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.
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.
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.