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Mouneh, Lebanese Mountains, & Pickling
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31 August 2009

Mouneh, Lebanese Mountains, & Pickling

A traditional and basic recipe for pickling brine. Lebanese pickles.

Pickling

I arrived to Lebanon over a week ago, during the “mouneh” months; pickling and preserving summer produce for the winter months. Preparing the mouneh is a practice that goes back for centuries and is an essential part of the Middle Eastern kitchen. We pickle and preserve pretty much everything. Alina, my father’s girl friend, and I have been trying out some traditional recipes and some rather non-traditional recipes.
Hajje's Mouneh

We’ve been in the mountains making pickles, carrot coffee, batenjan makdous (eggplant that is stuffed and preserved), watermelon jam, kishk (dried yoghurt), dried plums amongst other things.

I spent the first few days of my visit in Ayoun, on the foothills of Mt. Saninne which happens to be a five minute drive away from Faqra. There is no one in sight for miles, except when the shepherd passes by with his flock. It’s calm, beautiful and relaxing.

There are two faces to Lebanon; the mountain life and the city life. While Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, is very  fascinating, it’s like any other city in the world; just that much more chaotic. I find the mountain life to be more fascinating for a number of reasons; the natural beauty, the simplicity of village life, the symbiotic relationship between the farmer and the land, the hosptality of the people, and most importantly the tranquility.

I’ve put together a quick collection of images that capture some of these moments.

I have also been out and about, trying to capture more of this country’s beauty. So, stay tuned!

 

 

Pickles and Garlic

 

Mouneh, Lebanese Mountains, & Pickling
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Author:
Serves: 4

Ingredients
  • 500ml/17 fl oz/ 2 cups drinking water ( you may not use all of this)
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 500g/1 lb 2 oz cucumbers, (or a variety of vegetables; turnips, carrots, onions…)
  • 1 liter jar, sterilised and dried
  • 100ml/ 3½ fl oz/ scant ½ cup apple vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 hot pepper, sliced lengthwise in half (will yield very spicy results, for less spicy do not slice)
  • Dried dill flowers and celery leaves, added to the bottom

Instructions
  1. Mix the water with the salt and bring to a boil, stirring until the salt is completely dissolved. You can test for the correct salt amounts by placing an egg into the cooled solution. If the egg floats, you've got the right amount of salt. A starting rule we follow in my household is 1 tbsp of sea salt for every half litre.
  2. Once the solution has chilled, place half the garlic cloves and the bay leafs at the bottom of the jar. If you are adding dill and celery leafs, then add them here.
  3. Place the cucumbers into the jar, vertically, as close to each other as possible.
  4. Once a full circle is reached, add the sliced hot pepper and continue filling with cucumbers.
  5. Add the rest of the garlic.
  6. Cover the jar with the cooled solution, leaving two inches to seal off with the apple vinegar and completely submerge the cucumbers. The picture below was added after pickles sat for 5 days and were already dug into, hence the colour, texture and packing difference.
  7. Cover and leave it to sit in a cool, dry place. The pickles will be ready within 5 days and will last sealed for about a year, if they're not consumed within days, that is.

 

 

Mix the water with the salt and bring to a boil, stirring until the salt is completely dissolved. You can test for the correct salt amounts by placing an egg into the cooled solution. If the egg floats, you’ve got the right amount of salt. A starting rule we follow in my household is 1 tbsp of sea salt for every half litre.

Hard Boiled Egg

 

Once the solution has chilled, place half the garlic cloves and the bay leafs at the bottom of the jar. If you are adding dill and celery leafs, then add them here.

 

Garlic and Bay Leaves

 

Place the cucumbers into the jar, vertically, as close to each other as possible.

Once a full circle is reached, add the sliced hot pepper and continue filling with cucumbers.

Add the rest of the garlic.

 

IMG_7729Pickled CucumbersPickled Cucumbers and Garlic

 

Cover the jar with the cooled solution, leaving two inches to seal off with the apple vinegar and completely submerge the cucumbers. The picture below was added after pickles sat for 5 days and were already dug into, hence the colour, texture and packing difference.

 

Hajje's MounehPickled Cucumbers and GarlicPickled Cucumbers and Garlic

Pickled Cucumbers and Garlic

Cover and leave it to sit in a cool, dry place. The pickles will be ready within 5 days and will last sealed for about a year, if they’re not consumed within days, that is.

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23 thoughts on “Mouneh, Lebanese Mountains, & Pickling

  1. The pickling could’nt get any simpler than that. you make it look so easy. And the video amazed me. wonderful pictures they really captured the mountain life and all its treasures.

  2. That is the simplest no brainer pickle recipe I have ever seen. With most recipes you wonder about the amount of salt….To much or too little and your pickles will fail. You could probably put some carrot slivers and onion and celery stalks in there.
    Only problem is one quart (liter) jars are not common. I have two of them and they are both pickle jars. I have 22oz jars and will have to adjust.

    I like your clean one to one ratio of water to cucumbers and one teaspoon salt. Is that enough salt so they won’t go bad?

  3. Jan- Yes the salt ratio is the one we use in my household.The pickles last through to early summer of the following year. Just store them in the fridge once opened.

  4. While I haven’t pickled cucumbers (or anything else) for years, this really is a tempting recipe to reintroduce my tastebuds to the whole phenomenon. I like one of your reader’s suggestion to add carrots and onions…this would really appeal to my husband. And the idea that an egg can help you discover the perfect ratio of salt to water? Just brilliant. Thank you!

    Anyway, I found you through TasteSpotting and am writing to say that if you have any photos that aren’t accepted there, I’d love to publish them. Visit my new site (below), it’s a lot of fun! I hope you will consider it.

    Best,
    Casey
    Editor
    http://www.tastestopping.wordpress.com

  5. Lovely post I bet the pickles are really good. Loved the slide show too Lebanon looks a beautiful place I would love to relax in the mountains eating that wonderful food and taking in the views. 🙂

    1. this for jeena you will love lebanon i was there 5 month ago i’am from lebanon the food wonderful every thing you should love there hope you will make trip there one day and than see what i mean you love it

  6. Thanks Bethany
    Here is an example of a person who means well but will overwhelm the first time pickle maker. Too much volume to deal with…One gallon. Good luck making a smaller amount. (More salt that you use by the way!)
    http://cantaloupealone.blogspot.com/2009/08/pickles-pt-2-brined-fermented-pickles.html

    This is typical of pickle recipes. Your recipe scales up very nicely. Yours is one quart so if you want more you multiply it. I trust you because you come from a pickle making tradition so if you say one teaspoon salt and they will not spoil…. I know this is correct

    BTW could you post recipe for making those beet stained cabbage?, turnip and carrot pickles I have had in Mediterranean restaurants? It may have been a Lebanese, Greek or Israeli ones. I forget

    Thanks!

  7. Again…I look at your recipe
    ****500g cucumbers, cornichon preferably (or a variety of vegetables; turnips, carrots, onions…*****

    So I can follow this recipe and substitute beets, turnip, carrots, cabbage and it will work? My guess is to use big chunks of beets, turnip, carrots but not whole ones because the pickling solution penetrates pickling cucumbers (cornichons) easier because they are less dense. More watery

    Plus the cabbage I would pickle this way would be —->>> Whole leafs taken off the cabbage one by one, the greener and more outer the better. Then two to four leafs rolled up and jammed into the one quart jar. And repeat

    If *instead* cabbage is sliced up and pickled this way the cabbage will come out too salty because of all the additional surface area for the pickling solution to penetrate

    Why eat pickles?
    They taste good…..
    But they help you digest whole grains beans and meats. They get your intestinal bacteria right to help break down and assimilate complex carbohydrates found in grains and beans

    White bread? When your intestinal bacteria are not so good you can still digest and assimilate white bread. This is why people instinctively choose it. It’s baby food

    Pickles help digest meat. This is why people like pickles on their hamburger and relish on their hot dogs. Mustard and ketchup are also pickled foods even though the lacto-bacteria may have been killed off same as in lots of the yogurt you find in supermarkets. Only buy yogurt that says “live yogurt cultures” on the label

    The sourness in pickles also helps digest meat and fried foods such as fried fish and french fries. This sour vinegar element cuts through fat

  8. I love you website Beth! the video was touching it gave me goosebumps, i miss home. love ya’ you are doing such a fabulous job!!

  9. Pickling was once so common in America. In my grandmother’s day everyone pickled something, and it was a point of pride to have a special recipe that you could share with friends and neighbors on an annual basis.

  10. Thanks for the link! Yeah that was a huge batch of pickles for some 60 people at summer bbq. The hardest part about smaller volumes of pickles is finding the right size vessel that will cover the cucs with brine, and have a mouth wide enough to get in and out of especially if you are weighing them down. Sometimes bigger is just easier.

  11. It is most important that you make sure that the SALT is COMPLETLY dissolved before doing the egg test – when the egg does float it should bob to the size of a dime. This is such a simple fool proof test done for centuries –

  12. Great article! So here is a question. In the third photo of the pantry or storeroom, since the jars are stored on the shelf, as opposed to the fridge, were they waterbathed to seal them?

  13. Hi Bethany, this is excellent! You are a life saver. I was searching for an authentic Lebanese pickle recipe and yours is the best and simplest. Can I use the same for chillies or onions?

    Being an Indian I surprise my family by loving the Lebanese cuisine. Why? Coz its more healthy! Imagine having the Indian pickle with a meal. The red hot chilli – masala mix ensures the intestines and inner linings of the stomach are over burdened with digestive activities.

    I love the Lebanese hummus, fateh, batata haar and fattoush among others. Although I have eaten Lebanese cuisine only in restaurants, I and yearning to eat home-made Lebanese cuisine and your recipes are the closest I can get I am sure. Mashkoorik.

  14. Bethany, clarification kindly pls. do confirm if you have to sit the pickles for 5 days before you add the Water/Salt/vinegar solution?

  15. I ‘ve been to Lebanon before and the mountain life and village life is truly amazing and peaceful,pickling and farming is part of the mountains daily life,thank you for the pickle recipe.
    Great job please do more blogging on Lebanese food,like barbecues etc.

  16. So you dont need to water bath can these for them to last a year?? as i was looking for a canning recipe when i found your site.

  17. I tried this recipe and did the egg test but after five days, the brine was cloudy and the pickles a little slimy. I washed one and tried it it was delicious. Did I perhaps not put enough vinegar?

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