Warning…These Pickles can be Addictive!!
August is a very busy time around my kitchen. The garden, which has been so lovingly attended to by my husband (I can’t take any credit, except that I sometimes water it), is ripe with ready to be picked organic vegetables. It’s amazing what a garden can produce! We especially enjoy the fresh cucumbers, which are so delicious with a sprinkle of salt or a dash of vinegar. Cucumbers grow ridiculously well in our garden and we always seem to have an abundance, which we use to make delicious “homemade” dill pickles; both vinegar and naturally fermented in brine.
Who doesn’t like dill pickles? I don’t think I ever met anyone who hated them. A good crunchy, garlicky dill pickle is one of life’s simple pleasures. How a cucumber can be transformed into something so delicious is beyond me. Can you tell that dill pickles are absolutely one of my favourite things to eat?
At the end of summer, my mother was always busy making preserves, especially the Maritime favourites, Chow Chow, Mustard Pickles, and bread and butter pickles. In the kitchen, you would find mom slicing green tomatoes or cucumbers, and the whole kitchen was pungent with the smell of pickling spice and vinegar. As a child, I wasn’t overly fond of any of these pickles, but give me a good dill pickle and that was another story!
When I moved away from home, I discovered a dill pickle that was soon to become my favourite. They were from a company called “Strub’s” and were made with cloudy salt brine. Sometimes on the weekend, I would splurge and buy a jar even though they were expensive, and hoard them away so I didn’t have to share with anyone.
Well, you can imagine that I was very pleased when I found out how to duplicate those salt brine dill pickles, and now I am so happy to share the recipe with you. I found the recipe on a website called Fermenters Club. There I learned that naturally fermented dill pickles are rather simple to make and even better, they contain beneficial cultures that are healthy to our body. Lacto-fermented foods add probiotics to our diets and enzymes that aid in digestion.
Once you successfully make a jar of natural dill pickles, you will never want to buy another jar from the grocery store again!
I still make dill pickles using the vinegar method, so that I have homemade pickles available for the months when the naturally fermented ones are gone. The naturally fermented pickles do not keep as long as vinegar pickles (maybe because we eat them all) so we enjoy them first, and then go on to the vinegar dill pickles later in the year. Homemade vinegar dill pickles also taste great; way better than the bought variety!!!
The first time I attempted to make naturally fermented dills, they didn’t turn out that well. If this happens to you, don’t give up; it is worth the effort to try again, and the more experience you have with fermented foods, the more success you will attain. We now make our own sauerkraut, naturally fermented dill carrots and green beans. Trust me, when eaten in moderation (difficult to do) your stomach will say, thank you. You don’t always have to eat yogurt to get good bacteria into your system!
There are a few things to keep in mind when making this type of dill pickle. The cucumbers should be as fresh as possible, and try to get ones grown without pesticides. Scrub the cucumbers with a brush to remove any dirt, and the little black specks on them. Also, it is important to cut the top off the flower end because there are enzymes that can inhibit fermentation. Make sure the cucumbers are fully submerged in the brine otherwise mold may develop. I use a small drinking glass to keep the cucumbers submerged, and this seems to do the job. Leave about an inch or two of headspace, due to the fact that as it’s fermenting the brine may overflow a bit with the bubbles it creates. Cover the pickles with a clean tea towel, and place in a cool, dry area of your house. In about five to seven days, you will be amazed at the transformation from a simple cucumber into a dill pickle! Once the bubbles cease and the cucumbers start to taste like dills, place them in the refrigerator.
There is a great sense of accomplishment when you see jars of pickles and preserves that you have made yourself, especially when you know they have health benefits for your family.
That’s about it! Go ahead give Naturally Fermented Dills a try!
- 3 pounds fresh cucumbers
- 6-8 sprigs fresh dill
- 4-8 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
- 6 cups filtered water (no chlorine)
- 4 Tablespoons fine sea salt ( no additives)
- 1 grape leaf (the tannins in the grape leaves keep pickles crunchy and are not to be eaten)
- Scrape the tip off the flower end of the cucumber as the enzymes on it can inhibit fermentation. Rinse and gently scrub cucumbers to remove the black specks and dirt. I leave mine whole.
- Add 2 garlic cloves and two or three dill sprigs to the largest clean glass jar you have.
- Add half of the cucumbers, packing the largest ones first.
- Add a couple more garlic cloves and sprigs of dill.
- Add remaining cucumbers, garlic, dill and grape leaf. (adding the grape leaf or other fruit leaves is important if you want a crunchy pickle.)
- Mix the salt with the water and stir until salt is dissolved. Slowly pour brine into the jar, making sure there is enough to cover the cucumbers when weighted down with a glass jar or bottle.
- Add the weight to the top of the glass jar. Remember the brine will expand. Keep at a cool room temperature.
- Cover with a clean tea towel.
- It is natural for the brine to bubble, this means it's working. Sometimes a white film that looks like a mold will form on the top of the brine. Skim it off and keep the contents submerged. The brine will turn cloudy, this is normal.
- If you need more brine you can mix 2 teaspoons sea salt for every 1 cup of water.
- If you have made 1 jar of pickles and have finished eating them, you can keep the liquid and add some of it to a fresh batch. This jump-starts the fermentation process.
- Taste once the fermentation process stops, this can be anywhere from 5 days or more. Transfer to the refrigerator. The pickles will still keep developing flavour in the refrigerator, but should be ready to eat.
- The pickles will keep in the refrigerator for several months (that's if you have any left after your kids or husband sneak in and grab one each time they walk by!)