“cornichons” / cucumber pickles (lacto-fermented)

DSC_0664I came home from being away for 3 weeks in Canada to a very advanced veggie garden !  Good news, right ?  Well, except for the apparent cucumber plant, one of many “surprise” varieties of plants that my dear friend Carol Reid-Gaillard gave me.  I found myself with some plants that turned out to be a “pickling cuke” variety.  If you have every grown these you will know that the fruit pop out every other day like little firecrackers.  If you miss the perfect size you have BIG bitter cucumbers.

DSC_0668So in my jet-lagged state, I was ready to throw in the towel until I thought of the lovely Marie who has many pickling ideas up her sleeve.  I proceeded to leave little parcels on her doorstep and she has successfully pickled the little bumpy creatures.

I am know rested, with a bit more time and head space, so ready to give this a go myself ….  I’ve decided to go the “lacto-fermentation” route for the added health benefits (Kathleen Garnett writes an interesting article about this).  I believe that the original Jewish Dill Pickle was made this way.

Well it couldn’t have been easier !

DSC_0674You will need:

  • pickling or small cucumbers (scrubbed well if prickly)
  • a brine made using 2 Tablespoons of sea salt to 1 liter of water
  • fresh grape, horseradish or oak leaves (I used grape and horseradish), which help keep the cukes crisp
  • a mixture of herbs and spices that you think sound good for pickles !  I used mustard seeds, fresh garlic cloves, fresh ginger slices, black peppercorns, fresh dill seeds and flowers and cracked coriander seeds.
  • a mason jar and lid.
  • something that just fits inside the mason jar, like a little plate, to keep the fruit submerged in the brine.  A perfect fit for me was a “anti-remonte lait” which is a little glass disc used to place in a pan of milk to avoid overflowing when it comes to a boil !  A genius invention that we use when making yoghurt.

DSC_0671So cut up those cukes however you fancy.  Mine where all different sizes so I didn’t even try to stand them all up beautifully in the jar.  Add your spices and herbs to the bottom of the jar, pack in the cucumbers with the grape / horseradish leaves tucked in (maybe 3 or 4 per jar).  Pour over your brine to cover the fruit and weigh them down to keep them under the liquid.  Close the lid tightly and place in a cool place (inferior to 26° C is good) for at least 3 or 4 days.

DSC_0676Check on your jars everyday, squashing down the fruit a bit.  After a few days, you could try tasting the pickles and when they are to your liking, pop them in the fridge and they are ready to eat.

I am absolutely no expert on this method, and will let you know how they turn out 😉  For some really in-depth information on the fermentation of vegetable and fruit Sandor Katz is your man…..

DSC_0677Feeling pretty happy with my little jar of pickles today 🙂

UPDATE 30 July 2015 : Happy to announce that 4 days later this pickles are REALLY GOOD and going into the fridge (where I suspect they will not last long).  Everyone in the family loves them, my “not so sure at first” kids included.  They smell and taste like great quality NYC Deli style pickles….  Wow, I’m off to the garden to pick more little cucumbers to make a few more jars ….

UPDATE 31 July 2015:  2nd batch …..  I changed the spices a bit to fresh dill flowers, fresh garlic and ginger, cracked black peppercorns and coriander seeds, yellow mustard seeds, Sichuan peppercorns and fennel seeds.

Bon appetît !

“Bone” broth and what to do with it

Whole chicken ready to be poached. Resulting in tender cooked chicken and a rich delicious broth. So many dishes can be created from these humble beginnings.

I’m still trying to get used to the “new name” that chicken stock has been given 😉  I actually looked up “Bone Broth” to see what all the fuss was about, and found that it’s just good old “stock” or “broth”, we make this chez nous at least 3 times a month to keep a constant stock.

Another shocker with the “Bone Broth” trend is that I realized how many people (even those that like to cook) NEVER make it from scratch anymore !  I would be personally lost without it ….  I’ll give you some ideas below on the various things you can use it for.

For me, it probably has a lot to do with the fact that, in rural France, you either make it or use stock cubes.  No-one sells “fresh” stock (supermarkets, butchers, specialty shops).  The fact that most families here also eat soup on a daily basis in the winter.

I am therefore, delighted that such a nutritious and delicious thing is trying to claw its way back into the main stream (thanks to North Americans skill at food trends that spin out of control (hmmmm Kale?).  I had first read of the wonders of broth on the Westin A. Price website (the man was a genius !).  Go and have a look, you’ll also be drinking raw milk before you know it 😉

I make broth in 3 different ways using the best quality chicken you can get your hands on:

  1. Poaching a whole chicken….  In a very large pot, place your raw chicken and your veg, herbs and other ingredients and cover with water.  After about an hour, remove the chicken and when cool enough to handle, get your hands dirty and strip the bird of its juicy meat.  Put the meat aside for future use and put all the bones back into the stock pot.  Continue to simmer for at least another 2 hours but the longer the better.  Strain and put your beautiful stock in the fridge once cool.  The next day you can just scoop all the fat off the top before using or freezing your stock.
  2. Stock using bones from a roast chicken….
  3. Save time and use a pressure cooker…..
  4. In the summer, I use my trusty solar oven which allows me to simmer the broth all day long….

What to add to the cooking water (some or all of the following, your choice, be creative and its a great way to empty the fridge):  leek or spring onion tops and bottoms, onion skins, garlic cloves (with skin), celery sticks, leaves or root, carrots, turnips etc…..  about 10 whole peppercorns, herbs such as parsley stems and bay leaves.  If you want to go asian try adding a couple of star anise some coriander roots or stems and a chunk or two of ginger root or galangal.

NOTE:  One new thing I have learned from this “new” trend is that adding a good spoonful of cider vinegar helps the good minerals make their exit from the bones into the broth.

Other than the obvious “soup” there are many uses for the broth.  At this time of year, I generally use it for risotto to use up veg from the garden, such as courgettes.  Risotto using “real stock” is miles better than one made using even the best bouillon cubes or powders.  In the winter we often eat a broth based asian soup.

Feel free to share in the comments sections what you like to do with good broth 🙂

Bon appetît !