Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Naturally Fermented "Crock" Garlic Dill Pickles

If you want honest-to-goodness dill pickles, you have to do it the old-fashioned way.
If the fermentation thing is not for you, don't give up on making a great pickle.

 Dill pickles are a lot like sauerkraut in that in that bacteria rather than yeast are responsible for the fermentation.  They will break apart the sugars in the cukes and create cabon dioxide, some alcohol, and lactic acid.  This acid is extremely unfriendly to the types of bacteria that ordinarily cause spoilage, which means that lactic acid is a preservative.   Besides acting as a preservative, lactic acid has a much better flavor than the acid that flavors vinegar-cured pickles

Just a little science lesson in case you are worried about that.
Health Benefits of Fermented Pickles

If you really get into pickling, get yourself a crock.  I bought this last year to make some homemade sauerkraut.  You can also use a one-gallon jar to make these pickles.  With the jar you can see what's happening as the pickles start to do their thing!

2 Tbsp. pickling salt or kosher salt*, or sea salt
1 quart distilled water
3 lbs. pickling cucumbers (about 15)
1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. mustard seed
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch fresh dill
6 grape leaves (optional)***

  • Wash your crock or gallon jar in hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly.
  • Combine the salt and water in a pitcher and stir until the salt is dissolved
  • Rinse the cucumbers and trim off the blossom end.
  • Put 3 grape leaves (if using), the peppercorns, mustard seed, garlic and half of the fresh dill into your crock or jar.  
  • Add cucumbers and top with remaining dill and grape leaves.
  • Pour the brine mixture over the cucumbers to completely cover them.
  • Pour the remaining water into a 1 gallon zip top bag and seal.  Place the bag on top of the pickles, making sure that all of them are completely submerged in the brine and covered by at least 2 inches.  The crock I have has weights for this purpose.  If using a jar, cover loosely with a kitchen towel or cheesecloth.
Set in a cool, dry place.
That's it - your done!

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From here on out, think of this crock as your virtual pet.  It doesn't need to be walked or talked to (unless you want to). 

Check the crock after 3 days.  Fermentation has begun if you see bubbles rising to the top of the crock.  After this, check daily and skim off any foam or gunk that forms.  If it forms on the zip-top bag, rinse it off and return to the top of the crock.

The fermentation is complete when the pickles taste sour and the bubbles have stopped rising.  This takes about 6-7 days.  I started checking mine on day 4.  They were almost ready.
Day 5 - A Perfect Pickle

The pickles will be half-sour in about 4 or 5 days, and very sour in about 10 days.  Store in the refrigerator in tightly closed jars.  Pour some strained brine into the jars to cover the pickles.
They will keep for about two months, assuming they have not been eaten long before.

If you have some extra brine and a few kirbys left, just cut them into spears, pack them in the brine with a few of the spices and stick them in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.

*Kosher salt tends to leave the brine cloudy - this is perfectly normal and safe and will settle.
**Some information was taken from Good Eats3
***Grape leaves are a natural way to encourage crispness because those leaves have tannins.  My neighbor has a grape vine. (I only took six!)


  1. Definitely going to give this recipe a try! I need to find a pickle crock. I have seen them at antique stores but they are outrageously expensive. I posted about a recent pickle failure I had in case you want to see my disaster. :) www.homestead-ish.blogspot.com

    1. I know those crocks are expensive, but you can use a gallon glass jar as well! Let me know if you try them!

      Patti :)

  2. Lovin' your little crock, how cute! And congrats on preserving things this way, I still haven't tried it. My son has actually played with making sauerkraut though:@)

    PS-Please disable the word verification... it's harder than ever to read...

  3. Can you then process these in a water bath canner?

    1. Here is a great article with this info! http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/dill_pickles.html

  4. I have had a dill pickle disaster a couple of times so I guess the fermented pickle must be what I should try. Thank you for this post.


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