In the world of fermentation, lacto-fermented dill pickles have their own very special spot. They require more attention than most of the other fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut or kimchi. And they are far superior to the vinegar based dill pickles found on the supermarket shelves.
Pickling cucumbers are only available for a very short period during the summer, usually late July to mid August here in Quebec. Cucumbers grow in very hot temperatures and their water content is very high, so it helps to soak them in ice water for about an hour to get them to crisp up.Cucumbers, water and salt is all you need to make fermented pickles at home, everything else is optional but aromatic spices and garlic contribute a lot to the taste of the pickles and help personalizing pickles to your taste, I would recommend playing around with quantities.
Water quality is crucial for fermented pickles, the chlorine in the tap water would inhibit the growth of lactic bacteria during the fermentation process, so filtered, distilled or bottled water can be used, tap water can be boiled for a minute and another option is aerating the tap water, to do this, fill jars with tap water, let it stand on the counter for 24 hours, there will be air bubbles, stir with a spoon before stirring in the salt to make the brine.
The cherry, oak, grape leaves are used because they are very rich in tannins and help keep the pickled cucumbers crisp.
The salinity, meaning the percentage of salt in the brine is especially important in pickled cucumbers, more than any other fermented vegetable because if too little salt is used, the cucumbers will have a tendency to become soft and mushy after just a few weeks, in the book Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz recommends using 5% salt, so about 50 grams or roughly 3 tablespoons per liter of water.
To make sure the cucumbers stay as crisp and crunch as possible, use the smallest and freshest cucumbers you can, soak them in ice water, add tannin rich leaves to the jars and make sure to use enough salt.
It's very important to have the cucumbers submerged completely in the brine, ceramic or glass fermentation weights can be used. In 24-48 hours, there will be foam and there will be bubbles in the brine, the foam can be skimmed off the top of jar. The pickles will be ready in 7-14 days depending on the size of the cucumber and the temperature in the kitchen.
We usually pickle 100-120 pounds of cucumbers every summer, we make them in batches and I start tasting the pickles after the cucumbers change colour, once they are ready we share some with our friends and place the rest in the fridge to be enjoyed for months to come!
- Small pickling cucumbers
- Salt such as kosher, pickling, Himalayan or sea salt
- Garlic cloves
- 3-4 dill heads
- 1-2 bay leaves
- Coriander seeds
- Dried chili peppers
- Grape, raspberry, cherry or oak leaves (optional)
- 1 tbsp kefir whey (optional)
Wash the cucumbers thoroughly to remove sand and dirt.
Trim the flower ends of the cucumbers, poke holes using the tip of a sharp knife.
Pack jars with cucumbers, spices and garlic as tightly as possible.
Dissolve salt in water and fill the jars.
Add 1 tablespoon of kefir whey, if using to each jar.
Ferment the cucumbers away from direct sunlight until they are ready.
Place them in the fridge to slow down the fermentation.