Got pickle questions? Please, just ask us …

A jar of half-sour pickles

A jar of half-sour pickles

Got questions? Feed The Spirit hopes to help! Here’s an example …

Constant reader and Read the Spirit columnist Debra Darvick had a few questions about making pickles, after reading guest writer Eliezer Finkelman’s recent Feed The Spirit column: Pickles with character! Tips for pickling more than cucumbers. Debra asked about using an enameled metal pot for fermenting and also whether the crock should be covered.

We asked Eli to respond:

It gives me great pleasure to try to help my friend Debra with pickle-related questions.

I do not know the answer about enameled metal. I would worry about whether the iron might react with the brine, if there exist any cracks in the enamel. I would prefer a non-reactive vessel, such as glass or plastic.

You do not want a tight-fitting lid. As the pickles ferment, the brine gives off a gas. As my son discovered in his first attempt at copying his father-in-law’s pickle recipe, if you let it ferment in a sealed vessel, the vessel will explode, and your kitchen will smell of pickles for a substantial time thereafter.

Or you could have a tight-fitting lid, as long as you do not seal it tightly. Covering the vessel as the pickles ferment serves to keep “stuff” out. People usually use cloth. You also might want to cover the cukes and tomatoes with a weighted plate to keep the cukes below the brine level.

(Feed The Spirit host Bobbie Lewis adds: My daughter took one look at my plastic tub of fermenting veggies and said, “You should cover that”—so we put the tub lid on top of the tub slightly askew, and didn’t fasten it.) 

The whitish froth on the top of a batch of fermenting pickles  occurs as a normal part of the process.
You can get peppercorns at supermarkets or groceries without too much trouble, I think. I have not tried pickles w/o peppercorns, but I bet they would work, just tasting a little different. (Bobbie: Look for “whole black pepper” in the spice aisle.)
The pickles ripen faster in hot weather than in cold. Taste them after a few days at room temperature, and you might find half-sours. After a week or two at room temperature, you probably will taste old-fashioned sour pickles. These pickles should look and taste like classic sour pickles.

If you started with large cucumbers, the texture might feel a little different: not as firm.

Good luck, and hearty appetite!

Eliezer
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