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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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Sencha Ginger Blonde Homebrew Ale

When I write, I like to drink beer to lubricate the mind and I like to drink caffeinated tea to stay focused. Sometimes I drink them at the same time. So after reading about brews made with things like safron and oysters in Burkhard Bilger’s article about extreme beer and Dogfish Head Brewery, I was inspired to combine my vices in a single beverage.

I also added ginger, because I like it. I started with the makings for a blonde ale from my local homebrewing store, Oak Barrel Winecraft. I chose that beer because I was afraid the bitterness of something with more hops would drown out my extra flavors. About 40 minutes into boiling the wort, which is closer to the end than the beginning, I added a sliced, hand-sized hunk of fresh ginger. As soon as I turned off the heat at the end of the boil, I dipped a bag holding one cup of sencha green tea into the wort and let it soak for five minutes. Then I strained and fermented the beer as usual.

I like the grassy flavor of sencha, and i was hoping it would come through in the beer. It didn’t. But the ginger did come, with a nice kick at the end of every sip. And it settles the stomach, too. As for the caffeine, the tea gives the brew a bit of a zing, but to get a strong effect I think I’ll have to use a black tea in a heavier beer. Maybe with some cardamom and other masala chai spices? I’d also like to add even more green tea to an even lighter beer.

While asking Uncle Internet if he had any beer recipes involving tea, I came across this excerpt of a text from 1822 bashing tea as a drink far inferior to beer:

I view the tea drinking as a destroyer of health, an enfeebler of the frame, an engenderer of effeminacy and laziness, a debaucher of youth, and a maker of misery for old age.”

The writer also says of tea that it, “besides being good for nothing, has badness in it.” Happily, there’s no badness in my tea beer.

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