These pickles are made the old-fashioned way; from raw cucumbers packed in a salt water brine and left to ferment on the counter for at least a week to develop natural, gut-friendly bacteria that give them their quintessential sour pickle flavor. Made with just three simple ingredients (cucumbers, salt, and water), these pickles will be your new go-to recipe!
Reading: how to make raw fermented pickles
Fermentation is by far my favorite way to preserve summer produce for the fall and winter. I’ve made sauerkraut and kimchi before- both great ways to keep cabbage- and now I’m back with this super simple recipe for pickles, done the way our great-grandparents made them.
That is, with no vinegar and no heating; just salt water and time.
Back then, people didn’t realize fermented foods were full of healthy bacteria, and they certainly weren’t touted as the latest trendy superfoods- people were just preserving their produce to last the winter.
Today, though, I love making raw pickles/ fermented vegetables because I’m totally obsessed with their flavor. Salty, slightly sour, and totally tangy; homemade raw fermented vegetables are a completely different experience than store-bought jarred pickles. They’re also lacking the food coloring, artificial flavorings, and other nefarious ingredients listed on the back of most mainstream pickle jars.
Oh! And all those healthy bacteria that cause your pickles to ferment are great for supporting gut health; I find that adding a spoonful with most meals definitely helps with digestion.
Fermentation is a great way to take advantage of summer’s bounty; when pickling cucumbers are so cheap the farmers are practically giving them away (I bought mine 4 for $1 last week), you know it’s time to stock up and make pickles.
Plus, Raw Fermented pickles are just plain fun to make: you get to fill a jar full of gorgeous summer produce and leave it on the counter for a week or more to ferment, making you feel equal parts Little House on the Prairie and mad scientist, and, strange as it may seem, it’s a fun combination of emotions.
So, let’s do this pickle thing.
First, you’ll need pickling cucumbers; only 4-6 for this single batch (though if you’re a pickle loving family, I urge you to make serval batches over the course of the summer so that you’re stocked up for the entire winter).
Pickling cukes are best (sometimes sold as Kirby cucumbers)- they’re small, firm, thick-skinned little cuties that make the best pickles. If you think you can’t find them, check your farmer’s markets, neighbors’ gardens (with permission, obviously) and even most big chain grocery stores in the summer, and you should find plenty. I’ve seen them at every grocery store in town for the past few weeks.
Next, you’ll need a nice big jar. I have a few of these ones (<-affiliate link) and love them for making pickles, though you can usually find similar large (2L or 1/2 Gal) jars at Marshalls or TjMaxx for less. Really any large, wide glass jar that’s at least 4 inches taller than your cucumbers will work.
Once you have your cukes and a big jar, you get to decide if you want your pickles to be whole, halved, or quartered into spears. Nothing changes about the method or ingredients; it just depends on how you like to eat your pickles. I went with spears for this batch.
You’re also in charge of the flavor add-ins. Dill is a classic choice, as are a few peppercorns or mustard seeds, but I like to keep it really simple with just a couple of big garlic cloves since I love garlicky pickles.
The pickles get tossed with salt, packed tightly into the jar, then covered with water so they’re fully submerged. A paper towel (or some cheesecloth, an old nut milk bag, heck, even a random clean dish towel or tee shirt) gets secured over the top with a rubber band, then the jar just sits at room temperature for a week.
During the week of fermentation, you’ll notice a few things: the cucumbers will go from bright green to a slightly darker, dull green color. This is normal. The liquid will turn from crystal clear to white and cloudy. Also normal, no need to panic. Finally, you might see a few of the cucumbers starting to float up and try to poke above the water line. In this case, just coax them back down with a wooden spoon so they stay completely submerged during the fermentation process. Staying underwater ensures an anaerobic environment for the bacteria to grow; when bacteria grows in the water without the presence of oxygen, it doesn’t spoil or rot the cucumbers, but instead creates probiotics and human-friendly enzymes that make the pickles tasty and safe for consumption. If all of your cucumbers popped above the water line and were left like that for a week, you’d just end up with some moldy pickles. No bueno.
For other ferments, like kimchi or sauerkraut, I recommending fermenting for as little as 1 week, but ideally longer- up to 3 weeks- to get an extra tangy flavor (if you’re into that). With pickles, though, we want to retain as much crunch as possible, so I like to stick to just 1 week. Once they’ve sat on your counter for a week, just pop the paper towel off the jar, put on the lid, and stick the jar straight into the fridge, where it can stay for upwards of 6 months before any noticeable flavor/texture loss.
Read more: Insane in the Brine | Family Cuisine
If you’re a pickle lover, you are going to OBSESS over this simple, healthy, homemade pickle recipe. It takes about 10 minutes of work (and 1 week of waiting), and yields a batch of the most perfectly probiotic-rich, tangy, sour pickles. Plus, the method is so foolproof, even people who have never fermented anything in their lives can make a killer batch of pickles.
If you make them, let me know how they turn out! Leave a comment below, or take a picture of your jar of pickles and share it with me on Instagram! I love seeing my recipes in your kitchen. Happy fermenting, friends!
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