salt pickles

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cabbage and carraway seeds ready for pickling

Awesome picklers, it’s time for sauerkraut with caraway seed and dill. Familiar and exotic at the same time, sauerkraut is like the pickle poster boy of fermentation’s current popularity. Packed with enough beneficial micro-organisms to make foodies and health nuts go nuts, it also smothers sausages with perfect working-class, old-school credibility. Plus it’s easy to make and hard to screw up.

sauerkraut cabbage ready for shredding


As much cabbage as you like. I usually make 5 or 10 pounds at a time, but I think a half-gallon mason jar is about right for 1 head of cabbage. Tell me if I’m wrong.
A bunch of dill (I used 1 for 5 pounds of cabbage)
1-2 Tbsp caraway seeds per 5 pounds of cabbage
3 Tbsp salt per 5 pounds of cabbage

shredding cabbage for sauerkraut on a mandoline

First, shred your cabbage into a big bowl or crock. If there’s one trick to good sauerkraut, it’s getting the shreds nice and thin and consistently sized. Thin strips will get crispy, crunchy, and pickled all the way through while thick slices risk getting mushy on the outside and staying raw on the inside.

I like to chop the heads in half, cut out the hearts, and then split the halves and shred them with a mandoline. That gets the strips much thinner than a knife does. Watch your fingers!

adding salt to cabbage for sauerkraut

To get a good distribution of salt, stop to add spoonfuls of it as you go along and mix it in with a spoon. You can use your hand but that stings after a while.

cabbage with caraway and dill, soon to be sauerkraut

Mix in the caraway seeds and chopped dill a bit at a time as well. Then punch or pack it all down to force out air bubbles.

glass lid to seal cabbage during fermentation

While it ferments, you want your cabbage pressed under a salt brine away from air to keep it from rotting. In my crock I use a glass lid that just happens to fit perfectly. A plate would work well, too. If you’re using a mason jar, you could use a smaller jar filled with water like at the bottom of this post.

closeup of the glass plate

Here’s a closeup of the lid on top of the cabbage.

cabbage weighted with jars of water

Depending on how wet your cabbage is, the salt you’ve added may draw out enough water to completely submerge your kraut. To help bring water out, add pressure by placing a jar or several jars full of water on top. Throw a towel over the whole thing and leave it overnight or for a day. If there still isn’t enough after that, make up a brine of 1 tablespoon salt per cup of water to completely cover the kraut. Especially when packed with extra panache the sauerkraut tends to expand a bit, so if you’re using a plate it’s a good idea to have about an extra inch of brine. If you’re using a jar you might want to store it on a plate, a towel, or something else to catch any overflows.

Cover your fermentation vessel with a towel to keep the dust out and put it in a dark place to begin its voyage. Check on it every few days. A sort of thin white scum often forms at the surface. You can scoop it out if you like, but it’s not dangerous. If mold begins to blossom on the surface in little islands or as a thicker skin, you should scoop it out. Your cabbage is safe, but you don’t want mold in there when you remove the kraut. And get rid of any cabbage bits that float to the surface.

Within two weeks you’ll have a bunch of kraut on your hands. Harvest what you want to eat and stick it in a jar in the fridge, which will slow the fermentation. The rest you can leave as it was—it just gets riper and more delicious. I wanted to take a picture of it for you once it was ready, but we ate it all so quickly I didn’t get a chance!

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dilly beans ready to eat

I’ve written an easy salt brine pickle recipe for living, lacto-fermented dilly beans, which are traditionally a vinegar preserve. Now that green bean season is in full swing, here it is.

dilly beans ingredients

Ingredients to fill a one-quart mason jar:
-1/4 jalapeno pepper. Use more if you like it spicy.
-1/2 bunch of fresh dill
-3 cloves of garlic
-about 1 tsp celery seed
-enough green beans to fill up your jar
-2 cups water mixed with 1.5 tbsp sea salt (non-iodized)

Dilly beans in the jar

Chop off the tough bits at the end of the beans and the rough ends of the stalks of dill. Throw the garlic into the bottom of the jar. Jam in half the beans, standing upright. Stick the bunch of dill and the pepper into the middle of the jar, then fill in the outside edges with the rest of the beans. Pour in the celery seeds and shake them around the jar. Add enough brine to cover the veggies. Keep the veggies submerged and away from the mold-carrying air by placing a smaller jar full of water as a weight as in this post.

Dilly beans ready to go

Leave them in a dark place for one to three weeks with the smaller jar holding the beans under the brine and a towel draped over the top to protect them from bugs and dust. When they taste the way you like, put a lid on them and stick them in the fridge.

For a traditional vinegar pickle recipe for dilly beans, see the one here in Katz’s book Wild Fermentation.

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It’s summer squash time! For this recipe I mixed yellow crook-neck squash with a green zucchini from the garden. I spiced them with garlic, red onion, basil, and black mustard seeds. I threw in a few carrots to fill up the jar. Here are the ingredients:


I chopped the larger squash into quarters lengthwise and left the smaller ones whole. The carrots I quartered as well. Similarly-sized veggies will ferment at the same speed, giving you predictable pickles. I cut half the onion into wide strips to make them easy to spear with a fork and left the peeled garlic cloves in one piece. Here they all are, ready to go:


I used Thai basil because I had a bunch of it in the fridge. An Italian variety would probably be more classic. I stuffed everything into a half-gallon jar, and it turned out that I only needed one carrot to fill it out. The rest went back in the fridge. The jar was so packed that the veggies showed no sign of budging when I filled it with brine:


They were so tight in there that I wasn’t worried they would float to the surface where they might meet airborne mold-causing microorganisms. So I didn’t use a jar to keep the vegetables submerged as I did in my pickled asparagus recipe. Nor did I use extra vegetables to make a seal, as I did in the post on how to pickle anything. I’ll have to check on it to make sure the veggies stay submerged, though. (If you jam them in this way, be sure to check on them as often as once a day because they do tend to float up to the surface, and sometimes the brine level changes, which can lead to gross growth on the parts poking out of the water!) All I did was screw a lid on loosely so that carbon dioxide can escape as fermentation kicks in. If I didn’t, pressure might build up and fizz over when I open it later. Then I put the jar in a dark cabinet. It’s been hot the past few days, so the squash might be ready to eat in a week. If it gets cooler again, then two or three weeks should do it. Yum.

Ingredients for 1/2 gallon summer squash pickles:

-8 summer squash/zucchini (adjust number depending on size)
-1/2 red onion
-5 cloves garlic
-4 stems basil with leaves attached
-1 tablespoon mustard seeds
-4 cups water mixed with 3 tablespoons uniodized salt
-1-2 carrots to fill out the jar as necessary

Wash the veggies and basil. Chop off the ends of the squash and carrots, peel the garlic, and chop off the bottoms of the basil stems. Cut the half onion into long, wide slices—about three cuts. Fill the jar with the veggies and basil, standing the squash and carrots all on end, with some basil head up and some head down. Add the onions and garlic on the early side so that they end up in the bottom two thirds of the jar where they’re less likely to float to the surface. Pour in the mustard seeds near the end and shake the jar to distribute them. Save some squash and carrot spears for last; as the hardest and longest ingredients, they’re the easiest to pack in to fill up empty space.

Fill the jar with the brine until the veggies are completely covered. You may not need all four cups. If you’re worried the vegetables will float to the surface, use a jar or some carrot slices laid across the mouth of the jar under the lip, as in this post, to keep everything under the brine. Put a towel or loose lid over the jar to keep out dust. Leave the jar in a dark place for one to three weeks, depending on the temperature and your taste. Check on the pickles every day or two, especially at the beginning, to be sure they’re still under the brine. Once they’re pickled to your liking, store them in the fridge with a lid on tight, so you don’t spill pickle juice everywhere.

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