The Co-op’s first batch of half sour pickles is finished and has been distributed. Consider planting cucumbers for the Co-op if you have a spot. Not only are these fresh pickles tasty, they are also good for you. They are fermented using those friendly bacteria from the genus Lactobacillus. These lactic acid bacteria help your digestion and generally increase your body’s immune response to keep you healthy. A growing cucumber naturally has some of these lactic acid bacteria occurring on the skin, so immersing these in a salt water brine simply enables them to go to work. Lactic acid bacteria are fine with salt water (sort of like the honey badgers of the bacterial world, just check out honey badger / Randall on YouTube) and the salt water discourages other guests from coming to the party, i.e., bacteria that are not lactobacilli. Plus, the salt strengthens the pectin in the cell walls, so things stay firm – crunchy! – not slimy (ycch). If you find some mold on top of your pickles where a cucumber has been exposed to air and not submerged in the brine, you can simply cut off any moldy portion as the rest of the batch is still good. Fortunately our weather has been cool and damp so these have been naturally refrigerated, thus slowing down that action. But why did we put that piece of bread on top of our pickling containers? Actually, these cucumbers would have pickled, i.e., fermented using that naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria, without the bread, but the yeast in the bread gives the fermentation process a little added boost.
And speaking of pectin, which we often do, Jackie G alerted me to a recent medical journal article about the positive effects of modified citrus pectin (from citrus peels, just like our marmalades and other preserves) on unhealthy levels of Galectin-3 molecules in our bodies. Although we all naturally produce Galectin-3, higher levels can lead to heart disease, fibrosis and metastatic cancer. Blood tests that can indicate a high level of circulating Galectin-3 are approved by the FDA and many insurance companies, as this is a risk factor in progressive heart failure. And the only naturally occurring Galectin-3 blocker is modified citrus pectin! To read the article, please go to this link. And we will keep making marmalade (and preserved lemons, and citrus pectin based preserves).