The Fresh Loaf

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When is a pickle?

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

When is a pickle?

Okay. I know this is a baking forum, but consider: Rye bread cries for pastrami, and pastrami sandwiches cry for pickles. In fact, the respondents to my recent blog on Jewish Sour Rye Bread  and Eric's blog on home-made pastrami have more or less demanded I share my mother's recipe for the best ever garlic pickles.

But, first,  you have to hear a story about them, you should be warned.

I don't make pickles often. Typically, several years go by between picklings, so there are things I forget.

A few years ago … about 25 years, actually … I put up a case of my mother's garlic pickles. (See the recipe, below.) My wife and I disagreed about the process, which is a normal step in the pickle-making procedure, but I am in charge of pickling in our household, so I did it as I remembered my mother doing it.

Well, after the pickles were in the jars and three days had passed, we took the jars out of the box to tighten the lids. The brine in the jars was fizzy with gas, and the contents were extremely cloudy. My wife, whose first career was as a clinical microbiologist, wanted me to throw them out; they clearly had bacterial contamination and were unsafe to eat. My memory was that my mother's pickle jars always got cloudy. This was normal. They hadn't killed anyone yet. I was sure they were just fine.

We continued this “discussion” for several days. Then, in exasperation, I called the University of California, Davis Agricultural Extension Service, after getting my wife to agree they would be a reliable source of health safety information regarding home preserved vegetables.

I spoke with the nice young women to whom I was transferred who identified herself as a consultant on home canning. I described the condition of my pickles. She asked for my recipe, and I gave it to her. There was a long pause. She asked, “No vinegar?” I confirmed that the pickles were made without vinegar. She told me that vinegar was absolutely required. Acidification of the brine was essential to prevent growth of bacteria, including Clostridia botulinum. Another long pause. “Sir, I believe you have a very dangerous product there,” she announced, with considerable emotion.

My wife, of course, reminded me she had “told you so!” But, I was unconvinced. I told the nice Cooperative Extension Service Canning Consultant I was just positive my mother's pickles always turned cloudy and gave off gas, and they hadn't killed anyone yet. I was sure they were fine. She said she was still sure I had a lethal “product,” but she would talk to the Cooperative Extension Service Pickle Consultant when he returned from vacation in 2 weeks and get back to me.

Two weeks later, as good as her word, the Cooperative Extension Service Canning Consultant called me back. She had talked with the Cooperative Extension Service Pickle Consultant, and she had learned something new which she shared with me: “You have not made pickles,” she announced. “Pickles are made with vinegar. What you have made is fermented cucumbers.” The Pickle Consultant had told her to tell me the way to be sure they were safe to eat was to look for carbon dioxide gas generated by the fermentative process and a cloudy precipitate in the brine, which was made of dead yeast bodies.

After waiting a week after I had eaten a few, to be sure the pickles didn't kill me or make me sick, my wife and children joined me in enjoying the delicious fermented cucumbers. 

Phyllis Snyder's Garlic Not-Pickles

Ingredients

  1. Pickling cucumbers

  2. Peeled garlic cloves

  3. Celery cut into 1/2 x 3 inch sticks

  4. Dried hot red peppers

  5. Fresh dill weed

  6. Pickling spice

  7. Brine made with 1 part un-iodized salt stirred until dissolved in 21 parts water.

Equipment

  1. Glass canning jars and lids

  1. Large pot to sterilize jars and lids

  2. Tongs to handle hot jars and lids

  3. Clean kitchen towels to drain sterilized jars and lids

  4. Large colander

Procedures

  1. Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water. Rinse thoroughly.

  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place jars and lids in the water and boil for 7 minutes.

  3. Remove jars and lids from water and drain on kitchen towels until they are room temperature.

  4. Scrub pickling cucumbers well. Drain in colander.

  5. Pack each jar tightly with a layer of cucumbers, upright.

  6. Over this layer, pour 1 tsp pickling spice, 1 or 2 garlic cloves, 2 dill sprigs (stems and flowers) and 1 pepper. (These quantities are for quart jars. If you are using pint jars, use half these quantities for each jar.)

  7. Pack the rest of the jar tightly with cucumbers.

  8. Insert 2 or more celery sticks in among the cucumbers. (These supposedly help the pickles stay crisp. Anyway, they are good to eat too.)

  9. Fill the jar with the brine to cover the jar contents completely.

  10. Screw the lids onto the jars loosely.

  11. Leave the jars in a cool place for at least 3 days. (If you want “half-pickles,” refrigerate the jars immediately at this point.) There will be significant carbon dioxide gas generate which will appear as tiny bubbles in the brine, and the brine will become cloudy with a white sediment which will eventually settle to the bottom of the jars.

  12. Tighten the jar lids and store them. The pickles can now be eaten, but will keep for a few years.

 Enjoy! 

David

 

Comments

chefscook's picture
chefscook

So are they safe to eat
The hot pepper is probably
What is keeping it safe to eat
Chefscook

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I think it's the garlic, but I'm not going to experiment.

David

probably34's picture
probably34

There is a brand of pickles called Bubbies that does naturally fermented dill pickles which are by far the best I've ever had. I get them at Whole Foods.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thank you David. What a great story. It won't be long and we will be having pickle cukes in the farmers market here. I'll be sure to try this recipe.

Eric

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I hope you can get fresh dill too.

David

Franko's picture
Franko

Fermented cucumbers... ? Sounds good to me, as well as the story you tell. I imagine that they're fairly soft, not a snapping crisp type of dill pickle from the sounds of them, and just the right texture for a pastrami sandwich or Reuben. The flavour from fermentation must be pretty assertive I'd think , and the perfect foil for smoked meats.

Thanks for sharing the recipe and story David, great read!

Franko

 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Actually, the pickles are quite crisp. The flavor is wonderful, and the CO2 gives a slight tongue tickle.

David

breadsong's picture
breadsong

David,
I'm tempted to call these 'dill tickles'
(that's why I apologized in advance)
:^) from breadsong

 

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Thank you for sharing your mother's recipe for fermented garlic pickles.  These pickles have a lot of health benefits...think yogurt, buttermilk...good bacteria.  Refrigeration stops the fermentation and they will keep a very long time in the refrigerator.  I make Mike's favorite hot peppers, carrots, pearl onions, in a vinegar and olive oil to preserve them...delicious, but not near as healthy as your mother's way of preserving.

Sylvia

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

The only thing David, I would add here is to be sure and boil, then cool, if unfiltered tap water if used. I would probably use my water distiller for these pickles.

Sylvia

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I believe I've always used tap water, unboiled. Is your concern bacteria in the water? Chlorine?

David

proth5's picture
proth5

My grandmother handed down a recipe for 14 day pickles that employs a similar technique.  Her recipe includes alum (or pickling lime) in the fermentation process.  It also finishes with a sweet vinegar syrup for the final heat processing (OK, we're PA Dutch, we like sweet things...) - although I have no doubt the fermented cucumbers keep well under the right conditions.  And yes, during the 14 day fermentation process of my grandmother's pickles, the water can go a little cloudy.  They are also quite crisp.  The fermentation process seems to bring that to the pickles.

Just to go into some technical details, this is anaerobic fermentation that takes place in the absence of oxygen - so your step of putting them in canning jars (with new lids, I hope) is quite important.  My grandmother's recipe employed a "bulk ferment" (so to speak) that employed a weight to keep the cucumbers submerged (very important...)

I haven't made them in many years because - well - in all those years I have not been at home for the 14 consecutive days it takes to make them. (Think about it...)

The salt, and the fermentation itself is what makes the things safe to eat - think about how stable our sourdough cultures become - the beneficial bacteria become so robust that other bacteria cannot thrive (think also crock cured saurkraut.) However, I would store any fermented food that has not been heat processed with great care - warm temperatures can do some odd things...

 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Yup. New lids seem to always be recommended for canning. I'm not sure why, since they are sterilized before use.

I don't personally like either sour or sweet pickles very much, but I do have a recipe from the mother of a friend of my mother's for sweet pickles. She made them from already pickled garlic dills.

I do recall one time that my mother made her pickles in a large glazed crock - maybe 5 gallon sized.

David

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

New lids are recommended for canning because the material on the sealing surface can be too damaged to seal if old liners are re-used.  Also, those can be bent slightly when opening the sealed jar, and not flatten back down properly if re-used.  They don't mean an entire new lid, just the flat insert.

proth5's picture
proth5

MangoChutney speaks the truth.  With those two piece lids, you only need to use new inner lids - not bands.  But you are not exactly doing heat processed canning - however wear on that little surface that actually comes in contact with the glass would be a concern for me. In "theory" a lactic fermented product is "safe" as long as it is submerged in brine, but better to blow a few pennies on new lids than risk anything, eh?

As I said, I'm not at home enough to tend to lactic fermented things just now, but if you are interested - my favorite store - Lehman's carries some interesting fermentation crocks.  Since you are managing fermentation anyway with bread - why not branch out?

Maybe it's that I'm at the beginning of my  overwhelming canning season that this all seems active in my mind.  I can only wish that I had the time at home to make my grandmother's pickles.  Darn.

Pat

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Ahhhh ... I knew that (once upon a time).

David

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Thank you for sharing this triumphant story with us.  Mild brine is the key to preservation by lactic fermentation, which is what you have done.  Lactic acid bacteria then generate an acid environment from the sugars present.  This is the same procedure as results in sauerkraut from cabbage.

G-man's picture
G-man

I was looking for a post like this one!

Pickles created through fermentation work a lot like sourdough, it's safe because there are good bacteria keeping things nice for themselves, which keeps things nasty for bad bacteria. Garlic always carries a threat of botulism, so the brine is absolutely essential to the safety of this recipe.

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

When you talk about 1 part salt to 21 parts water, do you mean by weight? Another recipe I have, for example, advocates about 20 grams per litre.

Thanks for a great story.

Jeremy

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Thanks, Jeremy. I should have specified measurement method.

The recipe is entirely by volume. I know my mother used plain table salt (not kosher salt, for example).

David

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

David, I'm not sure about your mother's recipe, but my mother always topped each jar with a fresh grape leaf.  I don't recall if that had to do with helping create an oxygen barrier or there was an old wives tale involved (she was, after all, an old wife when I was making pickles with her).

Thanks for the recipe (I thought I had it somewhere, but now I know I do) and the story.

Too bad there's no time to make pickles before the beach get-together.

Glenn

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Now that you mention it, I do remember that. Do you remember where she got the grape leaves?

David

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

I don't remember procuring the grape leaves, but I would guess there was an Armenian grocery that carried them in season (which would have been coincident with cuke season).  If you want I can ask one of the wine growers I know if I can have a bag of grape leaves next time I'm going through the Anderson Valley (the pruning season is upon us).

Glenn

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

The leaves are the original of the alum and modern day pickle crisp granule stuff. The tannins in the leaves keeps the pickles firmer. And cherry leaves, if you can get them, are every bit as good, if not better.

Jeremy

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I have made sauerkraut,fermented cucumbers and kefir for the last year and sourdough bread for 2 years. One thing I have noticed is that fruit and vegetables left on the counter or in a bowl or even in the refrigerator never spoil anymore-they ferment! I had a bowl of pureed squash that got left on the counter behind something for about 3 days. It was smooth,sour and totally fermented. Smelled like beer-tasted yeasty. I used it to raise a loaf of bread-worked very well!

The grape leaf (or cherry leaf or alum or horseradish) help to keep the cucumber crisp. Salt keeps the anaerobic nasty bacteria from growing until the lactobacillus can make the brine acidic enough to preserve and vinegar makes the liquid instantly acidic enough to squash bacterial growth. Storing your pickles in a warm environment will prob hasten spoiling-they may get slippery or soft or nasty looking.You'll know.

Sauerkraut is easy! It is lovely on a ham or pastrami sandwich on a lovely,homemade rye. Ratio of 2 tbsp canning salt to 5 lbs shredded cabbage. I add carrot,radish,peppers(sweet or hot to taste), garlic,herbs,spices,onion,apple,caraway,etc,etc. Whatever flavor profile you want.ANyways,shred the cabbage and veggies,add salt and "knead" so all the liquid comes out.Letting it sit for an hour helps. Pack tightly into a clean jar.Smoosh down so all the veggies are under the liquid (make some more liquid if necessary). Put a plate under to catch any overflow and put a towel over it or the fruit flies will have a frenzied feast and let it sit in the basement for4-14 days. Taste every few days and eat at will but the longer and cooler it sits (no colder that 60), the tastier it is.Kind of like bread-needs a cold retard! Delicious! Full of great stuff! I very much dislike canned sauerkraut but I love homemade kraut-totally different flavor to me.

Pickles are pretty much the same.Just shave 1/8 in off  the bloosom end to get rid of some destructive enzymes there before packing into the jars.

Franko's picture
Franko

David,

I thought you may be interested in this. Yesterday on my way back from purchasing a new electric smoker I decided to stop by the book store to see if they had a copy of Michael Rhulman & Brian Polcyn's book on 'Charcuterie-The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing', which they did, and which I'm now the happy owner of. Today I was able to sit down and give it a read through and lo and behold there are your mother's style fermented pickles on Pg 69. The recipe calls for a 5% ratio of kosher salt to water, so very close to the 1 part to 21 your mother's calls for as a percentage. From knowing virtually nothing about pickle making 48 hours ago, between your post and the book I feel like I'm ready to give it a go.

Rhulman & Polcyn's book covers many of the aspects of charcuterie from a brief history of the craft, through simple salt cured foods, basic and special brines, sausage types and methods, smoking, dry curing, pate and terrines, various types of confit, and a final section on sauces and condiments to accompany the recipes. It has a good selection of recipes using all types of meats and fish/shellfish, and a fair number of vegetarian selections as well. Today I put up a jar of lemon confit that I'm dying to try in a few weeks. 

What impressed me as much as the recipes was the emphasis on food safety, something I've found lacking in so many cookbooks. This is a book that naturally deserves to sit alongside any collection of bread baking books.

Best Wishes for your family get-together at the beach,

Franko 

 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I've heard good things about that book from others too. I didn't know it had recipes for pickles though. I've not noticed it in the local book stores. I'll keep an eye out for it.

David

Elagins's picture
Elagins

Another masterpiece post that I'm gonna have to pursue to its logical conclusion, especially since I adore half-sours. I will thank you eternally each time I eat my pastrami or pickled tongue or corned beef on corn rye.

Incidentally, as a lover of all things fermented (except maybe Korean skate, ho-e), I made some kimchi not too long ago (my marriage survived, but just barely). I found the recipe and methodology on this outstanding video: http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/kimchi-kaktugi. In fact, for anyone who loves Korean food and wants to do it themselves, www.maangchi.com is an amazing site.

Stan Ginsberg
www.nybakers.com

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Enjoy!

And, before you ask, the same recipe makes delicious pickled green tomatoes.

David

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

Sandor Katz is a great proselytiser for all things fermented, including cucumbers and sauerkraut, and has a good website, Wild Fermentation.

Jeremy

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

So you like to make your own Kimchee too!  Cloudy and gassy... sounds good to me!  

Too many dictionaries would say those are pickles with or without vinegar.  :)   I got the green tomatoes!

highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam

A friend of my grandmother used to make these wonderful "pickles" that had garlic in them. I have tried at least 6 different recipes and never had any luck...but, of course, I was looking in the pickle recipes. I'll bet these are the ones! You never disappoint.
Pam

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

When you make the pickles, let me know how you like them.

David

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Great to see family recipes like this one shared - thanks David! As I've stated before, I really believe that the best food in the world comes from domestic kitchens, and great family recipes are gold.

Just a quick question. What sort of cucumbers qualify as 'pickling cucumbers'? We do our best to grow most as many of the veges we consume as possible, and generally get a good crop of Lebanese cukes - I would imagine these would be fine for pickling/curing/fermenting/etc, but maybe there's a particular quality/variety of cuke that is best for these purposes. Any tips on this, pls?

Also, just curious - I know cukes such as your mother's are a trad accompaniment for pastrami on rye, and there are several other contexts in which I've enjoyed them also (eg: with heringsalat, as part of an antipasto plate, with cheeses), but how else do you guys like to have them?

Cheers
Ross

Elagins's picture
Elagins

hi Ross,

In the US, the most common type of pickling cucumber is called the Kirby, which is smaller, firmer, more pimpled and more compact than the larger cylindrical slicing cucumbers. In UK, I've seen kosher dills made from Mediterranean cukes, which are also small, uncurved, dark green and have creases or shallow ridges running the length of the cuke, rather than pimples. I suspect your Lebanese cukes are the latter variety, and should work well pickled.

Stan

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

Speaking of pickles in the UK, I don't suppose anyone here has a recipe for the kind of pickles that used to be served at the Jewish retaurants in the East End of London, called New Green cucumbers?

They used ordinary ridge cukes, and vere very lightly pickled, probably brine rather than vinegar. I've never seen a recipe.

Thanks

 

Jeremy

Elagins's picture
Elagins

or new pickles. use David's recipe and refrigerate the pickles after 3 days or so.  the cucumbers will still be bright green and very crunchy, more briny than fermented.

Stan

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Yeah, your description of the Mediterranean cukes coresponds fairly closely with the Lebanese ones we grow. One way to find out if they pickle well, but will have to wait for a few months - cold and nasty here right now. Looking forward to trying David's family recipe in summer.

Cheers!
Ross

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

As Stan said, the Kirby is the standard cucumber for garlic dills. They look like this:

I like these with sandwiches, especially those made with smoked meats. 

The only other pickled cucumbers I always have in stock are French style Cornichons which are great with pâtés and cheeses. I also like them in sandwiches made with cold roast chicken. I really like spicy Greek or Italian pickled peppers with salumi and with tuna salad. I've also enjoyed other pickled veggie (string beans, okra) with crudités.

David

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Got the picture (so to speak).

We enjoy much the same combos, it seems. The only one I haven't tried is with chicken sandwiches. Marked down.

Cheers
Ross

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

as mini salads.  There are all kinds of pickles.  They add moisture to something dry, stimulate saliva, and also work as a seasoning adding salt and flavors.  My husband taught me the most about pickles by just saying, "Dry, needs a pickle."    He steered me away from sweet pickles and more toward vinegar and fermented ones.  

If you find your cold cuts or sandwich "dry" or the food balls up and/or swallows hard, add a little pickle or something sour to stimulate more saliva so your food chews better.  If you find yourself grabbing for a glass to wash the food down, chances are, you need a pickle.   I don't know where this will lead you... but to get the most from your pickle that you choose with the meat or cheese that you are eating, slice or spread thin.   If possible place the pickle where the tongue tends to hit the pickle first, on top of the cheese or meat.  If using a fork, pierce the meat first and stab or drape (as in sauerkraut or salad) the pickle on top.  

Just for ideas, I have on hand... garlic pickles, pearl onion pickles, ginger pickles, olives in various green and black forms including those stuffed with garlic or almonds, pickled mushrooms, green tomato chutney, capers and anchovy and pickles peppers.  Oh yes, condiments, sauerkraut and vegetable pickled mixtures like pusta salad and mixed vegetable pickles  (peppers, cauliflower, carrots, beets, onion, okra, etc.) are all interesting variations under "pickle."  

Does that help?

 

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

If it didn't I'd be hard to please! Your post is nothing less than a pickle manifesto, Mini! Worth printing out in a flowing font and framing!

Cheers
Ross

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

David

EvaB's picture
EvaB

a chopped garlic dill or two in the tuna salad, my daughter used to say I made the best tuna sandwiches all the kids wanted to trade for hers at lunch. It was the chopped dills and the spoon of pickle juice thrown in the mix! LOL

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Except, I reckon changing to Chaucerian-era spelling and script would add a little - 'ow you say - piquancy to ze pickle poeme. (There is no point in asking how the French-cum-German-English phonetics arrived in that sentence...o the mysteries!)

Whatever happens, there must be no poetic metre and no rhyme! That's a perfect grab from Mini's treatise. It should be immortalised on a pickle label. (Mrs Snyder's Famous Home-made Fermented Pickles?). There's a million waiting to happen. I'd buy just for the label.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And you made my day.  I would be dreaming if perhaps Chaucer happened across a pickle.  Surely if one existed, he would have mentioned sourness outside of drinking and sour bread.  Alas, I've read humor with preserved thoughts.  Perhaps it didn't inspire him.  Perhaps the food choices were limited.  Oh! ...but what might have happened?  The middle aged mind boggles.  One more tale, this one pickled?   In his day I see more evidence of cooking with wine and vinegar.  So maybe washing bread and meat lumps down was a merry adventure without pickles?  To be done with utmost and careful restraint.  Oh dear!  Thank goodness for pickle!  That we may enjoy every meal without getting drunk.   (How many of us have a horse that knows the way home?)

Shakespeare on the other hand...  "Oh, Hamlet Ross, how camest thou in such a pickle?” (The Tempest Act 5, Scene 1.)   had obviously run into pickles. 

Though he doesn't say much on eating them.   ...a million huh?...   (I should have my own advert agency.)  

 

 

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

Thanks for the littery-choore everyone.

I would add the strategic wisdom of Lao-Tze on the subject (loose translation): "Seize the pickles and your enemy will choke on his sandwich."

Glenn

EvaB's picture
EvaB

Just wanted to say how many memories these pickles have provoked, my brother made them one time, and my uncle made mature cuke pickles the same way, but by sliceing the cukes in chunks!

As to the lids my brother always said that pickles and sourkraut needs the glass lids and rubber rings for canning, this is because the metal lids don't do well, and I can attest to that, I've got canned pickles that the lids have had a tiny imperfection in the coating and the lid has rusted right through! Those were made with vinegar, and mustard and are delicious, but mouth watering in the sour! Delicious in sandwiches, a friend takes a jar and grinds them up in a food chopper and uses them as sandwich spread with meat in the sandwich! YUM!!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Grandma Viola was greeted loudly as she passed by in a convertable marked "Senior Citizen of the Year" in the Grand Marais parade Sunday.  The same lady who packed my jar of pickled pea pods that I had bought earlier in the day from her son, I believe.  Tasty, a bit salty, but good!  A third of them were gone before the parade began as we tossed a few into the Lion's Club famous fish sandwiches.   A good catch.  :)  

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I finally successfully fermented a vegetable, on purpose I mean.  Accidentally fermenting some pumpkin doesn't count.  My previous try was following a sauerkraut recipe from a book, that had too much salt in it and resulted in spiced, salt-preserved, shredded cabbage, onions, and carrots.  It was a tasty addition to stews but not fermented.

The garlic most definitely fermented.  I used a recipe from a free e-book I downloaded from Cultures from Health.  The brine was in the proportions of 2 tablespoons sea salt to 1 quart of water.  I used pre-peeled garlic cloves because I am lazy.  I seeded it with a couple of tablespoons of whey from some non-fat active Greek yogurt (Fage) because I thought the pre-peeled cloves might be too sterile.  The fermentation went through a two-week cloudy, bubbling stage and at one early point smelled like stale dog pee.  Right now, after 21 days, the garlic is crunchy, slightly sweet, slightly sour, and mild enough that I can pop a whole clove in my mouth and chew it.  I'm not in the habit of eating raw garlic, so that is pretty mild.  I've put a cap on the jar and placed the jar in the refrigerator.  The recipe promises improvement with age, in the refrigerator.  I can hardly wait.

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