Thursday, July 17, 2014

Prolific Pods

My garden is being taken over by the Rat's Tails again. I planted maybe half of what I did last year, and I still can't keep up with all of them. I go out and pick some every morning and again in the afternoon, but the pods seem to grow exponentially, over night. It's like Invasion of the Body Snatchers over here.

I'm trying a different tactic today- instead of picking off individual pods, I'm pruning the plants back to a new flower stem, in hopes that it will buy me some time in between harvests. Only time will tell how that turns out, but in theory, it should work out nicely. I'll keep you posted.

For now, though- here's what I got from trimming:

Pile of Pods

All cleaned up
But what to do with them? Why, pickle them, of course! Last year I let them get way too big, and the pods got too tough and woody to really be enjoyable. I thought lacto-fermenting would soften them up enough, but it wasn't quite enough. The flavor was great, though- briny, spicy and they kept some of their radish bite, although it was toned down a bit. This year, I wanted to make sure to get a batch in while they're still small.

Fermentation Station
One of the things I like best about making fermented pickles is that it's really forgiving. I can make the batch as large or as small as I want, so it's excellent for experimenting. I got about 2 cups of tails today, so that was plenty for a little batch. I used a cup of brine from the sauerkraut I made previously, just to kick start it, but all you really need is salt, water, and whatever spices. Here's the run down of what's in my jar:
  • 2 cups rat's tail pods
  • 4 oz carrots, sliced 1/8th inch thick. 
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon mixed pickling spice (use whatever brand you like)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup existing brine
  • 2 cups water
Everything went in the jar, in the order you see them above. I cleaned the pods, then sliced the carrots on my mandolin, and dropped them both into the jar. Next I peeled the garlic, and plunked that into the jar, whole. In went the pickling spice and salt, and I shook the jar really hard at this point, to combine everything and kind of bruise up the veg a little bit. The liquids went in last, and then I carefully sunk a smaller jar inside as a weight to keep the veggies submerged. Once that was in to my liking, I used a piece of cheesecloth and one of the rings to keep any debris out of the brine while it's fermenting. 

(If you want to try this, and don't have live brine to use, double the salt and use 3 cups of water total.)

This will sit on the counter for about a week- since it's so warm right now, it should ferment pretty quickly. I'll keep an eye on it to make sure everything stays submerged, since it's under the liquid where all of the magic happens. I'll also need to skim off any foam that may show up on the surface, but for the most part, this will be hands off from here on out. I'll start tasting the pods after 4 days or so, and when it's to my liking, stick a lid on it and put the jar in the fridge to slow any future fermentation. (Unlike a vinegar pickle, it never stops- but the cold will slow it down considerably.)

Easy peasy! Have you ever tried making fermented pickles? 

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