Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Homemade Dill Pickles – Naturally Fermented, Whatever That Means

This is going to be an easy post, in that I know virtually nothing about fermenting pickles. The only thing I know for sure is how to make them, and for me, that’s enough. If you make a simple salt brine, add some spices, and submerge Kirby cucumbers in it for about a week, you get some fairly delicious pickles.

Maybe it’s dumb luck, or just overwhelmingly good karma, but fortunately I’ve not experienced any of the problems I’ve seen others lament; such as mushy texture, scary molds, or exploding jars. Apparently, cucumbers are one of the more finicky things to pickle, but that hasn’t been my experience.

Like I said in the video, I’ve only made these a handful of times, so maybe my time is coming, but I’m pretty sure if you measure your salt right, and store the fermenting pickles at an appropriate temperature, you should get something close to what you see here.

Having said that, I will refer any and all of your questions having to do with variations, troubleshooting, probiotics, and/or best practices, to the Internet. The purpose of this video is to simply show the process, and how ridiculously easy it is. If this seems like something you want to try, and it should, I recommend doing lots of research before starting, so at least you’ll have someone else to blame if things go horribly wrong.

One thing I can tell you for sure is that you have to use pure salt for this. Table salt can contain additives like iodine, which inhibits the bacterial growth necessary for this to work. I’m also giving you weight measurements for the salt, since the size of the salt crystal can really effect measuring by volume.

Other than getting your brine right, just be sure to get very fresh, very firm pickling cucumbers to make this with. If your cucumbers start off soft and mushy, your pickles will be terrible, and not have that loud crunch associated with the finest examples. I really do hope you give this a try. Enjoy!


Ingredients:
2 pounds very fresh Kirby cucumbers, washed thoroughly
Handful of fresh, flowering dillweed
For the brine:
8 cups cold fresh water
8 tablespoons Kosher salt (By weight, you wants exactly 80 grams. The brand of kosher salt I use weighs about 10 gram per tablespoon, but yours may not, so it’s best to use a scale if possible.)
4 cloves peeled garlic
2 teaspoons whole coriander seed
2 teaspoon black peppercorn
3 or 4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves

- Ferment at room temperature (I hear that between 70-75 F. is ideal) for about a week. Check every day as these can ferment fast. They are done when you like the taste. If you go too far, they start to get soft, and the inside gets hollow. Keep the brine level topped off.
- This makes extra brine for topping off.

Pickling Spice Note: I tend not to like a lot of spices in my pickles, so I believe the amounts listed here are fairly puny compared to most recipes. Feel free to find one of the many pickling spices recipes online, and use that instead.

37 comments:

MadMadchen said...

I highly, highly recommend Sandor Katz' (Katz's? Bah, English) book "Wild Fermentation" to anyone more interested in pickling- and if that leaves you hungry for more, his other books. http://www.wildfermentation.com/wild-fermentation/ or, of course, Amazon.

Sandra from Montreal said...

Amazing! I had no idea you could make pickles without vinegar! We'll definitely be trying these soon...

cookinmom said...

Man...where were you when I had a ton of pickles from the garden? Oh well, next year!

Pipette1110 said...

If only you had published this one week ago... I was searching for a recipe like that. Instead i try myself to put some pickles in a mix of vinegar/water/sugar/salt. We'll see... If it doesn't work, i will try your recipe for sure!

J Kennedy said...

No vinegar?

Pat in Ohio said...

My grandmother made what she call a salt pickle by placing pickles in a crock and covering them with a salt brine that would just slightly float an egg off the bottom of the crock. She then placed grape leaves on top weighted them down with a plate and a jar filled with water. They sat in a cool place for a week to 10 days. Check daily to see if they are fermenting. Dad also made them, and I did for several years when we had a garden. If you got the salt wrong, (and it happened sometimes) your pickles were not good. Nothing better than plain, brined pickles.

Zakitty said...

I believe you can ferment almost any veggie, but I would refer to instructions via an expert. I know my MIL does this with beats, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and green beans.

Natalia said...

Classic polish pickles (ogórki kiszone ;))like grandma used to do.

Maciej Tomica said...

Traditionally we put horseradish root and maple or grape leaves inside. They help keep the pickles firmer.

Food Junkie said...

While you can can make decent pickles with vinegar, sours are so much better. Those awful store dills with a blue label and an obnoxious stork almost put me off pickles but I found some kosher sours and my pickle enthusiasm was restored. I can't wait to try making these.

milkshake said...

my grandma used to make them in summer, they had a nicer, less rubbery crunch and mild, buttermilk-like taste compared to vinegar pickles (unless you overdo it with spices or dill). They are refreshing straight from fridge and one can have several (unlike vinegar pickles). The only problem was that they don't keep too long beforestarting to sag, so you eat them within a week or two - but that is not too hard...

Oznayim said...

I like to use a gallon glass jar so I can watch the bubbles of the fermentation. Grape leaves are a good addition. Also I use the dill head when the seeds are formed but still green. I use a zip bag filled with brine to hold the cukes under the liquid. Since the bag fdills the opening there is less opportunity for mold to develop. It does make a great pickle.

This is also the process for making sauerkraut. Homemade is a lot better than storebought. For making kraut, instead of pummeling the cabbage, put it in a large zip bag and walk on it. Easier and more fun.

Divtal said...

Chef John, you specify Kirby cucumbers for this recipe. I've looked at a few produce stores, all of which have cucumbers for pickling, but none that indicated "Kirby" on the produce bins. Employees have not been able to advise me.

I know that I can find them, if you can, because I, too, live in San Francisco. The stores that I've checked are all in the outer Richmond district.

Can you help?

Thank you.


Chef John said...

I'm sure they are the right ones! Just be sure they are VERY firm and fresh, and no soft spots.

J Kennedy said...

Kirby Cucumbers is now a generic term for any small cucumber sold for pickling.

There actually were actual Kirby Cucumbers, developed by a Norval E. Kirby and first released in 1920. They had names such as Black Diamond, D. and B. Special, Dark Green, Dark Green Slicer, Earliest Black Diamond, Green Pack, Kirbys Stays Green, Stay Green and Sunny South. But these have not been grown commercially since the 1930s, at which time the Kirby breeds were overtaken in popularity by the National Pickling Cucumber.

Kirby Cucumbers, as the term is used now, describes small cucumbers 3 to 6 inches (7 1/2 to 15 cm) long, with a somewhat irregular shape. The skin colour ranges from pale green to creamy yellow to dark green. The skin is bumpy, and may have ridges on with black or white dots.

Kirby Cucumbers are sold fresh with skins unwaxed, because waxing would interfere with pickling. They are very crisp, because their seed cavity is so small and undeveloped, which also means they have fewer seeds than other cucumbers.

Divtal said...

Thank you, again. I'll be sure to buy the freshest, and make my first batch of pickles this weekend.


Divtal said...

Thank you, yet one more time.

A gentleman who buys produce for a store on 25th Ave., and Clement, tried to find information on "Kirbys," for me, but called to say he couldn't learn anything. He added that he would keep asking, and would pass along any information that came his way. I said that I, too, would share anything I learned ... which I will!

"Food Wishes, and continuing education," with Chef John. It's great.




Mary Niedenfuer said...

Can I just use a large canning jar? What do we poor sops do that don't have cool crockery?

Baron Berwyn said...

Dang. Should have read the blog instead of relying on the video. Mortn Kosher salt (only kind available here) is 18g/tbsp...just weighed some. Guess my pickles will have some extra pucker. Small batch, last 4 cukes frm the garden, and the dill had goneto seed. But the cabbages are ready, so there be kraut in my future.

Basil said...

What to do when you are done? Just move the jar into the fridge or you switch out the brine?

I don't want to over pickle the pickles.

Any suggestions? Since I made too many to use in one go.

Kind regards,

Basil

beemo said...

Dear Chef John,

Over the years you have developed a seriously good speaking voice. Have you considered lending it to reading a few audiobooks? It might be a nice break from cooking, you would please a whole new audience, and of course you would only read what you enjoyed.

It would probably suffice to contact any audiobook company and let them know about your online work.

There is a great need, not for audiobook readers, but for GOOD readers. You would be one of the good ones, without question.

Yours,
Mr. Fan
.

Unknown said...

Hey. I am fermenting 10 pound batch. How do I store them after they are finished? I am thinking stuff them in sterilized mason jar, boil the fermented brine and pour over pickles, close the lid and store in a cellar... Would that work?

Chef John said...

I just stored my in the same brine, but I would refer to pickling websites for specific options! I don't have a tons of experience in this and not sure.

80sailors said...

Chef John I followed pickle recipe precisely...Most of them hollowed out????

80sailors said...

Mine hollowed out...why?

Chef John said...

That's usually from over fermenting, or not super fresh cucs, or combo of both. I think!

Paulius Budrys said...

hey Chef, I tried to do my first batch today. It's been 6 days now and I just noticed a little mold on the top. (not on the pickles themselves, on top of water and on the plate that keeps the pickles submerged). What did I do wrong? Why is there actual mold there? Also, i can assume it's ruined and throw it all away?

Chef John said...

no, that's normal! just skim it off. i think i showed how to flush the brine by pouring more in, in the video. don't throw away!!! they might be done. you should try one.

Paulius Budrys said...

yup, they're great, thanks!

What's next? said...

Question! First, I made these and I think they are great! That being said, mine are really salty. I used Morton's Kosher--is it possible I used too much salt? I saw on an earlier post that the weight is slightly different. Would using too much salt in the brine do this? Can you use regular cukes and cut them in spears? Thanks!

Chef John said...

Yes, believe it or not, adding too much salt can make the brine too salty. ;) Next time try to weigh it. BTW, you can always soak in some plain water to leech out the salt if it's really bad. You can pickle any vegetable, but they won't be as crisp.

Maryellen Best said...

Chef John,
Sorry if this is a silly question!! As I do not own a crock, can I use an airtight jar? Or do I need to use a jar that allows air in?
Thanks in advance!

Mandy Chamberland said...

Chef John, thanks for posting this method. But could you pleeeease do a video for claussen knockoff pickles? I hear they double brine them, im sure the salt:vinegar:water ratios must be different for each brine. Ive tried a dozen recipes and experimented on my own to no avail. Please help!

Brian said...

Just finished my first batch, but don't seem to have too much taste. Should they taste similar to vinegar pickles or is it completely different?

ronnie parrish said...

When these are done do you do anything other than refrigerate

David35445 said...

I've made a couple batches of these and the only thing that made them better was deep frying a few.

Sandra from Québec said...

Hello Chef John!

I have two questions: first, I'm guessing that iodized sea salt is out, then? I accidentally bought iodized... :(

Secondly, can I just ferment them directly in the jars I plan to store them in later? If so, do I need to keep the jars air tight, or does that not really matter? Just wondering - your cool bean crock thingy didn't look necessarily air tight. Thanks a lot!

Sandra