Tuesday, September 17, 2013

fun with fermentation

in which our plucky heroine, with a desire to encourage microlife to generate tasty pickled things, chronicles experiments in lacto-fermentation, and realises that a degree in aesthetics and enameling does not qualify one for microbiology...

Two weeks ago, September 6, with the acquisition of some pickling cucumbers, I began to try and ferment my own pickles, after finding my own tastebuds had shifted from decades of hating pickles, to now finding them delectable. What can I say but it must be peer pressure, similar to the exponential growth of urban and suburban chicken keeping...

On the next day, in the mailbox was a package from my friend Kada, who sent me these fascinating new bits of equipment to add to the great Pickling Experiment! (two air locks, two corks, and a non-metal lid with a 3/4" hole; it will not be that difficult to cut another lid to have dual airlocks) as well as a link to her pages with information about the process.

So now I have two different batches of pickles going, one in a half-gallon mason jar with an airlock, and the other in an open-top glass container, covered with a clean cloth and topped with the glass lid. Both containers have a glass weight inside, under the brine, to keep the protopickles from floating. I am doing SCIENCE! or at least something like, with an opportunity to compare and contrast.

several days later... The initial bubbling of fermentation seems to have stopped. The open container has developed rather unpleasant looking mold on top, small floating islands of white centered with black. Not appetizing.

several more days have passed... The jar with the airlock has continued cloudy, and now has a thin whitish scum on the surface, and drifting white specks;

...although the cukes within look rather more like pickles.

The open jar is now even more alarming, whilst the black and white mold seems to have stopped forming (I was skimming it off every day) the surface of the brine now has a strange pinkish coating on it

...and there are large whitish clumps all admixed with the contents of the jar.

The cloth that was covering the open jar (under the lid) appears to have some of the reddish whatever either splashed on to surface, or growing there.
I see a need for bleach and sunshine in the future. The contents of the jar will be going in the compost bin shortly, and the jar and plate will be not only washed but scalded with boiling water.

My first pretty attempt at pickles didn't work out very well... but while so far there has been no success, I am determined to continue experimenting so as to eventually add this skill to my repertoire. Stay tuned for "Return of fun with fermentation"...


  1. We are willing to share our recipe for lacto fermented pickles with you.We don't use those fancy looking gadgets to make ours.We also only leave ours out on the counter for a short amount of time and the pickles finish in the fridge.

    One thing I was wondering about is sunlight,I know when we make ours we place our crock away from any sunlight.A crock won't let light through but your glass jar will.Not sure if this is your issue but it could be adding to it.

  2. Thanks Rois, I'd love to have your recipe! I am sure that making pickles is an artform with many many variables, and different folks use different protocol. I am really wondering if having the pickle crocks next to the kombucha was part of the problem as well. I shall just keep experimenting. Do you sterilize your jars before starting? The other concern I have is how bitsy my fridge is - I can just imagine it being filled up with pickle jars!!