Fermented foods are manna for good gut flora, and fermented pickles are part of that package. These sorts of pickles are often best done in small batches, so they’re ideal for that handful of beans you can’t motivate yourself to eat, or the courgette that ballooned when you weren’t looking.
You can also save crops that might not be at their best, such as green tomatoes that won’t ripen. Turnips, radishes, carrots, runner and french beans, mangetout, grated horseradish, chillies, peppers and tomatoes are among my favorites.
For most basic ferments, use about two tablespoons of rough, large-grain sea salt in a litre of water, to make a 2-4% brine. A 4% brine makes a very salty pickle, which I love for cucumbers and courgettes, but use less for root veg. You can flavor the brine, too – I tend to add garlic cloves and a good pinch of each of the following: black peppercorns, coriander, mustard seed and dill seed or dill flower heads. I might throw in a chilli or two, and sometimes a few slices of onion.
To make the brine, boil the water, add the salt, then let it to cool to room temperature. In a clean flip-top Kilner jar (or fancy airlock fermentation jar), layer the chopped vegetables and spices. Once they reach the top, add the brine. I like to place a vine leaf on top: fresh vine and oak leaves release tannins that keep the pickles crisp. If I don’t have either of these, use a bit of cabbage: essentially, you want to stop the vegetables from floating to the surface and becoming exposed to the air, because this turns them into compost rather than pickles.
The brine will start to go cloudy, which is a good thing; just keep burping the jar. After a week, the pickle flavours will start to develop; after two, they’ll start to taste good. At this point, put the jar in the fridge to slow the process, and start to enjoy your ferments. Don’t store them for ever – eat them up as they become ready.
Close the jar and leave it somewhere warm in the kitchen (cold areas make slow ferments). Over the next few days, you will have to “burp” your jar as the bacteria that are starting the fermentation process build up CO2 inside.
To do this, gently tug the tab on the rubber seal, which will allow just enough gas to escape. If you can’t tug it easily, open the metal clasp while keeping pressure on the lid, then pull the seal. If you don’t burp the jar, you might find the contents escape of their own accord.
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General Storage Tips
If you are storing vegetables in a plastic bag, poke holes in the bag. Allowing air to circulate around the vegetables helps them store longer.
Open the bag on your greens.
When it comes to greens - wash them right away. Pat the leaves dry, and place them on a damp paper towel. Put them in a plastic bag that's open on one end and stick them in the fridge. This will help them stay nice and crisp for later use.
Here are a a few helpful resources we found through the North Carolina Cooperative Extension on how to get the most life out of your fresh fruits and vegetables at home.
Food Storage 101
by Anne Marie Hampshire • Illustration by Bambi Edlund
Have you ever pulled out a bundle of green onions from the fridge only to discover they’ve gone slimy? Yeah, we’ve been there, too. Avoid this by removing the rubber bands and placing the root ends in a jar filled with an inch or two of water—then keep on the windowsill until ready to use.
Beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips and radishes, oh my! Enjoy the cool season’s bounty longer by cutting the tops off the roots (all but ½-inch) before storing in an open container in the fridge, covered with a damp towel. Store the edible, trimmed greens separately in an airtight container in the crisper.
If, like most of us, you lack a root cellar, store potatoes in a cool, dark place in a basket, bowl or paper bag. Remember to keep potatoes a healthy distance from onions, which can make those spuds sprout more quickly. Also be aware that light causes potatoes to turn green and sprout, and refrigeration causes the potatoes’ starch to convert to sugar and discolor while cooking.
Some herbs—especially basil—are cold-sensitive, meaning they’ll turn black in the fridge before you can say pesto alla Genovese. To keep basil fresh, cut a bit off of the stems and place in a jar of water on the counter away from direct sunlight. Do the same for cilantro or parsley, but place those in the fridge.
Dry-clean your fresh-from-the-coop eggs with an abrasive sponge to remove any dirt or debris, but don’t soak the eggs in water—cold water pulls bacteria from the surface of the egg into the interior. If you prefer rinsing the eggs, wait until you’re ready to use them. Rinsing removes the egg’s bloom, the natural antibacterial coating on the shell. If planning an omelet in the near future, no need to store fresh eggs in the fridge. But to keep eggs longer (up to a month or so), it’s best to refrigerate.
As counter intuitive as it may seem, bread actually gets stale faster when refrigerated rather than left at room temperature. Keep sliced sandwich bread in a bread box or other airtight container, but leave crusty, artisanal loaves in a paper bag.
Discard any bruised or moldy fruit, then store raspberries, strawberries or blueberries in a sealed container in the fridge, where they’ll last for a couple of days. (Note: Wait to wash berries until right before eating.) To keep longer, wash berries carefully, pat dry and freeze on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, transfer to a container and freeze for up to a year.
Wash thoroughly, remove the rubber bands, cut 1 inch off the stems and place upright in a jar filled with about an inch of water. Refrigerate and change the water frequently until ready to use.
Place soft cheeses, such as brie, mozzarella, goat cheeses, and chèvre in an airtight container in the fridge once opened. Wrap hard and semi-hard cheeses, such as Gouda, cheddar or blue, in parchment or wax paper first, then in aluminum foil. Store all cheeses in a warmer part of the fridge—in the vegetable drawer or on the bottom shelf.
Temperature and humidity requirements for specific fruits and vegetables:
Harvesting and storage of garden produce at home:
Practical tips for home food storage:
Quick Tips by Item
* Field Greens: Store in fridge and eat within a few days. Wash just before eating.
* Sugar Snap Peas: Store in fridge and eat within a few days.
* New Potatoes: Store in a cool, dry place. Wash just before eating.
* Sweet potatoes: these are wonderful keepers as long as they are stored in a cool, dry place.
*Squash and Zucchini: refrigerate zucchini and summer squash in a plastic bag for up to four days; don't wash until you are ready to use them.