It was feeling ironic that dill pickles were my least successful naturally fermented vegetable. Whenever I tried pickling cucumbers, their taste and texture seemed less than ideal. So I dove into an information rabbit hole.
My technique was perfected thanks to the facebook group called “Wild Fermentation Uncensored.” It is a information treasure trove and open forum for everything fermentation-related (if you join, be sure to check out the files, specifically the document “fermentation basics”).
Here’s how I perfected my pickles:
-I aimed for a pickle between a half and full-sour. To do this, I mixed 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of sea salt (Real Salt brand) into one quart of water (weigh out 38g of salt if you’re using a different coarseness).
-I cut off the blossom ends of each cucumber (they apparently have softening enzymes in them) and soaked the cucumbers in ice water for about an hour (this is supposed to prevent mold from forming in the fermentation process).
-As I had done in the padt, I put some wild grape leaves in the bottom of my jar (they provide tannins to the ferment which helps keep pickles crispy).
-I used less garlic. I find that fermented garlic is one of the main sources of “funkiness” in natural ferments. If trying to appeal to a general audience (and my husband), I’ve found that most of my pickles are received more enthusiastically if I cut back on garlic.
-Our house was below 75 degrees, which is ideal to create good pickles…. above that and things can get quickly out of control. Below 68 or so and things start to slow down and take a lot longer.
Starting with a half gallon mason jar, I packed the bottom with a bunch of dill, one sliced up garlic clove, and several grape leaves. I then packed in my cucumbers, fresh out of their ice water bath. I then poured my brine over the top so everything was completely submerged. I used a half cup mason jar as my weight – it fits perfectly into the wide mouth of the half gallon jar and keeps all the cucumbers below the brine. I then loosely covered the jar with a cap and placed it in a bowl on my counter in case the brine overflowed.
Every day, I screwed the cap on tight and tipped the jar back and forth so bubbles hiding under pickles and leaves could come to the top. I then re-loosened the cap. After about a week, I put the whole jar into the fridge and let it sit there for another week before tasting (in the fridge fermentation is slowed dramatically, any fizziness can work its way out of the pickles, and the flavors can continue to meld together).
Yum! The flavor was mildly garlicky and dilly, sour and salty. Most importantly, the pickles were crisp and crunchy! I quickly set off to the garden to pick more cucumbers for a second batch.