By Steve Greenwood, Director of Development
Last session, through a partnership with Foundation for Jewish Camp, we had the privilege of welcoming Avram Mandell from Tzedek America to URJ Camp George. Avram shared his extensive pickle knowledge and led groups of campers and CITs through the making of their very own jar of pickles. The recipe included below is based the one found here.
Campers learned about the historical connection of pickles to our European ancestors bringing them to North America. Apparently, the history of pickles goes back more than 3,000 years. They also learned that pickle juice is referenced in the Talmud, as well as the mention of cucumbers twice in the Torah in Numbers and Isaiah.
Avram also spoke about the ‘how’ of pickle making including the use of various spices for flavouring, the technique for cutting the cucumbers, and the pickling process itself. Jewish pickles are fermented in special mixture known as brine which is different than pickling per se, or canning. Brine is a proportioned mixture of salt and water.
The groups were also told about the special breathing formula for pickling. To prevent an explosion from the CO2 buildup, pickle jars typically need to be ‘breathed’ periodically. Alternatively, refrigerating the pickles puts a stop to the fermentation process but the cucumbers still get flavour from the brine. The pickles don’t sour any more once in the refrigerator as it stops the fermentation. Our jars were sealed immediately and have been refrigerated.
This way of learning provides the opportunity for connections between the history of our culture and a current practice. The conversation between campers and the questions they asked certainly suggested their enjoyment of this experience. At Camp George we love such an opportunity to bring our culture into practice.
I could see how inspired our campers and CITs were by Avram’s pickle knowledge. It was wonderful to see such interest from everyone in this pickle making process. We can’t wait to taste our pickles!
Half Sour Pickles
- 5 Kirby cucumbers or however many you can fit into your jar
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- few pieces of fresh dill
- 3 bay leaves
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup sea salt
- 6 cups water
- additional whole coriander seeds and peppercorns to add on top