What a pickle!

MILFORD – When Rivka Schwartz belonged to a community supported agriculture group, she would bring home tons of produce.

But she doesn’t like to can vegetables, so what to do with all that seasonal bounty?

She found a better way: brining, also called fermenting.

Brining is an ancient food preservation method that is not only easier and healthier than canning, it results in pickled vegetables that are better tasting, she told her audience at the Wadleigh Memorial Library recently.

And it’s very safe, carrying no risk of deadly botulism.

People have been brining vegetables for thousands of years "in huts with no sanitation at all," Schwartz said, and if you make a mistake – say, leave out the salt – the unfortunate results will be obvious.

"I have fermented hundreds and hundreds of jars, and you always know" when something has gone wrong, she said.

Canning, on the other hand, creates the perfect conditions for unwanted bacteria because the high heat kills competing bacteria.

Schwartz, an environmental educator at the Beaver Brook Association in Hollis, demonstrated the brining process, which requires little equipment – just a jar, non-chlorinated water, non-iodized salt and grape leaf or oak leaf, which provide the tannin that keeps pickles crisp.

"Make sure the cucumbers are really fresh," she said, by buying from a farmers market or asking a grocery store when new ones are coming in.

To make a large quantity of brine, she buys a gallon jar of supermarket pickles, throws away the pickles and uses the jar. Everything goes in the jar, and then you pour in water almost to the top, close the jar, shake it, then open it slightly to let out carbon dioxide – and, "You’ve just made a jar of pickles in 10 minutes," she said.

"When I have extra vegetables, I put them in the jar of brine. It’s an easy way to keep making fermented foods."

What’s wrong with pickles from the supermarket?

Most of them are boiled to kill bacteria, Schwartz said, which means the good bacteria – probiotics – are also killed. And then chemicals are added to make them crunchy.

It’s the probiotics that makes fermented food so wholesome, she said, and few of us have enough of them.

Hunter-gathering people had about 1,600 species of probiotics in their bodies, she said, while the typical American has only 1,200, not enough to fend off diseases and allergic responses, and not enough to regulate our nervous system and metabolism in ways that keep us healthy.

Schwartz offered samples of pickles and other fermented vegetables, and handed out recipes for sauerkraut, cider vinegar, a brandy fruit pot, corn relish and salsa.

She also recommended several books, including "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon, "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Ellix Katz and "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods" by Wardeh Harmon.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

What a pickle!

MILFORD – When Rivka Schwartz belonged to a community supported agriculture group, she would bring home tons of produce.

But she doesn’t like to can vegetables, so what to do with all that seasonal bounty?

She found a better way: brining, also called fermenting.

Brining is an ancient food preservation method that is not only easier and healthier than canning, it results in pickled vegetables that are better tasting, she told her audience at the Wadleigh Memorial Library recently.

And it’s very safe, carrying no risk of deadly botulism.

People have been brining vegetables for thousands of years "in huts with no sanitation at all," Schwartz said, and if you make a mistake – say, leave out the salt – the unfortunate results will be obvious.

"I have fermented hundreds and hundreds of jars, and you always know" when something has gone wrong, she said.

Canning, on the other hand, creates the perfect conditions for unwanted bacteria because the high heat kills competing bacteria.

Schwartz, an environmental educator at the Beaver Brook Association in Hollis, demonstrated the brining process, which requires little equipment – just a jar, non-chlorinated water, non-iodized salt and grape leaf or oak leaf, which provide the tannin that keeps pickles crisp.

"Make sure the cucumbers are really fresh," she said, by buying from a farmers market or asking a grocery store when new ones are coming in.

To make a large quantity of brine, she buys a gallon jar of supermarket pickles, throws away the pickles and uses the jar. Everything goes in the jar, and then you pour in water almost to the top, close the jar, shake it, then open it slightly to let out carbon dioxide – and, "You’ve just made a jar of pickles in 10 minutes," she said.

"When I have extra vegetables, I put them in the jar of brine. It’s an easy way to keep making fermented foods."

What’s wrong with pickles from the supermarket?

Most of them are boiled to kill bacteria, Schwartz said, which means the good bacteria – probiotics – are also killed. And then chemicals are added to make them crunchy.

It’s the probiotics that makes fermented food so wholesome, she said, and few of us have enough of them.

Hunter-gathering people had about 1,600 species of probiotics in their bodies, she said, while the typical American has only 1,200, not enough to fend off diseases and allergic responses, and not enough to regulate our nervous system and metabolism in ways that keep us healthy.

Schwartz offered samples of pickles and other fermented vegetables, and handed out recipes for sauerkraut, cider vinegar, a brandy fruit pot, corn relish and salsa.

She also recommended several books, including "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon, "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Ellix Katz and "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods" by Wardeh Harmon.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

What a pickle!

MILFORD – When Rivka Schwartz belonged to a community supported agriculture group, she would bring home tons of produce.

But she doesn’t like to can vegetables, so what to do with all that seasonal bounty?

She found a better way: brining, also called fermenting.

Brining is an ancient food preservation method that is not only easier and healthier than canning, it results in pickled vegetables that are better tasting, she told her audience at the Wadleigh Memorial Library recently.

And it’s very safe, carrying no risk of deadly botulism.

People have been brining vegetables for thousands of years "in huts with no sanitation at all," Schwartz said, and if you make a mistake – say, leave out the salt – the unfortunate results will be obvious.

"I have fermented hundreds and hundreds of jars, and you always know" when something has gone wrong, she said.

Canning, on the other hand, creates the perfect conditions for unwanted bacteria because the high heat kills competing bacteria.

Schwartz, an environmental educator at the Beaver Brook Association in Hollis, demonstrated the brining process, which requires little equipment – just a jar, non-chlorinated water, non-iodized salt and grape leaf or oak leaf, which provide the tannin that keeps pickles crisp.

"Make sure the cucumbers are really fresh," she said, by buying from a farmers market or asking a grocery store when new ones are coming in.

To make a large quantity of brine, she buys a gallon jar of supermarket pickles, throws away the pickles and uses the jar. Everything goes in the jar, and then you pour in water almost to the top, close the jar, shake it, then open it slightly to let out carbon dioxide – and, "You’ve just made a jar of pickles in 10 minutes," she said.

"When I have extra vegetables, I put them in the jar of brine. It’s an easy way to keep making fermented foods."

What’s wrong with pickles from the supermarket?

Most of them are boiled to kill bacteria, Schwartz said, which means the good bacteria – probiotics – are also killed. And then chemicals are added to make them crunchy.

It’s the probiotics that makes fermented food so wholesome, she said, and few of us have enough of them.

Hunter-gathering people had about 1,600 species of probiotics in their bodies, she said, while the typical American has only 1,200, not enough to fend off diseases and allergic responses, and not enough to regulate our nervous system and metabolism in ways that keep us healthy.

Schwartz offered samples of pickles and other fermented vegetables, and handed out recipes for sauerkraut, cider vinegar, a brandy fruit pot, corn relish and salsa.

She also recommended several books, including "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon, "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Ellix Katz and "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods" by Wardeh Harmon.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.