Beginning Brine Pickling
Many of the skills for preserving foods have not been passed down to the current generation, and need to be found and re-learned from other sources. Sometimes that will mean trial and error while we learn what works for us.  What I need to know is what size to cut up vegetables and how long they will (A) be ready to eat and (B) last in a brine. This then is my experiment in home canning. I hope that it will give you the confidence or inspiration to try your own real brine-canning, too.

This page is aimed at those who are used to vinegar pickling and pressure canning, to help them make the transition to natural brine pickling, as I did. For recipes for making brined pickles, see Apricots or plumsBeet kvass, Pickled beets,  Cucumber,  Cabbage or sauerkraut, ChutneyLemon,  Fermented fish, Green tomatoes or Salsa.
Turnip, begun February 6
I peeled and quartered a turnip, put it in a glass jar and added full array salt* and water to it.
The sum total of what I knew about preserving turnips at the time came from a Lil Abner comic strip I remembered in which the only food in the Yokums' house is jars of preserved turnips lined up on shelves on the wall around the room. I peeled and quartered the turnip and put it into a solution of salt water that was 1 teaspoon real salt and 1 pint of water.

Here is the peeled and quartered turnip 2 weeks later.  If I tap the glass, bubbles appear showing it is fermenting, but it's still as hard as it was when I put it in the salt water. I expect it will be months before I can eat it as a nice, juicy pickle.

Another turnip that I peeled and then kept peeling, shredding the turnip into peel-sized slices, has already been fermented and eaten. Some of its turnip flavor was gone, but it still had a turnip aftertaste. The chunks are still firm and fermenting, the wafer-thin slices pickled quickly. Pressure canning eliminates that difference and makes it much easier to can, but the cost of the lost nutrients and de-naturing of the pressure-canned food isn't worth the convenience that pressure canning brings., 1 month later
The quartered turnip has developed a vacuum seal. As long as the seal holds, it won't matter if the water level goes below the turnip level. It will still be an anaerobic fermentation and will not develop mold or toxins. If the seal should break, I will have to replace the water and the airlock. This is why I recommend not using bio-degradable plastic for airlocks, although they are okay for a few days.

Turnips -- 2 months later
The turnips don't look any different than they did 2 months ago when I first started brining them. Maybe that is the point about turnips. What makes them most valuable is not their taste but that they preserve well. Maybe that is the lost knowledge of preserving. It's not about knowing *how* to can, it's knowing *what* to can. Of course, I still have to open the jar and taste them to know for sure how they preserve.

Turnip -- 11 weeks. I tried the turnips and I am very pleased with how they are coming along. The outside 1/2" of the turnip has turned into the juicy, succulent turnip I was hoping for, and the inside is still firm and still needs to stay in the brine longer.

Pickled Turnip (3 months) and Fish Salad
While cutting my pickled turnip, I noticed it looks and  feels much like fish, so I decided to see if I could add it to a fish salad. I fermented some fish (see raw fermented fish) in sauerkraut juice and then made a fish salad with piece of it along with tiny pieces of pickled turnip. I covered them with olive oil and added some chopped garlic, lemon juice and sea salt. It was very good in that it almost completely disguised the turnip. It probably would have tasted even better without the turnip, but for a way to cover up pickled turnip, it was adequate. (Still preserving quite nicely after 3 months, btw.)

Pickled Turnip and Blue Cheese
This actually tasted good. You couldn't taste turnip at all.
Turnip#2 and Lemon -- May 11
Since I liked the taste of turnip with blue cheese, and blue cheese is made with penicillium mold which is the same turquoise and white mold that grows on lemons, and I am also trying an experiment with pickling lemons, I wondered what would happen if I pickled the turnips with a blue-moldy lemon. (Do not breathe in mold dust (spores). See Mold.) What happened, oddly, is that after a week the blue mold started to vanish.

Turnip #2 -- August 4
Three months of lacto-fermenting and these are soft to the point of being almost mushy The blue mold may have helped that before it disappeared, I don't know, but they were a lot softer than the turnip#1 were after 3 months. Of course, the weather has been warmer. The lemon taste was a little too pronounced and, sadly, they still have a faint taste of turnip left to them. Still, they are not so bad that I won't eat them, especially as I like mushy pickles. Conclusion: I will continue to use the blue mold on lemons but scrape it off rather than add the whole lemon peel if I want to encourage softness in a fermented vegetable., brine-canned February 24
I decided to expand my brine-preserving experiment. I peeled some small onions and put them in salt water along with a couple garlic cloves. After 2 weeks, they are beginning to look soft and fuzzy. I had one and it tasted great, though a little on the crunchy side for me.

I opened the pickled onions again a week later and took out another onion for lunch and cut the rest of the whole onions into quarters. It's still too crunchy for my chewing ability but not so much that I didn't eat and enjoy it. I mixed it with some soft fermented apple slices to make up for it. Served with a piece of cheese and a slice or sourdough bread, it was a nourishing and very satisfying meal.

I finally ate all the pickled onions in that jar and put the other onion pickles away on a high shelf where I wouldn't be tempted to eat them until I had seen how long they would last.. I made another jar of pickled onions in the first jar, however, because they are really, really good. (Swede) begun February 24

I chopped up some rutabaga (swede) and put it in brine. After two weeks, although it was chopped up into small pieces, it still looks as fresh as when I put it in.

(UK: "Swede") -- 6 weeks
Much like the turnip, it is keeping well.

Rutabaga -- 9 weeks. Opened the jar to try it. These 1" pieces are soft-crunchy and, best of all, taste a lot less like a rutabaga than when they into the jar. These small pieces need to be eaten soon, but, if they had been cut into larger chunks, would have lasted longer., begun March 10 I cut a few large chunks out of a celeriac, cut some bite-sized pieces with a knife and then shredded the rest with a coarse cheese grater. I put the big chunks into the bottom of a glass jar, then put the bite-sized pieces on top of them and the thin shredded pieces on top of those. As I did so I wondered if I would lose the small pieces as they sank to the bottom.

I was pleased to see that as it fermented, the smaller pieces stayed at the top, buoyed up by the carbonation probably. That they would be easier to get at when I opened the jar, and the larger pieces stayed at the bottom. The pieces at the top will ferment faster than the ones at the bottom.

After 2 weeks, the jar has formed its own vacuum seal. As long as the seal remains intact, the celeriac will keep indefinately. -- 1 month old. The celeriac that I cut in chunks and thin slices has turned soft and slimy and has an odd smell. It's edible but I don't like it and I'm going to throw it out. Note to self: don't try to brine celeriac. Find some other use for it. Or perhaps I should have eaten it a lot sooner.
Celeriac, 5 weeks.
--  I opened the celeriac. It's still slimy, though the smell wasn't as bad as I remembered it. Still, with soured food a bad smell doesn't necessarily mean anything. I determined to try it before sending it to the compost bin. So, with no fear for one's personal safety, I took a bite and it was delicious, soft, succulent and juicy. I added some hot spiced vinegar.
Conclusion: pickled celeriac is not out of the realm of the possible, but not a good vegetable for preserving over winter.
Celeriac, 6 weeks --
I finally poured the brined celeriac into my finished sauerkraut that I'm now eating. The brined celeriac was too slimy and smelly to eat by itself, but too tasty to toss away. There's nothing left of it now but the murkiness in a jar of kraut. Would I do it again? I've been thinking in my fantasize-as-farmwife mode that this would be good in a chutney. For all those leftover vegetables that wouldn't fit in the 50-gallon barrel after it had been packed to the top, I could chop them up into  a relish, and one celeriac would add body and flavor. If I find another celeriac on sale at the farmer's market, I may try it again that way to see what happens.

Celeriac #2 -- chutney, May 1

I made a chutney with celeriac, red peppers, onions, garlic, carrots and oregano.

Parsnip, begun February 3 I shredded a parsnip with a potato peeler to make very fine shavings and put it in brine.

Shredded parsnip  --  9 weeks
old. Has pickled nicely and I am going to add it to a prepared sauerkraut I am now eating. It wasn't really a good test of preserving parsnip. I should have used whole parsnips instead. Still, if parsnips sliced thin with a potato peeler will be edible 6 weeks after being put in brine in the spring, it bodes well for how parsnips will preserve.

Parsnip #2, begun April 19. Because the finely-shredded parsnip wasn't a good test of brine-canning, I am starting another jar with larger chunks of parsnip. I added some chopped chives and pieces of ginger. I expect that this will come out much like gingered carrots. If it keeps until July, I will assume that it would have lasted for 4 winter months.
Managing Brine-Canned Foods in the Home'll need to keep an eye on your on your pickles  Two ways would be to put them in a large barrel and take some out every day, or put them in clear glass jars on a shelf you can see, as I have done here. If it were autumn and I had harvested a large crop and had a family to feed thru the winter, I would think of lining a wall with shelving made out of cinder blocks and planks of wood.

And, speaking of feeding the family through the winter, see the jar on the far right? Those are the turnips. They have been in brine for 6 weeks and still look as firm and fresh as the day I put them in. When I started, I had visions of biting into soft, juicy, succulent turnips that had miraculously turned into something that did not taste like turnips. Instead, those turnips look much the same as they did 6 weeks ago. You can see a layer of kahm (white mold) forming on the cabbage leaf on top of them, but the turnips themselves are perfectly preserved. That's good news for the War On Pressure Canning, but bad news for me, because I don't actually like turnips.

The rutabagas (second from the right) still look firm and fresh, too, now after 3 weeks.

The rest of the jars are just more pickled onions. So far, I have been unable to find out how the onions would keep after 3 weeks because I eat them. However, I now remember that the way to preserve onions is to sew them together in a braid (or put in a net bag) and hang them from the rafters where each onion is surrounded by air, so I am not going to continue trying to brine-preserve the onions any more, but I will continue to make brine-pickled onions..

Lemons, begun March 16 found a recipe for pickled lemons from India on the net. Indians never lost their tradition of salt brining as we have in the West. This recipe caught my interest because it says it can be kept for 2 years. I decide to make a sample of it. Here's the recipe:
25 Lemons (Nimbu)
6 tablespoons Salt (Namak)
    * Prick the lemons with a sharp needle.
   * Put in a jar with salt for one month in the sun till the lemons turn slightly golden brown.
    * This pickle can be kept for two years.
I had found another recipe for mango pickle that had said to cover them with a cloth for the first week, so I decide to do that with the lemons. I get two lemons. I punched one with a small dressmakers' pin all around and cut the other in quarters. I put them in a jar, added a chili pepper and couple cloves of garlic, covered it with a piece of cotton cloth secured with an elastic and set it on my south-facing sunny kitchen window for a week. (I like this putting out in the sun for a week and may adopt this procedure for my other lacto-ferments.)

After a week, I removed the cloth cover. There was some kahm (white mold) on the top but I drained that off. I then stuffed some leaves on top of the lemons to keep them under the water and put a piece of plastic back on as a cover and put them on the shelf with my other pickles.

Lemons -- 3 1/2 weeks. Coming along well, or at least they look OK. I took them out of the sun after 1 week and put them on a kitchen shelf by mistake. They are still yellow and not brown.  A week later I moved them back into the sunlight. I bought a bunch more lemons in case it turns out I like them. The recipe doesn't say if you're to eat the whole lemon or just part of it. No doubt the Indians already know that. I guess I will find out when I try them.

Lemons -- 5 weeks Still sitting on the window sill in the kitchen in the sun, still not turning brown, still keeping well otherwise.

Lemons -- 3 months. The original lemons I pickled are still in the jar. However, since that time I have also made
lemon pickles by brine-pickling some lemon peels from moldy lemons. These ferment and quickly to mush, so I have eaten them. They have an interesting, tangy taste, but are best eaten with something else. They are good to lighten up a heavy meal of meat, and I believe they help stimulate digestion as well. I have used them to make a fruit chutney by first making a tomato salsa and then mixing it with chopped pickled lemon peel, raw honey and mixed raw fruit, often fruit that is starting to go "off" and ferment on its own.

Notes on Brine Canning

Preserving lots of cabbage
Get a large, food-safe barrel and put it in a cool place, perhaps a room on the north side of the house or apartment or flat if you don't have a cellar. Remove the cores from each cabbage and fill the resulting hole with salt. Place the cabbages salt side up (upside down) in the barrel and fill with water. Get something to weight them down so that the cabbages stay under water, such as putting a ceramic plate on the cabbages and a heavy rock on the ceramic plate, and then cover and leave in a cool place.

Apples & Quince
Quince will brine preserve well but apples will crumble quickly. Wrap each apple in a sheet of newspaper, put in a plastic grocery bag and hang from the rafters in a cool garage or put them any place where it's cool and the rats can't get at them. If it's going to get below freezing bring them into the house for awhile. That would be a good time to go through them to make sure none are getting soft. Some apples store better than others, however, so first it would be a good idea to ask if these particular apples are good for storing over the winter.

Carrots, parsnips and jerusalem artichokes can also be not harvested but left in the ground over the winter by covering them with hay over the rows.

Of course, you can't just preserve stuff to open at the end of winter, you also have to have stuff ready to eat every day during the winter. Figuring out this is probably another part of the equation in brine preserving. Cabbage can be packed whole, large chunks and shredded pieces to come out at different times. I have no problem keeping a prepared sauerkraut for 2 months in the cold weather.

How much of your crop should you preserve? This will vary according to individuals, but just as a starting benchmark I am guessing, per person, per month of no harvest: 4-6 cabbages, 35 onions, 5 garlic, 18 carrots, 12 turnips, 12 parsnips and 1 celeriac.

OK, that's the farmwife mode who thinks she has no other food coming in for 4 months. In the actual world we live in where you will continue to buy food from the store during the time of no harvest, those might be good ballpark numbers for how much to preserve to last the entire winter. Divide that amount into 4 parts and cut it up in different sizes so that different parts will be ready at different times. Pack into glass jars, cover with brine and push the veg down under the brine. Distribute the garlic evenly thoughout the others for flavor, and make a chutney of the celeriac and whatever pieces wouldn't fit into jars. Cover with a piece of cloth and leave in the sun for a week, then replace cloth cover with plastic and secure with a rubber band. Place in different temperatures -- warm area for what you want to eat as soon as it's ready, room temp for ongoing food source during the winter and some of it in cool to near-freezing temperatures to last till the end of winter. If you have 50-gallon oak barrels, of course, you can just pack everything in there and store it in the root cellar and the veg at the top of the barrel will be ready sooner than the stuff at the bottom.

So What Can You Do With An Expensive Pressure Canner?

Glass jars used for pressure canning can be used for brine canning. The only part of your pressure canner that causes damage to your food is the valve that creates the UHT (ultra high temperature)..
The pot itself can be useful as a good-quality steamer. Find a glass or ceramic bowl that fits inside the pot, put a glass or ceramic plate on top of the bowl. Add water to the pot and cover. Use it to re-heat cooked foods to replace your microwave.
You could even use it as a frugal, low-energy slow cooker: cover and bring it to boil, turn the heat off, put the valve on only to conserve heat, not to increase pressure, and then put a bunch of quilts or some other form of insulation around the pot and let food cook slowly at low temperature

For the more adventurous, convert it into a still.

Truly Cultured Rejuvenating Taste, Health and Community With Naturally Fermented Foods
Food Enzymes for Health & Longevity by Dr.Edward Howell
Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by The Gardeners and Farmers of Centre Terre Vivante.

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