But my fermentation didn't work. Well, I mean, it did work. It only worked too well.
I did my research and most of my reading said that pickles should ferment in their saltwater brine solution for 2 1/2 to 3 weeks. I bought a bushel of small, young cucumbers, picked early that morning. I scrubbed all the cucumbers and removed the blossom ends with a sharp knife, as leaving it on can lead to rot. I used fresh dill, fresh Ontario garlic and a mixture of spices made up from mustard seed, coriander seed and whole peppercorns. I filled my 5 gallon fermenting crock with the correct proportions of water and coarse salt, and weighed everything down with a plate. On top of that, for extra weight, I placed a mason jar filled with water. I covered it all with a tea-towel and tied it with some twine. I sat back and waited for nature to do it's thing.
I was diligent and scraped the forming yeast off of the top of my crock each day, and tasted them every couple of days to see if they were ready yet. They gradually changed in colour from bright green to a faded olive and it seemed as if everything was going smoothly. The smell of dill filled our house. However, I had a vacation away from home coming up on the calendar, and as that neared closer, my pickles were still not quite there yet. I would be gone for week, a week that put the pickles from 2 weeks of fermentation to 3. I enlisted my sister who was house-sitting to be on scum-scraping duty and she was happy to help.
Upon returning from vacation, I was ready to process and can the fermented pickles pretty much as soon as I walked in the door. But it was too late, I was gone too long. I inspected my batch and discovered that my pickles had turned to absolute mush on their insides while I was away. I had never anticipated that they would have spoiled so completely and so quickly within my estimated timeline. I tried one at the bottom of the batch that was not as gooey as the rest, and the flavour was incredible. A heart-breaking failure.
It's easy to become a defeatist and give up and think that every handmade or DIY project is not worth all the time, energy and effort when one that you put so much into turns out poorly. It's easy to not try at all when the possibility of failure is lurking just around the corner. Failing at something that you put your heart into is one of the worst feelings in the world, and can shatter everything you know to be true about yourself and your abilities in an instant.
But making mistakes is one of the best ways to really learn a lesson. All of the Bees try and lead lives where we make as much as we can by hand. It's one of the principles that brought us all together as a group. Making things by hand can often be tedious and requires patience, as it's not always about convenience. As many successes that we have with our DIY projects, we have just as many failures. After picking our self-confidence up off the floor, we take our new knowledge of our failure and try and turn it into inspiration to do a better job at it the next time around. Because when you do get it right, there's really nothing sweeter.
I recently took a dress-making class at Needlework where the wonderful instructor Mary confided in me that she was so surprised to see so many of the Bees signing up for her sewing classes. She had assumed that we were all proficient sewers.
We don't know everything. We make mistakes. The most important thing is that we try. Sometimes we have to try again. And hopefully, I'm not too late in the season to pick up another bushel of young cucumbers.