"Sun Pickles" -- questions for fermenters/picklers/scientists
Here's the recipe:
So, is the salt concentration high enough for fermentation? Is that all that's happening in the recipe? Is the sun's heat just to speed the fermentation or does it serve another purpose? Any documented major food safety problems that immediately come to mind?
In the spirit of experimentation, I've had a quart jar with fermentation lock outside since noon in the Texas sun. One large cucumber, peeled since not organic, and cut into 1.5" slices; otherwise ingredients as stated. Appears peaceful. Will leave for another day at least (bring in at night to avoid possums/cats/raccoons).
Appreciate the responses. Dave, I hadn't thought about the boiling water, you're probably right about it being a brine pickle.
Nyleve, I'm glad to hear that your family recipe is similar. I'm a happy fermenter/pickler but hadn't seen one placed in the sun before.
Today's update: turning deeper green and more pickle-like; flesh still opaque; brine still happy and clear. The airlock had had all sorts of barometric ups-and-downs due to changes in temp. Will leave till sunset then place out again tomorrow, then taste. :)
I still believe this is a fermented pickle. The red herring in the works is the vinegar but I don't think there's enough vinegar in the mix to make it a vinegared pickle rather than a fermented one. What will happen is that the salt in the brine will draw out the juices from the cucumber which will ferment in the sun (or even without the sun, albeit slower). You can sample it after a couple of days to see if it's going where you want it to go. And when it gets there, just put it in the fridge to slow down any further souring.
I don't these pickles are meant to be the fermented sour pickles. I would call these brine packed pickles where the brine pickles and flavors the cukes.
Why I don't think this is a fermented pickle recipe? The boiling water added to the jar would kill off any the lactobacillus bacteria needed for fermentation.
I haven't compared your recipe to my mother's, but the method is very much the same as she used. The sun part of the process is just to provide warmth so that the fermentation happens more quickly. It will happen either way - cold or warm - but warm is much faster. My mother added the extra touch of a slice of rye bread laid on top of the pickles to provide, I guess, some yeast or something. When I make this style of pickle, I let it ferment at room temperature which allows me to more finely tune the sourness level - as soon as it gets sour enough, I put it in the fridge. It will continue to ferment, even refrigerated, but much more slowly. I personally like them best when they're half-sour.
From a food safety point of view, I think the salt and lactic acid that forms during the fermentation will prevent bad nasties from growing in the jar. The occasional jar will go moldy on top - those pickles get tossed. I'm not sure if this would entirely satisfy current food safety standards, but fermentation is a method of food preservation that has been around for thousands of years so I'm not afraid of it.