Don’t pickles just remind you of summer? I mean, sure, I’ll have them on burgers throughout the year, but I don’t eat that many burgers. In the summer, though, we have the constant aroma of barbecues and charcoal grills wafting through our neighborhood. How can you not crave a burger with pickles?! A friend of mine recently event told me that her go-to snack in the summer is pickles.
Unfortunately, as your health coach, I have to inform you that pickles aren’t as healthy as the light, refreshing “cucumber” snack seems to be, when bought from the store. The ingredient list includes four preservatives, artificial flavorings and food colorings.
You should be glad to know, then, that making your own pickles is as simple as taking 10 minutes out of your day! Besides that, homemade pickles are fermented, filling you with an abundance of healthy bacteria for your gut. Store-bought pickles contain no health benefits and lots of toxins.
Fermentation is what all of our ancestors did with food, before there were refrigerators and stoves. While raw food provides tons of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that your body needs, some can be hard for your body to digest and break down. Fermentation literally means “to break down into simpler components.” This process allows your body to digest food and absorb the nutrients for readily.
Another huge benefit of fermentation is the production of live bacteria cultures that are vital for the health of your intestines and digestive tract. If you’re like me and deal with digestive issues, this is so important. But even if you don’t, did you know the majority of your immune system affected by your gut? You need healthy bacteria here, and because we don’t get fermented foods like our ancestors did, we often need to take probiotic supplements.
The most commonly fermented foods are pickles (fermented cucumbers), dairy (yogurt) and sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), but nowadays, the versions you’re buying in the store are no longer naturally fermented, meaning they don’t have the health benefits they should. If you make these yourself, though, you’ll be sure to receive the benefits! You can also ferment carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bread (sourdough) and even tea! The tea is called kombucha, and I ferment this at home and drink it daily.
To ferment food, all you need is salt, which protects the food from bad bacteria growing on it and causing it to spoil, a lack of oxygen and a cool temperature. It took me 10 minutes to get my jars ready to go. I just placed them in my hall closet, and when I get back from my vacation this week, I’ll have homemade pickles to enjoy!
NOTE: I will not have a blog post next week, because I will be off in the mountains of the Wild West. However, I promise to fill you in with photos and food summaries when I return!
6 pickling cucumbers (these are smaller than regular cucumbers and can be found at farmers markets and in some grocery stores)
4 Tablespoons sea salt (most of this dissolves in the fermentation process)
4 garlic cloves, whole
4 Tablespoons dill (I used fresh, but dry will work)
2 mason jars
Wash the cucumbers off and slice the ends off each side.
Fill each mason jar with some water.
Place the pickles into the jars so that they’re standing up. I could comfortably fit 3 into each jar, but this will depend on the size of your cucumbers.
Drop two tablespoons of salt, 2 garlic cloves and 2 tablespoons of dill into each mason jar.
Fill the jar with filtered water until it almost reaches the top.
Cover the jars and gently shake so the ingredients mix together.
Place the jars in a dark, cool area for 5-8 days. (I chose a closet.)
Taste test them. When they are slightly soft, easy to prick with a fork, but still somewhat crisp, refrigerate them. (Mine usually take seven days.) They will remain good for up to a year!