Pickles I had as a girl right from the brine barrel in the hardware can still be had today!
UPDATE: Well, even on Fermentation Day 4, these pickles are crisp and even better than a wonderful Bubbies pickle! Slices ferment faster than whole pickles. Test them. Once to your liking, REFRIGERATE THEM IMMEDIATELY. THAT STOPS THE FERMENTATION.
“Lacto-fermentation is the process that produces traditional dill pickles, kimchi, and real sauerkraut. It takes nothing more than salt, vegetables and water – no canning, no fancy equipment. This simple process works because bacteria that could be harmful to us can’t tolerate much salt, but there are good bacteria that can. Think of the this process as the ‘bad guys vs. the good guys’. Lacto-fermentation wipes out the bad guys in its first stage, then lets the good guys get to work during stage two.
“The good guys on the salt-tolerant team are called Lactobacillus. Several different species within this genus are used to produce fermented foods.
“The benefits of eating food with live Lactobacillus bacteria include a healthier digestive system and speedy recovery from yeast infections. They are also supposed to have anti-inflammatory properties and be useful in preventing certain kinds of cancer.”
I started making lacto-fermented foods after we pinned down the reason we had so many food allergies and yeast (candida) issues. Exposure to black mold (Stachybotris) in our home years before had destroyed gut linings (leaky gut) and messed with the normal digestion and absorption process in some of us.
This recipe is as basic as it comes. These pickles are crisp, crunchy, and refreshing with just the right amount of tang! You can make this with only 3 ingredients OR add garlic and spices if you wish.
Seeing this simple process is very helpful. The only thing she doesn’t do is add grape leaves which make your pickles very crisp. I will show you how lower in this post!
Ingredients for Lacto-fermented Pickles:
- Individual glass quart jars, a 1-gallon glass jar, or ceramic crock (with lids)
- Brine: For every 2 cups water, mix in 1 Tbsp sea salt. With an abundance of cucumbers multiply that as many times as needed to cover all the cucumbers.
- Cucumbers (small to medium are perfect, but if they large, cut them into spears)
- A handful of fresh, clean grape leaves, optional (grape, oak, cherry, raspberry, & blackberry leaves supply tannins to keep the pickles crunchy)
Optional Additions to make Old-Fashioned Dill Pickles: PER QUART
- 2-3 medium cloves of garlic, peeled, & roughly chopped (to taste)
- 1 tsp whole dill seed (I use 2 sprigs of green seed heads from garden)
- 1/2 tsp whole coriander seed (I used ground)
- 1/4 tsp whole mustard seed
- 1/4 tsp whole peppercorns (I used Tellicherry peppercorns)
- 1/4 tsp fennel seed (optional~ I didn’t have any on hand)
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (I used small pieces of dehydrated hot pepper from last summer)
Slice in wedges for large cukes or leave whole if small to medium.
2. Pack jars
For cutting purposes your pickles need to be at the very least 1″ below the brine. I will discuss this more later.
3. Mix brine in a measuring cup
(For every 2 c water, mix in 1 Tablespoon sea salt – See brine recipe above).
4. Stir well before pouring over pickles
You want your cucumbers (and leaves) to be completely submerged in the brine at all times.
If they are exposed to the air, they could suffer, so you may need to weigh them down with a sanitized rock, a glass weight, or small jar that fits down into the opening of your bigger jar.
I washed my rocks in a solution of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar…the same non-toxic solution I use for my homemade bleach alternative. Rinse well before using.
[NOTE if you want to use rocks: My rocks (sandstone/limestone from Lake Michigan) started to very slowly breakdown in the acid environment, so now I use granite or another non-porous rock.]
[You can also use glass 2 3/4″ fermentation weights with grooved handles with any wide mouth jar for small batch sauerkraut, pickles or other fermented foods. I finally got these because I can just pop them into the dishwasher.]
Spices Perfect For Pickles
I used the Old-Fashioned Dill Pickle recipe above. We made whole baby dills with the short 3-5 inchers and spears with the full sized 8 inchers..
Experiment In Crunch
As an experiment, I used 2 leaves from the grapevine per jar (help to submerge the spears). Oak leaves also work well.
I have read that leaves with high tannin levels will keep pickles crunchy, but I know others that have never used them and they were still great.
Cover your jar with its lid.
You may see a film of thin white scum growing on the surface of the water; just skim it off as often as you can, but don’t worry if you can’t get it all. This is “kahm yeast”; it won’t harm you, but it can affect the flavor of your pickles if you don’t keep up with it.
Lacto-Fermentation and Timing
Lacto-fermentation happens when the starches and sugars in the cukes convert to lactic acid by a friendly lactic-acid producing bacteria.
Your pickles will be ready after 5-8 days on the kitchen counter in the summer, depending on the warmth of your home.
On day 4 do a taste test of your pickles. They’re ready when they taste done to you! Once they taste done, transfer the jar into the fridge to slow fermentation. Once fermented and in the refrigerator, you can remove the grape leaves and you don’t need to worry about the pickles being completely submerged.
Don’t throw out the brine once your pickles are finished. It is healthful, too, being full of good bacteria and beneficial for your digestion! Since it’s salty and full of minerals, it would be especially good after a hot, sweaty day of work outside.
Serve one pickle or a slice with lunch and dinner every day.
These could last months in your fridge, but if you like your dill pickles like we do, they will be all gone long before that.
Good health and Bon Appétit!
“The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.” ~Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions pg 89
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