How would you like to bite into what seems like a pickled cucumber slice, only to come away knowing you’re eating something special? Perhaps superior to what you buy at the grocery store, and also packed with healthy probiotics? It’s not hard to do; in fact it’s very easy! And if you enjoy pickles on sandwiches, burgers, or however you like them – perhaps even on their own, you’re very likely to enjoy these. So will your guests, and they may be surprised to discover you made them in less than a few minutes.
Of course, you can’t eat them right away – the secret is in the fact that time and healthy anaerobic bacteria will do all the work for you after your few minutes of labour. These are not exactly the same as cucumber slices pickled in vinegar, but the salt brine that you will use does create an acidic environment which allows for good bacteria to ferment the cucumber while also adding flavours and textures that you’re used to. But, you may find the flavours to be even further enhanced.
Health Benefits of Fermented Cucumbers
In addition, you’re going to get some big health benefits from eating these. As we discussed in our article, “Fermented Foods,” preserving food by fermentation is an ancient process known to man for thousands of years. It is extremely safe and perhaps according to at least one microbiologist, safer than consuming fresh raw vegetables which may be contaminated by “bad” bacteria. When you ferment foods including cucumber, you are allowing good bacteria into the process with eliminates bad bacteria and does not allow them to get a foothold on the food.
In addition, fermenting your food in this manner increases nutrients as well as adding new ones which can make your fermented food even more nutritious than if you only at it raw. We’re not suggesting that you never eat raw fresh vegetables, but do consider adding fermented foods to your diet in order to help your body’s immune system build up its arsenal against disease and illness with evidence that those who consume foods with probiotics are less prone to cold and flu virus outbreaks.
When you consume unpasteurized fermented food, your own digestive system becomes more populated with the good bacteria, which is a very good thing. Without this bacteria, you would become ill.
Fermenting cucumbers is no different. They are a good source of Vitamin K1 and low in calories; especially this variety as we aren’t adding any sugar. If you do find them a bit to savoury for your liking, you can always rinse them in water before eating.
With our fermented cucumber recipe, you will be leaving the skin on – it’s the skin of cucumbers where most of the mineral content is concentrated. As well, this recipe will provide enough to fill a 650 ml Mason jar which is a common size jar that other products such as spaghetti sauce come in at the grocery store. You could of course use a larger 1 quart Mason jar (or Fido Jars, which are preferred if you are planning on doing lots of food fermentation. You can obtain Fido Jars here).
- 1 – 2 average size field cucumbers (one may be enough or it might not be. 2 cucumbers likely to be more than enough to fill a 650 ml jar).
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 Teaspoon black pepper corns
- 2 cups warm temperature water
- 1/2 Tablespoon household salt
Mix salt with water thoroughly so the salt is dissolved in the water.
Add pepper corns and bay leaves to the jar you will be using.
Slice the ends off the cucumber and discard. Then slice the remaining cumber and pack it into your jar until the level of the cucumber slices reaches the shoulder of the jar.
Add the salt water bring (you will probably have a good amount left over, but we suggested this amount to make the ratio of water to salt easy to mix). Pour in enough saltwater brine to cover the cucumber slices.
Screw the lid on the jar, and set on the counter.
Within about 12 to 24 hours, you should see some activity forming in the bottle, consisting of bubbles. This is the anaerobic good bacteria working and are producing CO2. At this point, you’ll want to “burp” the jar two or three times a day to allow the CO2 to escape. If you don’t, you run the risk of pressure build up and the glass jar exploding. This is one reason why Fido Jars come in very handy; they have a rubber seal which allows the CO2 to escape but at the same time, seals off the contents from air and oxygen from getting in.
During the first few days, the cucumber slices near the top may have a tendency to float on top of the brine. Don’t forget that saltwater has a higher specific gravity than pure water and therefore aids in floatation. If you see this happening, simply push down the cucumber slices near the top at the same time as you burp the jar.
Let the cucumber slices ferment for at least three days. After that time, taste one and see how you like it as well as the texture. Longer fermentation periods can give a stronger taste as well as turn the cucumber into a softer “mushier” consistency. We ferment ours for at least a week however, before putting them in the fridge.
They are ready to eat whenever you decide the fermentation process is done to your liking, though. When you put them in the fridge, the fermentation process will begin to stop and the bacteria will go dormant but will not be destroyed such as what pasteurization would do to them. However, they will also continue to age which allows further flavours to develop the longer you keep them in the fridge before consuming them.
Questions? Please feel free to ask in the Comments below. As well, if you made these, how did you like them? We’d like to know!
Sandor Katz: “The Art Of Fermentation.” More here.
Is It Safe To Ferment Foods?
Drosinos, EH et al., (2012) Nutritional attributes of lactic acid fermented fruits and vegetables. Agro Food Industry Hi-Tech 23 (5) 46-48.