Fermented Saltwater Brine Pickles

Fermented Pickle Recipe Old-fashioned Saltwater Brine Pickles

By Melissa Norris | Fermenting

Oct 13

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Fermented pickles are really just old-fashioned salt and water pickles, something your great-grandma knew how to make and had barrels full of fermenting pickles in a crock. They have a trendy name today as fermented foods are quickly becoming popular again, but they're really the same thing as a salt water brine pickles.

Fermented foods are  a form of food preservation, especially for vegetables before we had refrigeration, freezers, and even one of my main loves in life, the Mason jar. Many pioneers of old would pack their harvest into barrels and crocks with water and salt.Fermented pickle recipe with saltwater brine

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Making fermented pickles are relatively easy and can be done with pretty much any fruit or vegetable.

What are salt water brine pickles?

It's a form of using a saltwater brine that creates a fermented culture of beneficial lactic acid microbes! Think probiotics exactly as God made them. And fermented cucumber slices make a delicious snack!

The beauty of fermented foods is they keep your food preserved and actually make them more nutritious due to being more easily digested and used by your body because of the cultures. Did you know that some new studies in science are showing that our immune system is actually in our gut and that beneficial bacteria helps your digestive tract, therefore your immune system as well.

While I adore my canner, I'm discovering fermented foods are quickly becoming my second preserving love. Fermented pickles health benefits are many because the food is still raw and has the addition of probiotics, score!

Here's why you need to be making fermented pickles now:

  • when you only have a small amount of ripe cucumbers, you can still preserve them, because as long as you have enough jars, you can make as many (or as little) jars as you want. This is  perfect the beginning and end of the growing season, when you usually don't have enough cucumbers ready at the same time to can a full run (aka batch).
  • no heating up the kitchen as with traditional canning (don't worry, I still do up several runs so my water bath canner doesn't feel jealous or left out). Boiling water, boiling brine, all equals raising the temperature by several degrees and ain't no one wants that happening in the hot summer months.
  • a time saver, seriously, I can have a 1/2 gallon jar of fermented pickles going in as little as 10 minutes.
  • they're ready to eat in about a week, where as I let my canned pickles sit for at least 6 weeks to develop more flavor
  • cheap, your main ingredient besides the pickles is a couple of Tablespoons of salt and water. No cost for vinegar
  • sugar free, many canning recipes use some sugar to help cut the strong vinegar taste (it's never safe to lower the amount of vinegar to taste when canning, as this lowers the acidity level).
  • control the flavor. With canning pickles, you're kind of stuck with the pucker power of the vinegar for safety reasons, but with fermented pickles, you can “lessen” the sour punch by shortening the amount of days you allow it to ferment. (I like a strong sour taste, but not all do)
  • free probiotics and gut health. Have you seen the price tag on probiotics in the store? These are totally free and you're getting your veggies in
  • preserves your food. While fermented foods are not considered shelf stable after their initial ferment (they need to be stored in the fridge for long term storage), they will keep in the fridge for  months. I had a jar of fermented green tomato pickles last a year!
  • Saves on water. My water bath canner takes quite a bit of water to fill it up, but with fermented pickles, I'm only using 4 cups of water for a 1/2 gallon of pickles.
  • Makes you feel like Ma Ingalls and a real pioneer, which is totally a legit reason in my book.

Have I convinced you yet?

How to make fermented or brine pickles (lacto fermented pickles recipe)

  1. To start, you need a clean glass jar or pickling crock. I prefer a Mason jar for everything except sauerkraut.
  2. Next make your brine, use 2 Tablespoons of salt to 1 quart of water (4 cups). Stir salt into water until it's dissolved. It's recommended to use bottled spring or filtered water or tap water that's has a filter, but I've had success with our well water, though hard water isn't desired.
  3. Pack your vegetables into the clean container leaving a 2 inch head space (space between top of jar and the top of the food). Just like any pickle making, the freshness and quality of ingredients going in determines the end product. As fresh as possible is best.
  4. Fill the jar with the brine a 1 inch head space. Place a weight into the jar to keep the food beneath the brine surface. This is very important, if it rises above, it may mold. I prefer the ferment cups below, but a small washed glass baby food jar will work as well.
  5. Place a lid on the jar, preferably a fermenting lid below, the goal is to keep the oxygen out and make it air tight. Now, how long to ferment pickles.
  6. Put the jar in warm area (70 degrees Farenheit is ideal but down to 65 degrees Farenheit is also fine) out of direct sunlight and not next to any appliances. Ferment for 4 days.
  7. After a day or two you'll notice the presence of bubbles and the water will turn cloudy. These are joyous signs!
  8. Check the taste of your pickles after a few days. If they're not “tangy” enough, let them continue to ferment. It sometimes takes up to 10 days if the room is cold.
  9. When they're done fermenting, they must be moved to the fridge or a similar cold area. Take off the fermenting lid and replace with a two piece metal canning lid and band. They will keep for months in the fridge, but they're not shelf stable for the pantry.

Resources for Making Fermented Brine Pickles

Salt- the correct salt will make a huge difference in the success of your fermentation. It is not recommended to use table, pickling or canning salt. The best choices for salt are unrefined sea salts with no additives listed on the packaging, this is the salt I use for fermenting. Celtic Sea Salt-Light Gray

Pickling lid- these are special lids that help keep oxygen out (which helps keep mold and bacteria out of your ferment) to keep your ferment healthy and happy. I've tried fermenting without these, and with the exception of sauerkraut, have found these to be so worth it and haven't had to throw any food out due to mold since using them.

Fermenting Weight- you can use a small cup, a glass fermenting weight, or anything that will keep the contents below the brine. These fermenting cups go right inside the jar and are by far the cheapest I've found.

Fermenting Crock- this is best for doing things like sauerkraut or kimchi, I prefer the fermenting lid for things like cucumbers and green beans due to having batches spoil in the crocks. The cabbage tends to be more hardy.


My new book, Hand Made: The Modern Guide to Made-from-Scratch Living has some of my favorite fermented recipes in it, along with tons of other Hand Made tutorials and goodies. Pre-order your copy now (because you know you'll forget later)

Want a fermenting cheat sheet? My friend Wardee from has a Fermenting Formula Cheat Sheet you can snag here. 


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There you have it, my fermented pickle recipe . Have you ever had a traditional fermented pickle or salt water brine pickles?

About the Author

Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.

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