegetables.  When the vegetables are allowed to ferment in an anaerobic environment, the lactobacilli multiply.  This is good news for everyone, but especially for anyone who might have difficulty digesting certain foods.  Other fermented foods such as sour dough bread, yogurt, and cheese are already common in western diets for their taste as well as their nutritional properties. Although pro-biotics are available in pill form at pharmacies, making your own is not only cheaper, it's delicious as well!  This season's CSA shares are full of fantastic fermenters. Cabbages, radishes, spring onions, and kohlrabi are excellent as sour kraut or kimchi.  Give it a try.  And if you are looking for more information about fermenting, contact our local Slow Food Chapter, or read one of the many books about fermenting available online or at your local library.

Kimchi Jars

Basic Kimchi

(Adapted from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz)


(To make 1 quart of Kimchi)

Sea salt (not iodized)

1 lb Napa cabbage, pak choi, or arrowhead cabbage (or a mixture of the three)

1 Daikon radish or a few easter egg radishes

1-2 Fennel bulbs

3-4 Spring onions

4-6 Cloves of garlic

3 Tbs fresh ginger root

3-4 Hot chilies (fresh or dried)



To make the brine, fill a quart jar with filtered water or spring water, then add 4 Tbs sea salt.  Cover and shake until dissolved.

Coarsely chop the cabbage or pac choi, spring onions, and fennel.  Grate or julienne the radishes.  Place in a mixing bowl and cover with the quart of brine.  Cover with a plate or other weight to keep the vegetables submerged in the brine.  Let the vegetables soak for about 2 hours.

Place the garlic, chilies and ginger in a food processor or blender and puree into a paste.  You may need to add a little water or brine to make the paste.

When the cabbage mixture is decidedly salty to taste, drain off the brine into a bowl or jug (you may need some later).  Place the cabbage into a bowl and massage the garlic-ginger paste into the cabbage.  Always make sure to use clean utensils and hands.  (Sterilizing with anti-bacterial or chemical sanitizers are not necessary, but you want to make sure there are more good bacteria present than bad ones that will encourage mold growth. Soap and water for hands and utensils is perfect).  Stuff the cabbage mixture into a clean quart jar, packing in as tightly as possible and forcing the brine to rise.  Bruising the vegetables until they release brine encourages fermentation and removes air pockets.  The lactobacilli bacteria will populate in an anaerobic environment (no air), whereas molds will grow in the presence of oxygen.  However, you need to make sure to Leave about 1 inch of space in the top of the jar because the fermentation process will release gasses and cause the kimchi to swell in the jar.

There are several methods for keeping the kimchi submerged in the brine and discouraging mold growth.  For the sake of simplicity, however, I'm going to suggest keeping the lid on the jar (not too tight!).  Without a weight to hold the vegetables under the brine, you will need to open the jar and press the vegetables down into the brine once a day for a week.  Katz says, "If you think you can remember to check the kimchi every day, you can jus use your (clean!) fingers to push the vegetables back under the brine. I myself like the tactile involvement of this method, and I especially enjoy tasting the kimchi by licking my fingers after I do this.  Either way, cover the jar to keep out dust and flies."  It takes about a week for the kimchi to ferment to a point of ripeness, but you can taste each day and decide how you like it best.  I won't hurt to let it go longer if you prefer.  Leave it in your kitchen or on a shelf (not in direct sunlight) at room temperature, then refrigerate for long storage once it tastes perfect.  It will continue to ferment very slowly in the refrigerator, but can be tasty for months of stored properly.

Kimchi is a very versitile salad or condiment, but my favorite way to enjoy this tasty pro-biotic-filled food is with scrambled eggs and sauteed greens. It's a fantastically nutritious way to start the day.