Last year’s attempt at lactofermented pickles was a resounding success, marred only by the whole not-making-enough problem. I ran out of pickles a few months ago, and I’ve had to make do with the soggy, vinegary, sorry excuses for pickles I can get in the store. A sad state of affairs indeed.
Building on last year’s success, I went large on the pickle patch this year. I planted not one but two varieties of cukes – one a bush-habit plant, and one a vining variety. I planted six of each, doubling the number of plants from last year’s garden. Both varieties took off fast – I really think my woody beds are finally broken in and paying dividends, because everything is doing super well this year, and I almost never have to do anything. In fact, my garden is getting a bit boring – no need to water for weeks now, despite generally dry conditions, and the heavy layers of grass clipping mulch make weeding a trivial chore. All I have to do is wander through the beds and police things up now and again, but it’s just busy work at this point.
OK, well, not quite – I did have to throw together a quick cattle-panel trellis for the vining cukes, but other than that, the thing is on autopilot. And that’s not a bad thing at all – it frees me up to procrastinate on the other projects I have going on. Tough work that.
Anyhow, today was a banner day in the garden – first harvest. And not surprisingly, it was the cukes that went first. Just a couple for now – I’m looking at getting them off the vine when they’re 3″ to 4″ long, which is just the right size for pickling. But there are tons waiting in the wings, and given the speed with which the first ones grew, the next batch should only be a day or two behind. There ought to be enough for the first batch of pickles within two weeks or so.
Hence my problem. Each of my two batches last year used about five pounds of cukes, and at least a week in the crock fermenting. Looking at my stats from last year, I netted 33 pounds of cukes, and if I extrapolate for the increase in the number of plants, I could find myself trying to pickle something like 60 pounds of cukes. The crock I have holds five pounds, so I’d need 12 batches to use up my harvest. At only a week per batch, that’d be the entire summer. And the cukes aren’t the only problem – I have six heads of cabbage destined for sauerkraut, and that’ll claim a decent amount of crock time too.
So the crock is the limiting factor, which means it’s time to add another one to my process. The Gärtopf crocks ain’t cheap, but they’re so well made and so useful that I wouldn’t feel guilty about the expense. And I should probably be looking ahead to canning time, too, and start laying in jars and lids. I expect the tomato crop to be generous this year too, and I want to make sure I can save as much as possible.
All in all, there are worse problems to have than figuring out how to save and enjoy your bounty.