I'm crazy in love with the good-for-your-gut pickles and fiery kimchi and sauerkraut made by the folks at Britt's Pickles in Seattle. Some say naturally fermented veggies are the ultimate super food. So, naturally, I wanted to try and DIY. Britt Eustis, the owner, created something for customers like me, who want to ferment veggies in a salt brine at home, the way food has been preserved since forever. It's an airtight jar with an valve that lets gas (a natural byproduct of the process) escape without air getting in. Meet the Pickle-ator.

Andrew Berg and Adele Eustis from Britt's Pickles at Seattle's Pike Place Market
Photo by Leslie Kelly

I made my first batch of pickles a few years ago during a session of Tom Douglas Summer Culinary Camp (which, sadly, doesn't exist anymore, but has been folded into the award-winning chef's Hot Stove Society cooking school). My first try was a home run, the finished product was crunchy and tart, thanks to lacto-fermentation. But that win was followed by a few fails: sauerkraut that wore a carpet of furry green mold, pickles that turned to mush. Where was I going wrong?

Adele Eustis, Britt's sister and business partner, offered to give me a hands on demo at their Pike Place Market shop, where customers are invited to try before they buy, and the shelves are filled with Adele's beautiful Pickleator's in progress projects. "Bring some organic veggies and peppers and I'll walk you through it," she instructed.

prepping fermentation project
Photo by Leslie Kelly

Best Veggies For Fermenting

  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Fennel
  • Peppers
  • Daikon radish
  • Jicama
  • Celery
  • Garlic
fermentation prep
Photo by Leslie Kelly

We cut up carrots (don't peel them because you want to preserve the healthy "dirt" on the surface), broke cauliflower into bite-sized pieces, sliced fennel and cut a tiny slit on the bottom of small, sweet peppers, filling up the 8-cup jar. To that, we added eight cups of spring water (don't use tap water because the cholorine kills the good bacteria you're trying to encourage to grow; think that was my issue on previous fails) creating a brine by stirring in 1 tablespoon of sea salt until dissolved and two tablespoons of pickling spices. The veggies are weighted down, so they stay submerged in brine. Store in a cool, dark place and three weeks later, pickled veggies that are teaming with healthy probiotics.

The carrots and cauliflower were the biggest hits among tasters who tried the finished fermentation, with the sweet peppers turning a little bit soft and mushy and the fennel losing its anise flavor, becoming more of a texture than a flavor. I'm already planning my next batch. As pretty as the combo was in the jar, next time, I'm going to double up on the cauliflower and the carrots.

Oh, and don't toss the brine! It can be strained and stored in the fridge, then sipped in shot glasses (have you ever tried a Pickleback?) or tossed with cabbage for a quickie version of kimchi slaw. So good, and good for you, too. (Well, except, maybe for the shot of whiskey on the Pickle Back.)

fermented veggies final
Photo by Leslie Kelly