I found a recipe for lacto-fermented cucumbers (i.e. pickles) in Nourishing Traditions and thought I would give it a try. The appeal of preserving your vegetables this way is that you don't cook out any of the plant enzymes, preserving the benefits of the raw cucumber, but creating an environment where the cucumber can last much much longer. (There are anecdotal stories of lacto-fermented sauerkraut lasting two years at cool temperatures.)
Our pickles haven't lasted that long... only because we're eating them too fast! (Although for me, they are a bit too strong to be 'snacking' pickles. Perfect for potato salads, sandwiches, or the like.)
Here's what I did:
4 pickling cucumbers, washed thoroughly and sliced
1 T Sea Salt
1 T whole mustard
1-2 T dill, dried
Put it all in a quart jar. I just used a *clean* jar that originally held spaghetti sauce from the grocery store. I just saved the lid and jar and washed them really well. Once you have placed your ingredients in the jar, fill it the rest of the way up with water. Make sure the cukes are submerged, but you want a little head room (air at the top), too.
Then... here is the scary part... let it sit on your counter for three days. Or in a cupboard. Somewhere safe, that stays in the 70's (F).
Yeah. Lacto-fermentation means you are growing your own bacteria, lactobacillus to be exact. Probiotics! In your own kitchen!
My water turned all brown and murky. And I said to my husband, "Paul, that cannot be friendly bacteria. That is mean, angry bacteria!" But the trick to knowing if you successfully grew the correct bacteria is the smell. If your cucumbers are hijacked by unhealthy microorganisms, you will be repelled at the first whiff. So, after three days, I took off the lid, braced myself, and was pleasantly surprised that it smelled very appealing.
If you want a stronger taste leave them on your counter longer. When they taste just right, put them in the fridge for storage. That will slow the fermentation process. Our jar has lasted two months so far.
Try it. You'll like it!