Babushka’s pickles and science behind it. 

In the previous post I mentioned that trying to avoid artificial food dyes is tricky: even pickles have them! 

I want to share my family’s pickle recipe. Going back to my roots!

Ingredients:

Pickling cucumbers 2 lbs

Water 2 cups 

Vinegar 2 cups

Salt 2 tablespoons 

Peppercorns 8-10

Garlic 4 cloves

Mustard seeds

Dill

Black tea leaves

  1. Thoroughly wash the cucumbers, cut off stem about 0.5″ from both ends.
  2. Place dill, garlic, peppercorns and tea leaves on the bottom of a jar. 
  3. Pack the cucumbers into the jar, add more dill and garlic. 
  4. Combine water, vinegar and  salt and bring the mixture to a boil. 
  5. Pour the brine over the pickles,  filling the jars to within 0.5″ to the top. 
  6. Once it cools down to room temperature,  put the jar in the refrigerator. 
  7. Fourty eight hours later, enjoy crunchy dill pickles!

    Every summer my parents’ kitchen would turn into a jam and pickle factory. They never used written down recipes, but the jams, jellies, apple sauce, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut always turned out great. 

    This is my attempt to recreate the dill pickle recipe. 

    Step 1. 

    Wash cucumbers, cut off 0.5″ from both stem and flower side. 

    But why?

    Thoroughly wash the cucumbers, cut off stem about 0.5″ from both ends.

    The flower end of a cucumber contains enzymes that will lead to limp pickles. 

    Step 2. 

    Place dill, garlic, peppercorns and black tea leaves in the jar. 

    But whyyyyyyy?

    Place dill, garlic, peppercorns and tea leaves on the bottom of a jar.

     This was the biggest mystery of my childhood: why do we have to put these weird leaves in pickles? 

    White oak, horseradish, black tea, grape, currant and raspberry leaves contain tannins, naturally occurring phenol compounds that keep pickles crisp. 

    Step 3. 

    Pack the cucumbers into the jar, add more dill and garlic.  Pack the cucumber as tight as possible without damaging them.

    But why is the jar laying on it’s side?

    Pack the cucumbers into the jar, add more dill and garlic. 

    It’s just easier to pack cucumbers into a tall jar when it’s on the side.

    Step 4. 

    Combine water and vinegar, add salt and bring the mixture to a boil.

    Step 5. 

    Pour the brine over the pickles,  filling the jars to within 0.5″ to the top. 

    Steps 6.

    Once it cools down to room temperature,  put the jar in the refrigerator.
    Step 7. 

    After 48 hours in the refrigerator,  pickles are ready! 

    Side note. 

    Don’t be alarmed if pickled garlic turns green. It’s normal! Acid in vinegar ruptures the cell membranes of the garlic cloves. Amino acids and sulfur compounds mix, and as a result enzyme isoallin is released. Isoallin reaction with aminoacids results blue pigmentation.  

    Side note 2. 

    To make sure that added tannins help make crispy pickles, I made 2 jars: one with tea leaves and one without. 

    There is artificial dye in…whaaat?

    When we slowly started eliminating dyes from our diet, I imagined it would be an easy process. “We’ll just remove brightly colored foods, and we’re good to go!”
    Unfortunately,  it’s not that easy. While most foods containing dyes are heavily processed and should be avoided anyway,  I was shocked to find out that food dyes are added to some farmed salmon, cereal bars,  vitamins, pickles, salad dressings, cheese, cereal marketed as “healthy,” toothpastes, potato chips, pastas, fresh oranges, meats, the list goes on.

    Food dyes add NOTHING beneficial, they just make things look brighter and more visually appealing.

    This is how we reduce use of dyes:

    1.  We read ALL the labels. It’s exhausting,  but so is the kid bouncing off the walls.
    2. Buy minimally processed food  by mainly shopping the perimeter of the store for foods that grew from the ground or had a mom.
    3. Check labels on health/beauty products. Dyes in toothpaste, shampoo, body wash or lotions get absorbed through our largest organ, skin.
    4.  Growing your own food and making everything from scratch is an option. Please excuse me while I read up on dye free salmon farming. I’m kidding…mostly. I started this post with an intention to share homemade pickles recipe my grandparents and parents use, but got sidetracked.

    What other products with sneaky artificial food dyes am I missing? Please, share in the comments.

    Coming soon: Babushka’s recipe for homemade pickles and science behind the pickle.

    Gluten free dye free playdough recipe for 50 students? Challenge accepted

    Co-op science class studied structure of the Earth. Kids  started by creating an inner core from playdough, then they added outer core, mantle and crust.  All we need for the activity is playdough, 4-5  different colors. Sounds easy enough, right?

    Plot twist: playdough should be gluten free and dye free.

    After trying several recipes, I finally found one that’s super easy and makes right texture playdough.

    2 cups of rice flour

    1 cup salt

    4 tbsp cream of tartar

    1.5 cup if boiling water

    2 tbsp coconut oil

    *natural food dyes – optional.

    Mix all the dry ingredients,  add natural food dyes, then boiling water.  Mix thoroughly. If playdough is still crumble, add more water 1-2 tbsp at a time.

    *Extra step. Add too much water (2+cups instead of 1.5 that recipe calls for) and to go to the store to buy more rice flour*