Clever Cookstr chats with Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern, the team behind Gefilteria, to get their expert tips and tricks for making pickles and sauerkraut at home.
CC: Is there specific equipment that you need to make pickles at home? What should you be using to pickle different vegetables?
JY: Vinegar pickles and naturally fermented saltwater pickles are different, but typically, for naturally fermented pickles you don't want to use plastic, unless it's a really high quality, food-grade plastic. That's number two plastic, and there should be four letters, HDPE, on the vessel. Otherwise, stick to ceramic: there are beautiful ceramic crocks that look lovely to display as you're pickling. Glass is another good option, as is wood, if you have an old wooden barrel or something along those lines.
For vinegar pickles, again, if you're using a hot vinegar brine, you don't want to use plastic unless it's a food-grade plastic.
LA: I want to add something that's very important, which is that when you open the crock or jar, you may indeed see some mold floating on top of the vegetable or fruit that you're fermenting. Don't be afraid of that mold! In fact, we think it can be quite beautiful. Generally, what we suggest is that you just skim that mold right off. Don't eat it, but don't be afraid of it. It doesn't mean your pickles have gone bad. Just grab a spoon and skim it right off. Everything underneath is fine. If on top there are a few pieces of vegetables that are soft, you might want to throw those out as well.
JY: You kind of become a mold nerd as you ferment more. You start to appreciate the different types of mold! Cheese has mold, and all fermented foods include mold as part of the process. It's not anything to be worried about!
CC: I want to talk a bit about food pairings. What do you serve pickles with, besides a deli sandwich? How do you work them into everyday meals?
LA: One of the things I love to do is use pickled beets in a salad with goat cheese, spinach, amd some sort of nut. That's a wonderful use. That's a very different thing than a dill pickle! One of the things Jeffrey and I do a lot is start meals with a pickle platter. It's such a wonderful way to open up your palate--it's light, it's refreshing, it doesn't fill you up, and if you're using naturally fermented pickles, it really opens up your whole system to receive whatever foods you're going to eat next. Pickles as an opener to any meal are an amazing, colorful thing to present to people.
JY: We've also done hors d'oeuvres where we serve a fermented dill pickle with mustard and cheddar cheese. I would say, again, a sweet vinegar pickle will be different than a salt water pickle. If you take some of the brine from a fermented pickle, that's chock full of all the bacteria that's naturally healthy and good for your gut. You can make that into a salad dressing instead of using a vinegar. Mix it with some tahini, and it's a live, cultured salad dressing.
Thanks so much for joining us, Jeffrey and Liz, and thanks for listening to the Clever Cookstr!