Ferment that Baby Zucchini! How to Make Fermented Baby Zucchini Pickles
We live in a high altitude mountain environment. So even though we are technically in Zone 8, we must garden up here on the mountain more like Zone 4 or 5! It's a little frustrating because the nurseries down in Las Vegas have completely run out of everything by the time we are ready to plant! People just an hour away plant in February, and we plant in early June! I have to admit: I'm a little (okaaaay....a LOT) jealous of my fellow homestead and gardener friends who live in areas with long growing seasons who are already busy harvesting their first bounties while we are just beginning to plant! My little tiny zucchini plants are only about three inches tall right now!
So, to help me self-soothe, Mr. V. took me down to our local orchard/vegetable garden on the outskirts of Las Vegas. This orchard is amazing! It's been there for decades, and I highly recommend it for families who live in Las Vegas. You just show up and pick your own veggies! All summer long!
On that day, we ended up with a TON of veggies: baby zucchini, eggplant, spinach, miscellaneous squash, garlic, and cucumbers! We even got some green tomatoes! As usual, I picked way too much, and had to find a way to use it all---besides giving it to the chickens. And because I love fermenting foods for SO many reasons, I decided to go that route! Here's how I made homemade fermented zucchini pickles! DELICIOUS!
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Ingredients for Homemade Fermented Zucchini Pickles
About 3 to 4 small zucchini per quart wide mouth Mason jar
Garlic to taste
Jalapeno or Red Peppers (optional)
Dill (if you want)
Ferment Starter: Whey OR leftover brine from another ferment (that link is to my recipe for fermented tomatoes, which is where I got the liquid for these pickles) OR you can make your own brine (see directions below), which is heavier on the salt.
Sea Salt: 1/2 tbsp to 1 tbsp per quart Mason jar, depending on if you are adding a helpful starter (whey or liquid from a good ferment).
About Ferment Starter Culture and/or Brine
You'll need to add some type of starter and/or brine to your ferment. Basically, this gets the ferment going by helping out the good micro-organisms and keeping the bad ones away.
You can add any one or a combination of these three of my favorite options for lacto-fermentation.
To Make Brine:
Add about 1 tablespoon (give or take) sea salt to about 3 cups of filtered water (I actually just use our well water). The salty brine won't have any of the yeast necessary to ferment the vegetables, but don't worry---there is lots of wild yeast floating around in the air that will take care of that! The salty water helps protect the veggies against mold and bad organisms but allows the good organisms to ferment the vegetables just fine.
If you don't want to use so much salt, then supplementing your ferment with optional whey or leftover liquid from an existing ferment will allow you to cut back on the salt significantly.
You can get whey from quality whole plain yogurt. You can read about how to make whey here. You'll just add about 1/4 cup to your ferment, and this will really help it get going!
Leftover Liquid from Another Ferment:
This is probably my favorite way to get the ferment started quickly. If you have an existing ferment, then you can just add about 1/4 cup of that liquid! It will already have all of the cultures in it, and your ferment will be a bit quicker. The only thing you have to be careful about is that you must take into account the type of taste of the ferment the liquid is from. You don't want it clashing with the taste you are trying to achieve in the new ferment.
***You know where else you can get liquid from a previous ferment? If you buy RAW sauerkraut or kimchi, the liquid from that will work too. Just be sure it's not pasteurized.
How to Make Fermented Zucchini Pickles
Step 1) Wash & Slice the Zucchini
These are baby zucchini, so I didn't have to cut them in half---I just sliced them down the middle, then sliced down the middle again, to make long fourths.
Step 2) Pack the Jar
Make sure you work with SUPER clean jars for your ferments. I personally don't obsess about sanitation, but I do make sure my jars are very clean.
Just put the zucchini slices lengthwise into the jar and pack them in as tightly as you can. Add your garlic and any other spices you want to add. (Pictures below)
Step 3) Add Your Spices
I'm not really a stickler for measuring out my spices. For this ferment, I just added a heaping teaspoon of minced garlic and lots of black pepper. I was going to add a jalapeño pepper or a red pepper, but I decided not to.
Step 4) Add Your Whey or Liquid from a Previous Ferment (Optional)
Just add in about 1/4 cup of the whey or liquid from a previous ferment if you want.
Step 5) Add the Salt Brine
Pour your salted water to within an inch or so of the top. OR if using whey or leftover fermented liquid, you can add the water to within about an inch of the top. Then just put in about half tbsp of salt. Or, you can just use the salty brine with all the salt.
Step 6) Set up Your Ferment
Here is where you will make sure your veggies are below the surface of the water by adding some kind of weight. I like to use ceramic or glass fermenting weights because they fit perfectly into a wide mouth Mason jar. I've also used boiled rocks and small jelly jars filled with a bit of water. You can get really creative with the weights you use.
You might want to consider using an airlock that fits on a Mason jar. That way you can just leave it be, and never have to remember to "burp" it! I love these silicone pickle pipe airlocks (I call them nipple airlocks---lol) from Amazon.
Step 7) Let Ferment Away
Now, you just wait patiently for the fermentation process to begin and get to where you like it. I let these zucchini go about a week before eating one of the jars! It's been about two weeks now, and I still have one jar sitting on the counter. The longer you let ferment, the more complex the flavors. When you get your ferments where you like them, just refrigerate!
How Long Do These Last in the 'Fridge?
Honestly, I've had ferments last in the fridge for over a year. With the sweet ferments (fruit), most people say about two weeks, but I've had them last longer. Just do the smell test! If they smell "off" then go ahead and compost. And obviously, if there is mold, compost away. But in my experience, ferments last a REALLY long time if you don't introduce dirty utensils.
How Does Fermented Zucchini Taste?
Well, since there is no vinegar or acid added to this, it's not your typical pickle. It's much more mild, with a nice tangy, salty flavor. The spices make these delicious! My husband can eat a whole jar!
About the Forgiveness of Fermentation
You've probably noticed that fermentation is an extremely forgiving process. Once you've made a few ferments, you'll find that you really can't mess up! As long as you either have enough salt in your brine OR you have started with whey or another culture, you're usually golden!
Do you ferment any foods? I'd love to know your experiences, and if you have a great zucchini recipe, please share!
Hugs & Self-Reliance!
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