First, as I was going to work on Wednesday, on NPR I caught a smidgen of Mr. David Perdue’s speech, after winning the Georgia Republican Senate primary. He wants to go to Washington, and (among other things) try to help “save this country!”
From what, I wonder?
In more sane news (relatively–which isn’t hard, to be honest), the garden has exploded, as predicted. We’re picking easily one to two quarts of green beans a day. I’ve lost track of the cucumbers. More squash and zucchini than you can shake a stick at–and there’s still the “winter” (hard-skin) varieties to go. Carrots, watermelons, cantaloupe, and pumpkins (which have somehow become mixed in with the other squash) are all coming along nicely. I really need to weed the bed with the onions and garlic… The tomatoes, once they start turning red, will probably come along too fast to deal with. Sunflower seeds have been scattered by the birds, so we’ve got six or eight “rogue” ones all heading out. (They’re not the huge, tall ones, so there’s that.)
What to do with it all? Well, canning, and pickling, and preserving; jams and jellies for things that warrant it (did I mention the volunteer rhubarb plants?). And lots of glorious, fresh veggies, for nearly every meal.
For pickles, I like the fermented variety. They’re quite easy to do; if you’ve got enough cukes, you can do them up in large batches. I’ve got a pair of food-grade, 5-gallon plastic buckets from the hardware store. (Make sure they’re food grade–they’re often in a white plastic; they’ll say “food grade” somewhere on or near them.) They’re both full right now with fermenting pickles. There are lots of good recipes out there on the interwebs; you’ll have to shop around and try ones you like. (Some of my favorite recipes for just about anything come from Alton Brown; the Fannie Farmer Cookbook is a good hard-copy source for lots, too.) I tend to mistrust any “fermented pickle” recipe that calls for added vinegar. I know, you want some acidity to help fend off the “bad” bugs; for the most part, if things are clean, it’s generally not a problem. Right now, to help speed the acidity, I’m debating adding a pinch of mother-of-vinegar.
How does one get said mother? Well, my favorite way is to make some vinegar. Yes–make. Try it, it’s easy. You’ll need a large-ish jar–I’m actually using a cleaned-up gallon pickle jar, but just about anything will do, as long as you can get your hand into and out of the mouth. The second ingredient is just about any sort of mild alcohol. I’m partial to beer, but wine works just as well, as does cider. Put the liquid in the jar, filling it no more than about halfway. Cover it, but not to seal–I’ve got the lid just resting on the top (not screwed down), and further covered with a kitchen towel. Now, put it someplace out of direct sunlight, and wait.
After a few weeks to maybe a month, you should be able to see a layer of mother forming. It will look like a rubbery slime forming on the top of the liquid. That is a “raft”, created by the vinegar-producing lactic acid bacteria, and since they’re pretty much everywhere, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’ll get in there. (If you absolutely must give them a helping hand, there are lots of ways. You can get some raw grain from the health-food store, and drop a handful in. Or, you can get some organic, live-culture cider vinegar, and pour in a dollop.)
To harvest the mother, wash your hands, reach in, and grab it. If you start another batch, add a piece of the mother (or the whole thing!) to the liquid, and it’ll go to vinegar much more quickly. To ‘harvest’ the vinegar, you’ll need to figure out your favorite way to get it separated from the mother. A few interesting points: after you take the liquid from the mother, if you just leave it in the jar, go ahead and pour more beer (or wine, or cider) over the top of it; there’s your next batch. Or, if you’re not using it quickly enough, or you just want to make lots & lots more, you can add more of your base liquid to the original liquid, without draining any off. The original mother will sink to the bottom, and a new one will form.
(I once had a jar with six mothers stacked up on the bottom. Not so bad, except I had been foolish and used a small-mouth gallon demijohn. Absolutely no way of getting the stuff out!)
I’m debating whether to add a bit of mother to the pickles–that would certainly kick up the acidity, and it’d be as “naturally” as it comes–just faster. Anyone out there have experience with this?