Quick! Before the season ends, get some pickling cucumbers and make a batch of sour fermented pickles to last through the winter. They are obviously good with anything you’d enjoy a vinegar pickle with. But they are also great for mixing into salads and sauces.
Even the brine from the fermented pickle makes a delicious dressing or marinade. The tangy sour of the fermented pickle offers a unique flavor to meals that you cannot otherwise obtain.
I prefer the smaller pickling cucumbers, 3 to 4 inches in size. The smaller they are, the crunchier they will remain. It is also important to use only freshly harvested cucumbers, ideally preserving them within 48 hours of harvest.
Though you can use a quart jar for this recipe, it’s much easier to make fermented pickles in a fermentation crock or larger jar, such as a half-gallon canning jar. This recipe is written to yield one 1-quart jar of pickles. However, if you have a half-gallon jar accessible, just double the recipe.
Yield: 1 quart jar
- 1 lb. freshly harvested pickling cucumbers, 3 to 4 inches in size
- 10 cloves of fresh garlic
- Fresh dill, at least 2 sprigs (more if more dill flavor is desired)
- 2 fresh grape leaves, or oak leaves or raspberry leaves. The naturally occurring tannins in the leaves aid in keeping the pickles crunchy after they’re fermented. (See notes below for more info.)
- 1 tbsp. coarse kosher salt, dissolved in 2 cups water
Scrub cucumbers, removing any dirt. Discard any soft or damaged pickling cucumbers. You do not need to trim ends as you do with water bath canning. In fact, leaving the ends on helps keep fermented pickles crunchier.
To pack the jar, begin by adding the dill and garlic to the bottom and then proceed to add the pickling cucumbers. Carefully fit them in as snug as possible, without bruising or breaking them.
If you are adding hot peppers and grape leaves (or other leaves with tannins) to this ferment, add them within the cucumbers while packing the jar.
You should be able to fit two levels of pickling cucumbers if you have small 3 to 4-inch cucumbers. Once the jar is filled with cucumbers, pour the brine mixture over the produce until the brine covers the top of the cucumbers by at least 1/2 inch.
Leave at least 1 inch of headspace so the ferment has room to bubble without overflowing.
If you have a small fermentation jar weight, add it to the jar to hold down the produce under the brine. Remove any small pieces of food that float up to the top of the brine. Anything above the brine will increase the risk of mold and spoil the ferment.
Wipe off the rim of the jar with a clean, dampened towel. Add the canning jar lid and tightly screw on the ring.
This is a 7-to-14-day (or more) ferment. Ferment at room temperature, ideally between 60-75 degrees F (15-23 degrees C) and keep out of direct sunlight.
Burp the jar daily. Unscrew the lid briefly and tighten it back on to allow any built-up gas to release. (You’ll avoid possible jar breakage and the ferment overflowing, too.)
Check on the ferment daily to make sure the brine covers all the produce. If any produce has floated above the brine level, use a clean utensil to push it back below the brine.
Taste test the pickles after one week. If the pickles still taste raw and do not have the sour tangy flavor you are trying to acquire, allow them to ferment another week and taste test again.
It may take up to four weeks or more for them to obtain the sour flavor you want. Once fermentation is complete, transfer the jar into the refrigerator, with the brine and all.
Fermentation does not stop once the ferment is transferred to the refrigerator. However, it does slow the process way down. The taste and texture will continue to change, though. So this ferment is best enjoyed within 6 months.
If you want spice, add a couple halves of your favorite spicy pepper within the cucumbers when packing the jars.
If you do not have access to grape, oak or raspberry leaves, you can also use horseradish leaves or bay leaves. However the flavor from the leaves will alter the flavor of the fermented pickle.
If you do not have access to the fresh leaves with tannins, you can make the recipe without them. However, know the pickle could be less crunchy after fermentation.
The brine will turn cloudy during fermentation. It is also likely you will see white sediment on the pickles and at the bottom of the jar. This is completely normal and a sign that fermentation is occurring as it should be.
You may substitute fine sea salt instead of coarse kosher salt if you prefer. The measurement will remain the same for this recipe.
Because this is a longer ferment, a jar weight greatly increases the chance of success. Keeping everything under the brine is crucial for the success of a brined vegetable ferment.
If you do not have a glass jar weight, you can improvise by using an easily removable small food-grade glass dish that fits inside the jar. Or, if you have a smaller glass canning jar that can fit into the mouth of the jar you are fermenting with, you can use that to keep produce pushed under the brine.
If you are unsure if your water is safe for fermentation, you can boil it and allow it to cool to room temperature before stirring in the salt to make your brine.
This recipe has been adapted from Can It & Ferment It with permission of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.