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Answer for those in pickle
By Laura Rodley. Created 12/10/2010 – 5:00am
Stumped for holiday gifts? Resident Sarah Stockwell-Arthen has a few suggestions: homemade pickles, pickled beets, cabbage or pickled carrots or ginger to give as gifts, all without using vinegar. “Something I would like to get would be a jar of pickled ginger or garlic,” she said.
Her recipes deliver the sour flavor of pickling – commonly achieved with vinegar — through lactic acid fermentation, using the bacteria, called lactobacilli, that already exist on fresh vegetables.
This is the way her grandparents, who resided in Wisconsin, made pickles, she said, and a method she has adopted in her effort to live more sustainably. There is no fuel used, as no cooking is involved.
Another idea, she said, is to build someone some shelves for a simple root cellar with instructions with locating a cool spot to store the homemade pickles.
After taking a pickling class by Dan Rosenberg, founder of Real Pickles, a pickle-making company based in Greenfield., who shared recipes that were made without vinegar, she was so enthusiastic about pickling many of her friends clamored to learn. So she taught a class in October, with Rosenberg’s blessing, she said, using his instructions. If seven to 10 more people show interest, she will teach another class, she said.
Any vegetable can be pickled – red peppers, green beans, garlic or cabbage, for example, she said. While cucumbers need to be made into pickles as soon as they are harvested in summer, root crops such as beet and carrots can be harvested later with a longer window of time to be pickled, she said.
Cabbage is full of vitamin C and the lactocbacilli – the cabbage leaves are coated with them – help with digestion, just as yogurt does, she said. As a result, cabbage is a very healthy food, she said, a natural form of probiotics, an enzyme that helps with digestion.
“You can almost see the nutrition,” she added, as this kind of pickling maintains the color’s vibrancy. “The lactobacilli is the type of bacteria we’re trying to promote. Luckily they like to live at room temperature,” she said. If you put salt on it, she said, that discourages unhealthy bacteria, which is why salt is used in pickling.
The simplest way to make sauerkraut, or pickled cabbage, is to chop up one pound of cabbage, sprinkle on 1½ teaspoons sea salt, stir and let the mixture sit for an hour. It creates its own brine while sitting. Pack it into a pint jar. Put it on a tray since the jar will weep, she advised. It can sit out three days to a month outside of a refrigerator. Burp the jars if necessary. When it’s done fermenting, store in a place 50 degrees or colder. Stockwell-Arthen stores her pickles in a cold cellar in her basement on three shelves beside an outside wall.
Another easy-to-make pickle is carrot-ginger, a favorite of her 12-year-old daughter Olivia, she said.
“Eating these foods with the heavy foods we eat in winter helps us to deal with the heavy foods in the digestive system,” Stockwell-Arthen said.
In this economy, pickling makes good economic sense, she said. It’s so cheap, so easy. The pickling process uses no fossil fuel except for the manufacture of the glass, she said. She uses ordinary Mason jars as well as crocks she buys from a specialty catalog.
She cautions against using old antique crocks because of the lead in the glazes used in their manufacture. Also, she suggests washing vegetables gently, without chlorinated water or soap, to avoid killing the bacteria. Those interested in learning can visit www.sarahstockwell.com
 for more information. Laura Rodley can be reached at email@example.com
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