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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Homemade Pickles

Cucumbers

I grew these pickling cucumbers this year specifically to make homemade pickles.  I've been making them for a couple years now, but I always bought cucumbers from Conrad's in the past.  These are so easy to make and SO good for you.  Looking for more ways to get probiotics in your diet?  These are for you.

These are naturally fermented pickles.  They will not be canned.  Canning is a way to preserve your garden bounty, but the process of heating will kill all the beneficial enzymes, vitamins, and friendly bacteria.

If you're new to naturally fermented foods, you may be thinking, "Ewww, I don't want to eat something fermented!"  But lots of food you already enjoy is fermented--vinegar, sauerkraut, kimchi, wine, beer, cheese, yogurt, miso--to name a few.  Even more food was fermented back in the days before canning.  It is a natural way to preserve food.  This is how people back in Bible times kept food from spoiling without refrigerators.  Fermenting actually increases the vitamin content of food.  Eating some fermented food every day aids digestion.

I like to use a cross between a recipe from Wild Fermentation and Nourishing Traditions.

You will need:
-filtered water
-sea salt (If Celtic, make sure to sterilize, like I mentioned here.)
-dill seeds or fresh dill heads
-mustard seeds (optional)
-few garlic cloves
-cucumbers, either whole, sliced, or cut in spears
-whey (optional)
-glass jars or crock
-something to weigh down and keep the cukes submerged (see photo)



I mix 6 tablespoons of Celtic Sea Salt with 8 cups of filtered water, stir to dissolve.

Place a couple cloves peeled garlic in each jar, add seasonings, dill and mustard, if using.  Add cucumbers to the jar.  If you are using whey (this just gives them a little kick-start on fermenting, it's not essential), add a couple tablespoons to each jar.  Then cover with brine.  If you need to mix up more brine, do so with the above ratio.  You will need enough brine to cover the cucumbers and you will want to leave about an inch of head room.

Now for the important part--you need to weigh your cucumbers down so that they stay submerged.  Any part of the cucumber that is above the brine level will rot and have to be thrown out.  If you're using a big crock, you can use a plate to weigh them down.  I use mason jars (see above picture), so I use little plastic containers filled with dry beans as my weights.

You will now leave these cucumbers out at room temperature to ferment.  I do mine for 5 days.  The bigger your cucumbers the longer the ferment.  If you leave your cucumbers whole, it will take longer.  I always slice mine, like you see in the picture.

You will see the liquid turn cloudy (that is good!) and the cucumbers turn from bright green to the darker pickle color.  Cover your container with a cloth to keep flies away.  After they are done fermenting, store in the fridge (with lids on the jars).

Now at this point, your germaphobia may be telling you that you can't leave cucumbers out on the counter for 5 days!  But this is wrong.  Bacteria and mold cannot survive in certain conditions, salt and acid are two of those conditions.  The brine you made is very salty, nothing bad can live in it, that's why we have to keep the cucumbers in that brine.  If they poke above the liquid, they aren't protected and will mold and rot.  In the process of fermentation the sugars are turning to acids and that keeps baddies from growing, too.  Good bacteria are multiplying and keeping bad stuff at bay as well.  If you want to learn more, click here.

Oddly enough, even though the brine starts out very salty, it changes during fermentation.  These pickles are not too salty.  If your's taste too salty, let them ferment longer.

You will need to check on your pickles every day and skim any mold that is growing on the surface.  It's not essential to get all of it, just do your best.  Again, I know this sounds weird, but don't worry, the pickles in the brine are safe.  This is how true kosher pickles are made.  This is how pickles were made in barrels for hundreds of years.  Unfortunately all pickles sold in regular grocery stores are only vinegar-soaked, not truly fermented, and so they don't have the same health qualities.  In addition, store pickles are then pasteurized/heat sealed, which kills them.  These pickles are a living food and will last for months in your fridge.

If you are concerned with how these will taste, you can buy Bubbie's at Whole Foods (sold in the refrigerator section, next to the cheese and yogurt).  They are made the same way I have detailed.  Bubbie's are spicier, though.

Also, an added bonus--you will have pickled garlic--a wonderful, natural antibiotic.  The garlic takes longer to pickle than the cucumbers.  Typically the garlic is ready when the pickles are all gone.  If the garlic taste like a pickle, you know it's done.  If it still tastes strong, like garlic, then you know it's not done and you can just leave it in the jar, in the fridge.  I beat colds and flu with garlic, but it's much, much easier to eat when it's pickled!  My kids will eat it, too, and love it!  Occasionally, I will drink some of the pickle brine, too, since it has lots of good stuff, good acids, good bacteria (probiotics), probably some essence of the garlic, etc.

These are easy (probably takes me 30 minutes or less), but they require a little patience (you don't get to eat them for a few days), but it is SO worth it!  Hope you enjoy!

51 comments:

  1. Thank you for this fabulous post about fermented pickles! I have been wanting to make fermented food for years and didn't find enough to make it a habit. Now I'm excited to get going with this new adventure. I have subscribed to your blog and am looking forward to using your valuable information as a guide.

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  2. Lovely! We did a gallon about 2 weeks ago, and I'm doing another gallon tomorrow. I love true sour pickles. They're the best.

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  3. Love your post! I have plans to make these this weekend, we made Dilly Beans earlier this week and they are delicious also....but I'm swimming in cucumbers and zucchini haha!

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  4. WOW! my 4 year old is going to LOVE this!

    thanks!

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  5. I've read from Nourishing Traditions that you should use the whey of kefir or yogurt but not the whey of cheese, do you know why this is?

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  6. Judy,

    I do not know why you wouldn't want to use the whey from cheese. I will look into that.

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  7. Can you make zucchini like this also?

    Thank You

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  8. John,

    I have never made pickled zucchini, but searching online, it looks like you can do it, the same way I did with the cucumbers. Here's a link to an article with general information - http://www.wildfermentation.com/resources.php?page=vegetables

    Give it a try. Try some different seasonings, if you like. Let us know how they turn out. I'm going to try pickling jalapeno peppers this week. I'll post my pictures and results.

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  9. There is white stuff floating around in the jar, is that ok?

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  10. Your brine will become cloudy--that is good. There will be white stuff on the surface, you can skim that off every day. I was told it was a type of yeast. I have read that even if some gets in the brine, it's okay.

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  11. [...] As you can see some of them have turned red. I love the color they add to the jars. I followed my basic sour pickle recipe, with the changes noted above.  I also ran out of celtic sea salt and had to use some of my kosher [...]

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  12. My pickles taste a little bland. Do I add more dill and mustard seed?

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  13. Perhaps. Did you put in some garlic cloves? I haven't had mine turn out bland. I did have a batch turn out too salty. I left them in the fridge a few weeks and they toned down. You could try leaving them in the fridge and see if they develop more flavor. They should sour more over time.

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  14. How exactly do you make the brine? Should I heat it up and stir in the salt? Also, how much dill and pickle spices should I put in? I already made one batch. There is some kind of bubbling action going on at the top. I have the pickles pushed down far enough but the seeds are exposed a little because they float around the thing I have stuffed in the jar to keep the pickles down. Also, there is a lot of sediment at the bottom. Garlic, seeds and whatever else. Should I stir it up once in an while? Water seams to rise up around the rim and drain down the sides, then I refill it a little to keep the pickles covered and it does it again.

    I only have three more days until I try one! Do you think it will be ok from what I stated above?

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  15. I just use room temp water and stir until the salt dissolves. When I use Celtic salt, it doesn't seem to dissolve all the way, but I still use it.

    It sounds like your pickles are behaving normally. There are usually bubble in ferments. The brine level will sometimes rise and yes, spill over like you mentioned. I've had seeds float and never had a problem, it's when the pickles rise above the brine where problems come in.

    Sediment is also normal. I don't stir. I just let them sit and do their thing. Bubbie's pickles say to shake before serving.

    I probably use about 1/2 tsp dill seeds and 1/2 tsp mustard seeds in each quart jar. But I don't measure so it depends from time to time.

    Hope this helps!

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  16. The pickles have been in the brine for 11 days now. They are less salty, but still very salty. Should I put them in new water and put them in the fridge now? Or should I ferment them longer? Also, if I ferment them longer, will the salt disappear enough for mold to grow?

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  17. When my pickles were overly salty I put them in the fridge for a few weeks to ferment slower and they lose the saltiness. But you could leave them out if you want. Sandor Katz in Wild Fermentation says to leave them out until they taste right and he says that could take a while (I'll have to look up how long he says).

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  18. Also, I have mine cut just like your example. I thought you might need to know that as fermenting the whole pickle may take even longer.

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  19. Yes, good to note, the bigger the pickle, the longer the ferment.

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  20. I have the pickles in the fridge now. They taste fine, but I think I used to much spices. How do I make the pickles hot?

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  21. I have not ever made spicy pickles, but you could probably add some red pepper flakes or some fresh jalapeno and have success.

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  22. Everything worked great but, why did my pickles come out hallow inside. What did I do wrong?

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  23. Ron,

    I'm sorry, I've never seen my pickles hollow inside. You can check out http://wildfermentation.com/ or pick up the book, Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.

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  24. Thanks for the recipe, and the idea about the little plastic containers with beans- I've been wanting to make my own fermented pickles and cabbages, but I didn't want to invest in a crock. I have all of these things in my pantry!

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  25. [...] producer.  I have picked at least 20 pounds of cucumbers so far.  I am making my second batch of kosher dill pickles right now.Our onions are all done.  I thought they would keep growing until fall, but they [...]

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  26. I have made a similar pickle in brine. It fermented 6 days before i put them in the fridge. Now 5 days after being in the fridge there is a lot of white stuff floating in the water. It is not on top to skim off....just floating. I thought it looked like some of the garlic exploded or something. Do you think this is safe to eat?

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  27. Brined pickles will have a white sediment. That is fine. Now if they are blobs of mold, then it's bad. Mold will be white and black and/or pink. Plus if pickles are bad, they will taste bad, if they're good, they taste good. Hope this helps!

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  28. I just made some pickles last week and some are foaming or bubbling, cloudy and the lid is being pushed upward. What did I do wrong? Are the ones that are only cloudy with no sediment on the bottom still okay to eat? I hope someone can help me. Thanks in advance, Rita

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  29. Foaming, bubbling, cloudy, and sediment are all okay. They will smell really bad if they aren't good to eat. Mine always get cloudy and sometimes have bubbles. You can skim any scum from the top, but don't let that deter you, they should be great.

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  30. Shannon, thank you so very much! Unfortunately I already threw away five large "mouth" jars (or is that only used when referring to large mouth bass? haha!) This was before you though. Thank you again, it will help me not throw away any more good ones! Rita

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  31. Oh, sorry to hear you threw them out! (I think they are called large mouth jars.) Hope your next batch turns out for you!

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  32. Hello,
    I just made some pickled cucumbers using sally fallons recipe in NT. You mention leaving it on the counter covered with a cloth and removing any scum you see over the course of a few days. In NT it just mentions sealing it shut and letting it sit for a few days on the counter. I did this. Will my pickles go bad if I don't remove the scum on top. The mason jars are sealed shut. If I open it now will it go bad? Also one of the lids seems a little arched. What is happening and I noticed that in a few of my jars several of the cucumbers on top aren't fully covered in water. Will this ruin my batch? So many questions. Thank you for your time.

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  33. I'm not sure why Sally Fallon recommends that, but if there are any cukes sticking up out of the brine, they will rot. If you have just done it (like in the last day or so), it is not too late. You should remove the lids and somehow weigh down the cucumbers, so that they are fully submerged in the brine. I have done this with ziploc baggies filled with water, or containers that fit the shape, filled with water or beans. Or even sometimes with a spoon, to weigh them down, but they really want to pop back up, around the spoons. I would check them a few times a day, because they will shift and try to float.

    Your lids are arched because pressure builds up as the process of fermenting creates gasses. It is no problem. The brine will also get cloudy and that is no problem, it is part of the process. You can skim off any scum at this point, even a couple days into it, they should be fine. Sally Fallon says that you will definitely know when a batch has gone bad, it will have a definite smell and taste that is off. If they taste good, they are good, you don't have to wonder.

    Hope this helps and feel free to ask any more questions!

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  34. Shannon thanks so much for your immediate response. I did take the lids off and placed baggies with water on top to weigh down the cucumbers. I noticed scum on top of two of two of the jars but very little scum so I did not remove. Now this is the third day they are sitting on the counter. At what point do I put the lids back on them and refrigerate them. Also at what temp do you recommend the fridge to be at. I do have a cool spot in the pantry but I anticipate these need to be stored even in a cooler spot. I do not have a root cellar. Recommendations? Lastly I noticed a slight smell on all the pickles. Is this just everything fermenting in the beginning stages? and can I taste them before placing in the fridge how long will they last stored? AAhhh one more question have your pickles been crispy?

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  35. I leave mine on the counter for 5 days and then refrigerate. My fridge is normal to cool temp, probably about 40F. I'm not sure what temp these would be good at. I know people in cool climates can keep them on the counter in a crock, or in a cool pantry, but I live in a hot place. The smell should be a good smell, garlicky, dill-ish. You can taste test them at any stage in the process. Sandor Katz of Wild Fermentation recommends adding a grape leaf to the jar to keep the pickles crisp. I have yet to try that. I get some batches that are crispy, and some that are not.

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  36. I made a crock of these pickles. I left them set out for 3 weeks and then I put them in the fridge. Everyone loves them.

    I just made another crock of them and used about a quart of the brine left over from the first crock I made. I had put the left over brine in the fridge also. Do you think that was a bad idea to use the left over brine?

    I also am trying to ferment some okra i a quart jar with the left over brine. I will let you know how it turns out

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  37. I have used leftover brine and I think others have, too. I've never tried to ferment okra. I look forward to hearing how your's turns out.

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  38. I just tired my okra that I fermented. They were good. I actually liked them better then the ones that I pickled and processed. I left them on the counter for about a 10 days.

    Now I am going to try banana peppers, I will let you know how that turns out.

    I am using a fermenting crock, (Harsch), which my daughters gave me for my birthday and I love it.

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  39. Last season i did a lot of pickling... kept results and the biggest thing that seemed to be a problem was pickled green beans & cukes being too vinegary tasting and too salty. Also too much dill. How can you cut down on vinegar and salt without comprimising the canning results?

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  40. Well, with this recipe for naturally fermented pickles, you don't use vinegar. I find that sometimes they can be too salty. In that case, I just leave them to ferment longer and they mellow. Hope that helps!

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  41. Hey guys, representing Texas via way of Ukraine. Pickle making is big here and I decided to get in on it. I saw there was an interest in hot pickles? I put mine in a big pot to ferment, first with a layer of cucumbers, then garlic chunks, then chillies cut into rings, and a layer of fresh dill, then rinse, lather, repeat before pouring the hot brine over when you're out of ingredients.

    We're not very high tech in my village, so I just use a clean plate to hold down the pickles under the brine and have a couple (clean) jars of water weighing that down.

    Cover with a towel, ferment 10-14 days, and voila!

    P.S. I am also curious how to get crunchy batches of pickles. Over here they say it depends on the recipe, but I know that can't be it because like y'all, some batches are crunchy, some not, regardless. Any tips?

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    Replies
    1. Crunch: Several grape leaves and or sour cherry leaves in each quart. I use wild cherry and wild grape leaves. Also don't let them go too long, pack and store in refrigerator unless you have some kind of cold storage that is quite cool.

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  42. Sandor Katz says to put a grape leaf in the crock or jar and they will turn out crunchy. Haven't had a chance to try it yet myself.

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  43. this is so great - can't wait to try - how long do the pickles keep once they're in the fridge? (assuming i dont eat them all within a day....oops)

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  44. Yes, assuming you don't eat them all quickly. :) I have had batches last a long, long time in the fridge, but then others not. You just have to check the jar. If you ever see mold--it will be fuzzy, pink, white, or black--then do not eat them. Otherwise, they should be fine. Sally Fallon Morrell says that if they smell bad, they are bad, if they smell good, they're good.

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  45. Crisp pickles need crisp cucumbers. 1) don't pickle table cucumbers, the seed beds are too big and soft, and they turn to mush (though I have made good relish out of them). 2) don't use cukes that are too big, again the seeds are a problem. 3) the fresher the cukes are, the crisper the pickles will be. AND 4) as Sally says, cut off the blossom end, or they will be mush too. I actually err on the side of caution and take off more than 1/16" and then use the ends in my relish or feed them to my hens, depending on how many I get!

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  46. Aha - i had the same issue myself with regular store bought cukes - just went all mushy and watery. after the price tag of organic, harder skined varieties (ouch!) i'm now growing my own!!!

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  47. hi! i just tried these pickles for the first time. they are whole and in a big pot. they have been fermenting for 11 days. the brine is lovely and cloudy and they smell great however a few on the top have the white stuff on them ( i think this is the yeast) and 3 of those have some pink stuff that has grown on them ( i think this is mold). i threw out the pink and really white ones, stirred the pickles in the pot and tasted one. they still taste quite ripe, flavourful, but not all that pickly. should i keep fermenting them and are they still safe after i removed the 'bad' ones?

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