Student Food: Making Pickles

Autorin: Lisa Zhang

Fermented pickles, or salt water brine pickles, must be the fastest slow food there is. It is incredibly quick to prepare, but after the preparation is done, one has to wait patiently for days, or sometimes weeks, for the pickles to ferment and mature – making it a slow process. It may be counterintuitive, but this actually makes fermented pickles into a perfect student food. Because the only thing you really need to do is to wait – a bit like something oven-baked – and then voila, your food is ready! You can pair kimchi, Korean-style fermented Chinese cabbage, with both noodles and rice, a good cucumber or onion pickle with cheese and bread, and sauerkraut, or fermented cabbage, goes well with tons of things and is a staple in the German diet. It is great to have some pickles in the back of the fridge when you want to give whatever you are making an extra kick of flavour.

I began to start ferment my own pickles last semester, and have not looked back. The only thing you need to get started are vegetables, a clean and sterilized jar (you can use old jars for this, prepare them by cleaning and boiling them), salt and water (to make the brine). You can ferment any vegetable and experiment with different spices and herbs. To begin, you add salt to the ferment, this could be done either by rubbing salt onto the vegetable (like you do with kimchi or sauerkraut), or you make a brine, as with radish and cucumber pickles, around 1-3 tablespoons in 1-quart water, and then submerge the vegetables in brine in the jar. Whichever method you use, it is important that the vegetables are completely covered in the liquid – otherwise it might mould. The salty water helps keep the bad bacteria out and the good bacteria in the jar, which is what you want. Then you are ready after you close off your ferment by closing the jar with the lid! The only thing you need to do now is to “burp” the jar every other day because of the carbon dioxide that will build up in the jar due to the fermentation. You might see small bubbles appear in the jar, which is perfectly normal. To burp your jar, you need to open the jar briefly every day in the beginning, and then every other day. Otherwise, the pressure might build up until the point where the jar explodes, and nobody wants that. You can taste your pickle after a couple of days, and when you think it is sour enough, it is ready! One of my favourite ferments is Indian spiced carrot kraut. You will need around 500g shredded carrot, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds, a teaspoons cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon black onion seeds, and 1 pinch red chilli flakes. You begin with rubbing the salt into the carrots until they release liquid, this will take a few minutes. Add the spices and mix well, press all the ingredients into the jar, liquid should rise up, and if it does not cover the carrots, you can add some water. Close the lid and wait for seven to ten days, and then it is ready. This carrot pickle goes well in salads, with naan and yoghurt, cheese – really everything!