It’s no secret I love my fermented vegetables. I have to eat at least a few a day to satisfy my cravings for the gut-friendly foods. Of all of these fermented delights, my all-time favorite would have to be the humble dill pickle. It is an easy ferment to make, however, it might be just as easy to mess up. In the following tutorial, I will share with you my tips on how to create a perfect pickle every time!
The first thing you have to decide is what kind of pickle you want. I prefer “kosher style” pickles, which doesn’t necessarily mean it is prepared in a kosher manner. Rather, it refers to a type of pickle that is made the old fashioned way: with a salt brine that is heavy on the dill and garlic. If you prefer a standard dill pickle, you can leave the garlic out of the mix. You can also add flavorings if you prefer. These taste great with a few slices of onion or punch up the heat with a little red pepper flake. However you decide to flavor them, stick with these basic instructions and you should be on your way to pickle heaven in no time! (Well, technically about a week.. More on that later.) 😉
Ingredients are organic, when available.
- 3-6 lbs of pickling cucumbers*
- 5% brine (sea salt & water)**
- Quart and pint sized jars with lids***
- Optional: Airlocks, glass weights***
Per Quart Jar:
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp dill seed
- 1 tsp mustard seed
- 4-5 springs of fresh dill
- 4 cloves garlic
- A pinch of black tea****
*The type of cucumber you use matters. It’s best to use pickling cucumbers. (Sometimes called salad cucumbers.) I go for the smaller ones so I don’t have to cut them up as much. Make sure they are firm and have minimal blemishes on the outside for best results. You can use other types of cucumbers to make these pickles, however, they may not be as crunchy & crisp as these turn out to be. For this batch, I used almost 6 lbs of cucumbers, which will yield 4.5 quarts of pickles.
**I use a 5% brine for these pickles. I have experimented with less/more salt and this is by far my favorite. To create a 5% brine: Add 2.5 tbs salt to 1 quart (4 cups) water. Use this ratio to create enough brine to cover all of the veggies.
***I use glass mason jars with a special lid and airlock system. I also use weights on the pickles if they are not staying submerged under the brine on their own. You by no means need this special equipment, but if you plan on making these often it’s definitely worth the investment. I’ve lost much fewer batches due to mold, ect. using this system.
****Black tea? Wha?? This is for the tannins that are needed to keep the pickles crisp. I use whole tea leaves because I always have them on hand. You can also use grape leaves, red raspberry leaves, oak leaves, ect. for your tannin source.
The first thing you want to do is wash your mason jars and lids with hot soapy water. You don’t have to sterilize them or do anything special, soap & water will do the job. Next, rinse your cucumbers and fresh dill with water. Gather your spices and salt.
Now, you want to trim the blossom end of the cucumber. This is another essential step that a lot of people overlook. Supposedly, the blossom end of the cucumber harbors enzymes that will make the pickle go limp. I don’t know the science behind it, I just know it works. So do it! But which is the blossom end you might ask…
There’s that. Now you get to decide how to cut your pickles. I prefer to do halves and quarters, but you could also do slices or leave them whole (given you have a large crock to put them in). I find the halves and quarters fill the jars nicely and are the perfect size for a snack! 🙂
Once your cukes are sliced, you can begin to fill your jars. Starting with quart sized jars, add the spices, garlic, and fresh dill. I like to add them to the bottom of the jar, then fill the jar with the cucumbers – packing them as tightly as I can. This helps keep the spices submerged under the brine and prevent floaters that can cause mold.
After you’ve packed in your cucumbers, repeat with the other jars. Next, create your brine by adding the sea salt to filtered water and stir well to combine. Pour the brine over the cucumbers and fill to almost the top of the jar. You want to leave about 1/2 inch headroom, if possible. If you leave any less, your brine might leak out of the lid.
If your pickles are tight enough in the jar, they shouldn’t float and they should keep the majority of the spices at the bottom. If your cukes are floating, use the weights to keep them submerged (making sure the weight is under the brine as well). If you don’t have weights, there are plenty of alternative methods available. Such methods include using a thick slice of onion, carrot sticks, or a plastic bag filled with brine to keep the veggies beneath the liquid. Research and find one that works for you!
Once the jars are filled with brine, remove any spices that may have floated to the top as these can cause mold later on. Add your lid and airlock device if you are using one, otherwise just loosely screw on a plastic or metal lid. If you are going the plain lid route, I recommend placing the jars in a bowl or on a cookie sheet to catch any brine that may leak out.
Allow the pickles to sit at room temperature 7-10 days. The fermentation time will depend on your kitchen’s temperature and how thick/thin you sliced your cucumbers. I usually check on my pickles every few days to make sure everything is going okay. I taste the brine and remove any spices or seeds that may have floated up to the surface. Taste the pickles after a week and see how they are. If they need to be more sour, leave them a bit longer.
Once the pickles have reached the desired flavor, move to cold storage in your refrigerator. These pickles will last for months in the fridge, but honestly, they will be eaten up WAY before then!! 😀