If you like old-fashioned fermented sour pickles then you will want to learn this recipe. Real deli-style pickles cost around $7 per jar in my area, but I can make 10 pounds of organic sour pickles for just $20! I did not invent this recipe, but it seems to be the most commonly used methodology out there and it works every time without fail. The pickles are garlicky, crunchy, and delightfully sour.
Many years ago I acquired some beautiful old pickling crocks and I was eager to put them to use. After lugging home a giant bag of fresh cukes, I followed a recipe for pickling them in the crock. It was a disaster. My brine turned into a stinky, moldy mess and the cucumbers turned out soggy. I ended up throwing out the whole batch, discouraged.
Each year, I would see ten-pound bags of pickling cucumbers and a bouquet of dill in the arms of people leaving the farmers’ market. Green with envy, I asked the market vendor to please give me some tips on making sour pickles so I could try again. I did my best to remember the recipe and ran home to try it right away. I’m so glad that I did because this is now my go-to pickle recipe that I can’t wait to make year after year.
Makes 10 quart-size jars, adjust recipe accordingly
- 10 pounds fresh-picked pickling cucumbers
- 2/3 cup of kosher salt
- 16 cups of boiling water (non-chlorinated or filtered)
- 8 cups cold water (non-chlorinated or filtered)
- 10 cloves of fresh garlic
- A bunch of fresh, flowering dill
- 5 teaspoons coriander seed
- 5 teaspoons whole black pepper
- 10 chili peppers (optional)
- The key to crunchy pickles is to be sure that you are using very fresh cucumbers. They should go from farm to canning jar in no more than 24 hours and it’s essential to keep them chilled if you aren’t pickling right away. Size doesn’t matter for flavor, just for preference.
- Fill the sink with cold water and wash the cucumbers well. Remove any discolored, bruised, or soft cucumbers. Be sure to get cucumbers that are not waxed.
- To make the brine, bring 20 cups of water to a boil and add 2/3 cup of kosher salt. It’s important to use water that is non-chlorinated or filtered because you don’t want the minerals or chlorine to prevent fermentation.
- Stir the salt to dissolve. Set the brine aside to cool while you pack the jars.
- A cucumber has two different ends, the stem and the blossom end. Cut the blossom end off the cucumbers, or cut off both if you can’t figure it out. You can also slice the cucumbers if you choose. I like them whole.
- Divide the garlic, dill flowers, dill leaves, spices, and optional chili peppers among the jars.
- Pack the cucumbers into the jars tightly, leaving enough headspace that the brine will cover the them. The idea is to pack them into to jar so tightly that they won’t float up when the brine is added. You can also press a cucumber lengthwise across the upright pickles to pin them down.
- Add the cold water to the brine to cool it down more. It should be room temperature before pouring it on the cucumbers.
- When cool, pour the brine over the cucumbers, herbs, and spices. Screw a plastic canning lid loosely onto the jar and set them on a counter to ferment.
- “Burp” the pickles daily by loosening the cap and letting the air escape, then replacing the lid (loosely) again.
- After three days, check the pickles for flavor. Keep fermenting them on the counter until you get the sourness you like, then move them to the fridge to slow down the process. Consume the pickles within a month.
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