Fermenting vegetables and pickle questions
I am trying to make an Italian giardiniera, Chopped veggies in a brine of water, sea salt and raw apple cider vinegar. (using 5gal pickle buckets) I have a film that builds on my brine even when a dinner plate holds the veggies under the brine. Can i trust skimming most of the layer off and putting the unheated mix in jars? Also the brine is expensive with $17/gal vinegar. Can i use some or all of the old brine in the next batch like an inoculation? Im using 5gal buckets, is there any off-gas or toxic problems with the plastic?
I'm not a giardiniera expert, but it looks like you have a choice to make between fermenting or pickling in a vinegar solution. For fermenting (the way you would make sauerkraut sour for instance) you'd use a process like you describe, except leave out the vinegar. That way the little microbes that spit out sour lactic acid can take hold and do their thing. In that case, skim regularly until it's done, then put in jars, process in a canner and store, or just refrigerate and eat. Dont' reuse your brine.
A quick glance at the web shows most people pickling their giardiniera in vinegar. In that case go ahead and use your vinegar, skip the 5gal. buckets entirely, pack ingredients directly into jars, cover and refgrigerate for a few days before eating.