Recipes

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After the homebrew buzz, the White House beer recipes for the Honey Ale and Honey Porter have been published. I was hoping the administration would initiate a trading program (and legalize sending beer by mail along the way), but I suppose letting the nation’s homebrewers make it themselves is more efficient.

The recipes are below, and for a little nuance in following them, Garret Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery has written up his interpretation of the White House Honey Ale.

Recipe for the White House Honey Ale

Recipe for the White House Honey Porter

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a large mason jar full of cucumber pickles with dill and garlic

My experiment making fermented cucumber pickles with tea is over, and the verdict is: tea keeps pickles crunchy. I’ll definitely be trying it again to see if I get the same results. For the recipe I used, see part one here.

Closeup of a quarter pickle, sliced lengthwise, on a cutting board

I pulled them out of the crock after three weeks of daily temperatures that went from 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night to 80 in the afternoon. They’ve got a good flavor, and I don’t taste the two tea bags, but they are certainly crunchy pickles! They’re also a little too salty. Next time I’ll lower the ratio of salt to water and see how that influences the crispiness.

Tea-fermented cucumber pickles and garlic in a bowl

I added tea because the tannins it contains help slow the pectinase enzymes that break down plants’ cell walls, which are made of pectin. It’s the stuff that makes fruit ripen. As those walls soften, so do the cucumbers. The traditional way to get tannins into fermented pickles is with grape leaves, horseradish leaves, and oak leaves. A lot of other plants have high tannin levels–I almost used plum leaves until I read that they could be poisonous. Tea is so accessible it seems like a great alternative. If you give it a try, tell me how it goes.

Here’s the original recipe.

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I started some cucumber dill pickles this weekend, and I added two bags of tea. Why? It’s said that fresh grape, cherry, oak, or horseradish leaves can add tannins that keep cucumber pickles crunchy. I didn’t have any of those, so I threw in two tea bags instead. I’m excited to find out what happens! Will fermenting dill pickles with tea keep them crunchy? Time will tell.

[Update: See how the pickles turned out in this post.]

Meanwhile, here’s what I did.

pickling cucumbers in a bowl

I washed and cleaned three pounds of smallish cucumbers.

a bunch of dill on a plate

I got a bunch of dill.

closeup of dill flowers

The best dill to pickle with has passed the flowering stage and started to develop seeds. The bunch I found was only starting to flower but it smelled great.

peeled garlic in a bowl

I peeled about two heads of garlic.

whole black pepper kernels in a small bowl

Got some whole black pepper.

Hand holding two bags of black tea

And two bags of black tea.

cucumbers in a pickling crock

I laid the dill stalks into the bottom of a crock and threw in the garlic, pepper, and tea bags. Then I laid the cucumbers on top. For more ideas on pickling vessels, check out this post on storing pickles.

a crock of pickles weighted down under brine

Then I laid down some weights to keep everything submerged and added a brine of three quarts water mixed with 9 tablespoons of salt.

This crock comes with its own lid that forms a water seal to help keep mold-carrying air away from the surface of the brine. You can see more about air-sealing your pickles here.

The surface of pickle brine showing signs of fermentation below

Three days later, my kitchen started to smell like dill and the surface of the brine showed these bubbles, a sure sign that fermentation was happening. If you look carefully at the picture you can also see two white islands of mold on the upper left between the two pepper kernels and another up at the top, at 12 o’clock. The next day those had gotten even bigger, with little blue spots at their center, and I scooped them out with a spoon.

The cucumbers still have a few more days of fermentation to go. I’m curious to know if the tea kept the dill pickles crunchy, and whether it gave them an interesting flavor, too.

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