Build An Ark: What's in Your Dill Crock?

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What's in Your Dill Crock?

Brine curing vegetables as part of preserving the harvest has been around for centuries. The process is simple and requires nothing but water and salt. Salt is a natural preferred ingredient for curing anything from meat to beans to cheese.

While reading up on this subject I came across a method that really sparked my interest and my taste buds. It was an excerpt from that nationally renowned user of wild and organic foods, Euell Gibbons. Mr. Gibbons authored many outdoor books including the classic Stalking The Wild Asparagus.

While preserving some vegetables Mr. Gibbons decided to add flavor to his vegetables and forage while at the same time as preserving them using brine curing method. So began my adventure with this time-honored tradition.

Be creative, it’s your crock and your taste buds.

Here's my line-up for today!

Red cabbage, carrots, yellow and green beans,
beets, cauliflower, cucumbers,
garlic, sweet red peppers, cayenne peppers, sweet purple peppers,
onions and green tomatoes.

Dill from the herb garden.

My dill is covered with small florets of cauliflower,
10-12 cloves of garlic
and a couple of cayenne peppers.
This completes my first layer.

Next I added a layer of carrots and beets
and covered it with layer of yellow beans.

It was time for my red and purple peppers
and lots of onions!

And my second layer of dill with another 10-12 cloves of garlic.

Green tomatoes...

and more onions.

I made my brine using 2 cups of sea salt for every gallon of water. This produces around a 10% salt brine that will allow an uncooked egg to float. I'll keep a headspace of an inch or so in my crocks and by morning I'll have a good 3"+ headspace that will allow the curing process.

The buoyancy test.
An egg will float if your brine is salty enough.

In the morning I'll add another cup of salt for each 5 pounds of veggies in my crock (10 pounds = 2 more cups of salt). I'll also make up my Spiced Vinegar syrup to be used when I pack my dills.

As the curing process works I'll be removing the scum that forms on top of the brine as it ferments. Each week I'll also be adding ½ cup of sea salt to each of my crocks (10 pounds of veggies in each) to keep the brine at 10%. These should be fully fermented in 2-4 weeks and ready to be desalted and canned.

Pouring the brine into the crock.

All my veggies sitting in the salt water brine.
All that's left to do is to cover the top of the veggies with a plate
and weight it down to keep all my veggies in the brine.

I'm seasoning this crock with dill, garlic and a cayenne pepper.

And filling it with small young cucumbers and onions.

My second layer of dill and garlic.

Pouring the brine in with the cucumbers and onions.

Two crocks ready to rock!

I'm planning on canning both crocks of veggies when they are cured. The cukes and onions will be packed in the same brine they're curing in when I can them. I'm going to can the dill veggie crock with a spiced vinegar syrup that needs to age a few weeks so I cooked some up the following day.

Here's the ingredients:

1 gallon vinegar
½ ounce Allspice
½ ounce Cloves
1 Stick of Cinnamon
1 piece Mace
4 cups of Honey

Please note: If you're using vinegar that you've made on your homestead check the acetic acid level. It needs to be around 5% for preserving properly. Distilled vinegar from the grocery stores are generally 5%.

Boil the vinegar and spices for 15 minutes and let cool.
When still slightly warm add your honey,
stir and let it age for about 3 weeks before canning.

To be continued in about three weeks...

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