When making homemade brined pickles, there seems to be many people that struggle with the process, usually resulting in soggy pickles that are not crunchy at all.
Some swear by adding grape leaves to retain a good crunch and others add whey to speed up the lacto-fermentation process. This age old practice is a simple, salt brine cure set out at room temperature for days, weeks, or even months.
The process of fermentation creates an ideal condition for the lactic acid-forming bacteria existing on the food surface to feed upon the sugar naturally present in the food. The lactic acid will continue to grow (or ferment) until enough has formed to kill any bacteria present that would otherwise cause the food to spoil.
The end result is a product filled with lactobacilli which produces numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. As far as flavor, the salt brine naturally sours the pickles and gives them a fantastic crunch.
During the summer when the farmers markets are exploding with fresh vegetables, I like to naturally ferment many different varieties of pickles. I pickle whatever I have on hand, but generally my families favorites are asparagus, green beans with radishes, pickles, beets, cabbage, and cayenne peppers for hot sauce.
Small Batch Preserving
What I especially love about natural salt brine cures, or fermented pickles, is that they are easy to make and work well in small batches. It’s easy to fall into a mentality that we need a large quantity of fruit or vegetables to put up at one time.
For me, it’s so much easier and relaxing to put up a small amount of jars weekly. By the end of the summer I usually have a fridge filled with fermented vegetables that we eat into the winter.
I’ve been using this same pickle recipe for the past few years. It’s very simple and relies on salt. I don’t like to use whey in my ferments as I’ve found if you add enough salt and allow the pickle to ferment for at least two weeks up to two months, the end result is sensational.
Now that Big Brother is 7, he’s become our home pickle master which has been a tremendous help to me. I love this getting older bit!
Homemade Natural Fermented Pickles
Homemade pickled cucumbers are a cinch to make and doesn’t take long to prepare at all.
My number one secret to a crunchy pickle is to use freshly picked cucumbers from the farmers market or picked from your own backyard. The fresher the crunchier!
I always make my pickles as soon as I get home from the market. I don’t like to let them sit in the fridge for a few days as I feel this will impact that crunch factor. Fresh is best.
After I get the cucs home, Big Brother and I give them a good scrubbing to remove any dirt particles and flower ends. We then layer up the bottom half of a quart sized mason jar with the larger cucumbers.
Big Brother then cuts the ends of two cloves of garlic and gives them a good smash with the back of his knife.
Into the mason jar we add the garlic, 2 bay leaves, and just about a tablespoon of pickling spice.
We then top the jar with as many more cucs as we can fit and add fresh dill. I then fill the jar with a salt brine and allow them to ferment for two weeks.
I like to burp the jar after a week. Burping a jar means opening the lid and allowing the gasses produced from the fermenting vegetables to escape. You can taste a pickle at this time to see if it suits your taste buds.
Be aware that after two weeks, the water gets cloudy. This is completely normal.
The end result is a pickle that tastes as it did in days past. Naturally sour, a bit fizzy, and crunchy.
To see what the fizz of fermentation looks like, check out my video here. These pickles definitely taste different than a vinegar pickle, but I absolutely love them this way and I’m sure you will to.
Do you enjoy making naturally fermented pickles? Please share with me your favorite vegetables to ferment.