Well I admit I have been learning a few things thru permies about fermentation for a while..but when I was "growing up" I was taught over and over that "pickled foods aren't good for you" ..and then when I was reading "one straw revolution" I learned that might not be right. Now I'm learning more and more about how they may actually be healthier for you and that it is possibly an important part of our diet and a good way to store foods over our Michigan Winters.
So yeah, I really need to know the truth, pretty much relearn everything..so HELP..
tell me all ya can..OK?
Bloom where you are planted.
turns out that "pickling" means different things to different folks. many pickles aren't fermented and my guess is that most of them are about as healthy as boiled vegetables with too much salt. that's ignoring the truly industrial pickles that I would probably group with (fugees and) fun-yuns.
fermented foods, including fermented pickles, are a whole other story. I'm not willing to say that they're all healthy for everyone in unlimited quantities, but they're an important part of a lot of traditional diets that have worked well for a lot of people for a long time.
There is a ton of free information out there, too. A lot of Weston A. Price diet followers are very experienced in fermenting, and many of them have fairly decent blogs with many recipes. I also enjoy the Cultures for Health website. They sell cultures for yogurt, etc. but they also have a ton of recipes and information on all types of fermented foods.
Kind of off topic, I was speaking with an 18-year old Korean friend the other day, and she was explaining that Kimchi is "so we can have vegetables during the winter," as if it is a completely foundational part of her understanding of food. I am so glad her family and culture has retained that common sense! If only more American teenagers felt the same way about seasonality and good fermented foods!
There's also Mollison's "Ferment and Human Nutrition", which is, I hear, out of print and hard to find. It's basically a world tour of food fermentation and preservation, covering way more ideas and resources than anyone could ever hope to practice in one lifetime! The only problem with the book is that it gives a review of each practice that's a little too short.....often enough important details are omitted so it's difficult to just use what's in there and jump right in. But taking an idea from there and researching it elsewhere first is an excellent way to proceed.
Bill Mollison's "Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition" is COMPLETELY NUTS! I was very lucky to pick up a (deeply underpriced) used copy at my local bookshop, and it's always a treat to look through. I agree that the recipes are written in broad strokes and might not be very useful to a beginner. There's some pretty advanced-level stuff that will at least get you thinking about how to incorporate more ferments into your diet, and you get a much clearer idea of how a human culture that doesn't use refrigeration can use symbiotic ferments to prolong the harvest and increase nutrition.
There are some absolute gems, too. "Kill and clean a seal. Fill the body cavity with 50 baby auks. Sew it up again. Bury it under your igloo over the coldest part of winter, so that the heat of decomposition can warm your family. Dig it up and eat."
50% of Mollison is great commonsense advice, 40% is paradigm-shifting amazing deep thinking, and 10% is jokes and lies.
"pickling' indeed is a broad word - many 'pickles' are essentially boiled fruit and veg with a lot of salt and sugar and sometimes vinegar. nice as a condiment, not in quantity. fermented pickling is very healthy, preserving foods and in many cases actually increasing their nutritional value, and adding probiotics to your diet.
we eat as much fermented stuff as i can actually manage to produce - and we always want more - sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented onions and garlic, fermented carrot salad, fermented 'pickled' cucumbers, green tomatoes, as well as drinks like kombucha, and this year i want to try beet kvass
Saw some folks talking about Bill Mollison's book The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition. I just saw yesterday that it is back in print and available from a few different places. Here...http://www.wildfermentation.com/the-permaculture-book-of-ferment-and-human-nutrition/ or here...http://www.amazon.com/Permaculture-Book-Ferment-Human-Nutrition/dp/0908228066 or here...http://www.powells.com/biblio/9780908228065 and I am sure there are others. Anyway, thought some folks here might like to know.
"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny." ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Another vote for Sandor Katz’ book. He is the widely recognized modern western godfather of fermentation.
We always have a container or two bubbling away on the counter. Kimchee, asparagus, cauliflower+beets, broccoli and cauliflower stalks, Brussels sprout stalks, hot sauce... the list goes on. Then, when we’ve finished the veggies inside, dilute the residual fermented brine with water and it makes an awesome pho noodle soup base. Waste not, want not.