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Ever needed a fermented pickle recipe? Yes, the answer is yes. These garlic and dill pickles are naturally fermented and result in a salty and sour pickle that’s both crunchy and reminiscent of a classic old-fashioned deli pickle. Unlike water-bath canned pickles made with vinegar, these are fermented in a saltwater brine and boast healthy probiotics.
Ya’ll know how much I love me a good, crunchy pickle… every year during harvest season I’m whipping up batches of my great-grandmother’s mustard pickles, these fermented pickles, bread and butter refrigerator pickles, and I can’t forget my favorite pickled asparagus recipe that I make in the early spring!
Saltwater brine pickles are also known as fermented pickles, but in reality, they’re both just old-fashioned salt and water pickles that have gone through a natural fermentation process. Something many of our great-grandparents knew how to make and had barrels full of fermenting pickles in a crock.
They have a trendy name today as fermented vegetables are quickly becoming popular again, but they’re really one and the same. 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!
Buying fermented pickles from the store may be slightly pasteurized, however, for consistency and the safety of transporting the product. Once you know how simple they are to make at home, you’ll never need to buy them again!
While there is certainly enough room in my heart for both fermented pickles and my beloved great-grandmother’s mustard pickle recipe, fermented pickles have not been heated and the naturally occurring enzymes and beneficial vitamins are still fully present (even heightened!).
When you water bath can pickles in a vinegar brine, you’re essentially killing all organisms that may cause the pickles to spoil when stored at room temperature.
Even refrigerator pickles are different than fermented pickles. The difference here is you still pour a hot vinegar-based brine over the pickles, but instead of water bath canning them, they’re placed in the refrigerator.
There are certainly places for all the above methods, but fermented pickles have my heart because they’re the quickest and easiest recipe to follow. Plus they allow me to put cucumbers up as they’re ripe in the garden.
Fermentation is 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, fermented foods were a common food found in many pioneer homes. They would pack their harvest into barrels and crocks with water and salt and leave them to do their thing.
The naturally occurring bacteria (and sometimes yeasts) will break down the sugars in the vegetable into acid, carbon dioxide gas, and other flavor compounds.
It’s the acid that produces a tartness to the vegetable and the carbon dioxide gives it that fizzy, almost carbonated effect. Once properly fermented, the acid keeps the vegetables safe by inhibiting bad bacterial growth.
Making fermented pickles are relatively easy and can be done with pretty much any fruit or vegetable.
Listen in below to the full podcast, Episode #92 Old-fashioned Saltwater Brine Pickles, of the Pioneering Today Podcast, where we don’t just inspire you, but give you the clear steps to create the homegrown garden, pantry, kitchen, and life you want for your family and homestead.
The beauty of fermented food is that fermentation actually makes the food 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!
Have I convinced you yet?
Just a few simple ingredients are all you need for these gut-friendly, healthy, and probiotic pickles.
1. Gather all your ingredients – this recipe whips up super quickly when you have all your ingredients and supplies ready to go.
2. Wash all equipment very well – It’s important you’re working with very clean supplies as you don’t want to introduce any bad bacteria (or even soap residue) to your ferments.
3. Mix up your brine – Use 2 Tablespoons of salt to 1 quart (4 cups) of water. Stir the salt into water until it’s dissolved. It’s recommended to use bottled spring water, filtered water, or well water. We don’t want chlorine, you can either boil water with chlorine in it for 10 minutes or let it sit on the counter overnight.
4. Pack your vegetables into the clean container leaving a 2-inch headspace – Even though we’re not canning this recipe, headspace is essential to ensure all food stays submerged below the surface of the brine. Headspace is the space between the top of the jar and the top of the food). Just like any pickle making, the freshness, and quality of ingredients are going to determine the end product. As fresh as possible is best. (Use these 7 tips for crunchy pickles every time.)
5. Fill the jar with the brine a 1-inch headspace – leave space because your weight will displace the water further and you don’t want it to overflow your jar.
6. Place a weight into the jar to keep the food beneath the brine surface – This is very important, if food rises above the liquid, it may mold. I prefer the fermenting weights as pictured below, but a small washed glass baby food jar will work as well.
7. Place a lid on the jar – preferably a fermenting lid as pictured below, the goal is to keep the oxygen out and make it airtight. A regular two-piece canning lid can work. However, you’ll need to observe your ferment carefully and, if pressure is building, give your jar a burp every day or so by unscrewing the metal band until you see the air escape, then tighten the band again. (You can usually tell pressure is building up when the metal lid is domed upward.)
8. Let pickles sit! That’s really all it takes to ferment your pickles. (Be sure to read my tips below on how long to ferment the pickles.)
Put the jar in a warm area (70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal but anywhere from 65 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit is fine) out of direct sunlight and not next to any appliances. Ferment for 4 days.
After a day or two, you’ll notice the presence of bubbles and you may notice a cloudy brine. These are joyous signs that your ferment is working!
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.
When they’re done fermenting, they must be moved to the fridge or a similar cold area. Take off the fermenting lid and replace it 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.
There you have it, my fermented pickle recipe. Have you ever had a traditional fermented pickle or saltwater brine pickles?
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.