Traditional fermented pickles are really easy to make at home and well worth the effort for any pickle-loving person. There are a number of different ways to make fermented pickles. Each of them will result in an amazingly flavourful dill pickle.
Here’s an overview of everything you need to know to ferment pickles in your own kitchen.
Containers for Fermenting Pickles
There are a few different ways to make traditional fermented pickles. Personally, I do a mix of all of them regularly, mostly because we love pickles! There are pros and cons to each method, so choose whatever method will work best for you.
Open-air fermenting involves keeping the cucumbers submerged below a brine and simply covering the top of your fermentation container with a cloth to prevent bugs from getting in. Here are some pros and cons to open-air fermenting:
- Con: Open-air fermenting requires a bit more work. You will need to check it every three days to skim scum off the top of the pickles and add water as it evaporates.
- Pro: It is easy for newbie-fermenters since no special equipment is required.
- Con: There is more risk of contamination with open-air pickles. Mold growing on the surface of your fermentation crock doesn’t necessarily mean it will have affected the pickles… but it’s definitely a risk.
- Pro: Using a fermenting crock allows you to make a HUGE batch of pickles all at once.
Here are the two common ways of open-air fermenting.
- Mason jars with a weight: This is a very low-tech way to ferment. All you need is a large mason jar for the pickles, and a smaller jar, filled with water, nested inside the larger jar as the weight. Wide-mouth masons and small jam jars are a perfect fit. You can also buy weights specifically designed for wide-mouth mason jars.
- Fermenting Crock: A fermenting crock (affiliate link) is a large stoneware container with a weight to keep the vegetables submerged. It is the most traditional way of fermenting and has the advantage of making large batches of pickles all at once.
Fermenting in sealed jars is my preferred way to ferment. If you plan on doing a lot of fermenting, then it is definitely worth the investment. Sealed jars are amazing because:
- They greatly reduce the risk of contamination. If you start with a sterilized jar, there isn’t any way for unwanted mold or bacteria to get in.
- You won’t have to remove scum, watch for mold or burp the jar. Just pack your vegetables and leave them in a cool, dark location to ferment.
Here are a few common sealed fermentation containers:
- A fido jar is a flip-top jar with a rubber seal. A good quality fido jar will be able to handle the build-up of gas during the fermentation. I don’t recommend a low-quality fido, as they are mostly decorative and might shatter under pressure.
- An airlock is a way for gas to escape while keeping unwanted bacteria and oxygen out of the jar. These are usually used for homebrewing, however, you can buy mason jars fitted with airlocks.
- The pickle-nipple turns any mason jar into a fido-jar like fermentation container.
Traditional Fermented Pickles
Cucumbers have their own natural culture, which makes them very easy to ferment. This traditional fermented pickle recipe will fill 2 mason jars. Feel free to scale it up if you want to make a larger batch. I usually do around 16 lbs of cucumbers each August. We really love fermented pickles!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 6 quart jars 1x
- Category: Pickles
- Method: Fermented
- Cuisine: Polish
- Diet: Gluten Free
- 2 lbs pickling cucumbers
- 4 cups of water (chlorine-free)
- 1/4 cup of non-iodized salt
- 2 dill flowers or sprigs of dill weed
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 tsp pickling spices (optional)
- 2 tbsp grated horseradish root (see notes)
- Wash the cucumbers and trim 1/2 cm off the blossom ends to help prevent the cucumber from going soft.
- Cut larger cucumbers, as required, to fit in your fermentation container.
- Pack cucumbers into a sterile fermenting container. Add in the spices, dill, garlic and pickle crisp. The recipe is scaled for 2 mason jars with 2 cloves of garlic, 1 sprig of dill, 1 tsp of spice and 1 tbsp of horseradish root in each jar.
- Combine the water and salt to make a brine.
- Pour the brine over the cucumbers.
- Allow the pickles to ferment somewhere cool and dark for 2-7 weeks.
- If you are doing open-air fermenting, check the pickles every 2-3 days. Skim off the foam/scum and top up with non-chlorinated water as needed.
- Fermented pickles will become soft and mushy over time. To prevent this, add a natural source of tannins to each mason jar: a grape leaf, 1 tbsp of grated horseradish root, or a pinch of black tea.
- Pickles need to ferment for at least 2 weeks, and usually much longer to develop the full flavour. That also provides more time for your ferment to turn into a weird science experiment, so sterilize your jars before fermenting.
- Store the finished pickles in the fridge and eat within 4 months. Alternatively, you can preserve them for long-term storage. They won’t be probiotic, but they will have that traditional pickle flavour. If you want probiotic pickles that you can ferment for several months, then I recommend my Grandma’s Fermented Pickle Recipe.
Keywords: traditional, probiotic, fido, airlock, crock, summer, fall, vegan, gluten free, keto, paleo, raw, sugar-free, no cook,