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Real Pickles

Historically fermenting has been a way to preserve food in times of plenty. Now we know that fermented food like sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi benefits us at all times because it is preserved with probiotic lactic acid bacteria that promote our health and good digestion. Commercial pickled vegetables made with vinegar (acetic acid) are sterile and do not provide these benefits. Fortunately making your own fermented pickles is easy and delicious with the following recipe from Dane Vander Wall.

Pickles 2016 (400X300)

Fermented Cucumber Pickles

Important Notes: Use thick skinned pickling cucumbers. If you use English or Persian cucumbers they will not be crunchy and may have off flavors. Use filtered, distilled, or spring water for the brine; chlorinated tap water kills probiotics. You should need about 2 cups of brine or less per quart jar of pickles if you pack them tight. Keep the pickles away from sunlight and at a temperature of 65-75 degrees while fermenting, in an environment like a pantry closet. Make sure the pickles are completely submerged in the brine to avoid mold. Finally, open the jars once every day or two to allow trapped CO2 to escape or they could explode.    



1 Grape leaf or a couple of loose tea leaves (these provide tannins to keep pickles crunchy)

1 head of dill seed or flower, or 1 tsp or so of loose dill seeds

2-3 tsp pickling spices: These are available pre-mixed at places like vitamin cottage

(Alternatively use 1 tsp mustard seeds, a couple cloves, a small (1/2") piece of cinnamon, and a couple allspice berries), or whatever spices you want (panch phoron works well, as does a slice of ginger)

1 bay leaf

1 clove garlic, peeled

-A couple small jalapeno or Serrano slices, or red pepper flakes to provide heat

-Pickling Cucumbers- slice the bottom 1/16 of an inch off of the flower end to help keep them crunchy. Slice the larger ones in half or quarters lengthwise

-Brine to cover- I use 1 tbsp. or a bit more fine real orsa salt dissolved per 2 cups of water. If you use course grained salt you will need more. Do not use table salt or iodized salt, it will kill the probiotics.

Wide mouth Quart Jars, cleaned (make sure they have no soap residue)


Prepare brine by stirring approximately 1 tbsp of salt per 2 cups of water to dissolve. Place the grape leaf, dill flower or seeds, pickling spices, bay leaf, garlic, and pepper (If using) at the bottom of the jar. Pack pickling cucumbers tightly into jar, with stem sides up. Pour the brine over the cucumbers so they are completely submerged, if any float up try to pack them down again or remove them to avoid mold. Move the jars to warm area away from sunlight like the pantry discussed earlier. The jars should get fizzy and cloudy as they ferment, with white bacteria clouds on the bottom of the jars, and the cucumbers change from green to yellowish green. If the mixture fizzes over onto your jar lids and bands, wipe them with a dry towel or they will rust.

Ferment the pickles for about a week, or more depending on how you like them.  I usually like them at about 5-6 days. Keep an eye out for off smells and mold, and discard your batch if it is suspect. Start tasting the pickles after a few days by slicing small pieces off the top. The cucumbers get more sour and funky the longer they ferment. Once they have reached the desired taste, keep them in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation and eat asap. They will keep for a while, but flavor does change over time as the bacteria continue to break down the cucumbers. There are many different vegetables you can ferment this way as well but some work better than others. Combinations of cucumber, kohlrabi, zucchini, and peppers have been most successful for me. Happy Pickling, and keep and eye out for an upcoming blog detailing the many benefits of probiotics.

Dane, culinary consultant

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