Pickles are some of the most wildly accepted fermented vegetables… if we can manage to make them crunchy and not mushy.
Any disappointed pickle-maker will relate to this story:
I remember my first batch of pickles that were deliciously crunchy and tasted just like ‘store pickles’- crunchy and pleasingly sour with a little bit of kick from the fermentation. Thankfully I made a gallon at that time, and we enjoyed them all summer.
Unable to re-create those pickles again, I switched to store-bought Bubbie’s pickles for years. On a whim last summer, and having received a basket of garden-fresh cucumbers from a neighbor, I tried making pickles again, adding a little bit of the Bubbie’s pickle juice as a starter culture.
They worked! Delicious! Crunchy! Fermented homemade, and essentially free pickles! This sure beat the $6/jar that I was spending on store pickles, good as they were.
I tried off and on all year, and confirmed that when I added a bit of ‘juice’ from a previous batch of successful pickles, the pickles were crunchy and great. When I just did my normal salt water fermentation, they were a little mushy and okay as relish, but not the crunchy pickle that we loved.
Why does this work?
When we culture foods, we cultivate different bacteria and yeast that are present in the air. That’s why San Francisco Sourdough is world-famous- the particular natural yeasts in the air there make absolutely amazing sourdough. Montana Sourdough just doesn’t compare. It’s also why we can’t just add a probiotic capsule to milk and expect it to turn into yogurt, and why dairy kefir has so many more beneficial organisims than yogurt, yet it remains liquid when cultured, yet yogurt solidifies.
The culture in Bubbie’s pickles, which contains live cultures still (you can’t do this trick with ‘dead’ pasteurized pickles- it has to be live ferments) has properties that retains the properties of cucumbers that we love, and the probiotics that we need.
- 3 lbs cucumbers, we like cocktail cucumbers sold in Costco
- 1 tablespoon Bubbie's pickle juice per quart jar
- 1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt per quart jar (find unrefined sea salt here)
- Filtered water to cover
- Quart jars with air-tight lids
- Rinse cucumbers well in clean water.
- Place cucumbers in clean jars, filling the jars full but not overflowing if cucumbers are whole, ¾ full if using slices.
- Add 1 tablespoon pickle juice and 1 tablespoon unrefined sea salt per quart.
- Cover cucumbers with filtered water, gently wiggling the jar to settle whole cucumbers and distribute the pickle juice and salt once the water is added.
- Cover with an air-tight lid (a canning jar lid is fine, as long as it is clean)
- Culture on the counter or in a dark cupboard for 2-30 days (longer if desired). Keep on a tray during fermentation to catch drips if the carbonation causes them to leak.
- Culturing time will depend on temperature, how big your pickles are, and how sour you want them. Once they start to change color, you can try them.
- Burp as needed, this will depend on many factors. If your jars are leaking, burp them more often. To burp, just open enough to break seal and let out excess air, close back up once the carbonation stops.
- Transfer to the fridge and keep, unopened, for 6+ months. Use within 10 days of opening.
- Fill your fridge quickly and easily with a Ferment Afternoon
- How do you know you’re culturing the good bacteria and not the bad?
- Why You Need to Start Slow with Ferments (why ferments might make you sick)
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