I just opened a jar of fermented cauliflower pickles that I put up last July from a huge head of cauliflower from my garden. The pickles are crisp and tangy, laced with tarragon, garlic, chili and mustard. Best of all, the pickle juice is carbonated. Yes, I said carbonated. I’ll be making an awesome dirty gin martini after I publish this post!
I’d love to say this was my brilliant idea, but I got the inspiration from Amy Thielen’s recipe for Fermented Dills from her cookbook The New Midwestern Table. Before reading that spectacular book, I had always done open-crock fermenting, or fermented with an airlock. Totally sealing the jars as you would for home-brewed beer bottles never occurred to me for pickles. But wow, her fermented dills are amazing! And the pickle juice is carbonated and quite delicious. You basically get kvass and pickles all in one jar.
The brine, which is just salt and water is the same, as is the addition of cabbage leaves and grape leaves, if you have them (I have a row in the yard.) The cabbage kicks the fermentation up a bit, although I probably did not need them with cauliflower. The grape leaves add a bit of tannin, which keeps the veggies firm, but you don’t have to use them. Tarragon is the main herb in my version, plus garlic, chili, mustard and coriander seeds. Those flavors lend more of a French cornichon flavor to the cauliflower, which is a lovely departure from dill. Feel free to use seasonings of your choice, but don’t touch the salt brine.
I’ve included a number of trouble shooting notes in the recipe as the carbonation in these pickles can cause a few mishaps, mainly overflowing and breaking jars. Peruse those notes if you have any complications.
Cauliflower is grown locally in the summer and in the southern states in the winter, so this pickle can easily be made in February. Your fermentation might be a little slower, but it takes months anyone. Not to worry. Enjoy your pickles and martinis!