Fermenting Pickles.
The Old Fashioned Way.

I made some pickles earlier this summer.  I told you about the one batch of Bread and Butter pickles I made and even gave you the recipe.

It wasn’t only one batch I made.  It was many batches

Only a person of very suspicious character would want to eat just one batch of pickles.  The same kind of person who only eats one cookie.  Or one potato chip.  Or who walks around their house laughing diabolically for no reason while wearing kittens as slippers.

This week I delved into the world of fermented dill pickles.  Kosher dills.

Regular dill pickles are O.K., but I was raised on Kosher dills and to me that’s what a dill pickle should taste like.  I tried fermenting pickles when I first moved into my house about 15 years ago and I can tell you I have never been so excited to rot something.  O.K., fermenting isn’t really rotting something, but it sounds more fun.  More daring.  Less hippie, more badass.

I have no idea where I got my original fermenting pickles recipe but I’m pretty sure it must have been off of a salt box, because after waiting patiently for 5 weeks for my pickles to ferment, what I ended up with were soft squishes of pickle made up of 1% cucumber and 99% salt.  They were the dead sea pickles.

I never tried them again until this year.

I have a book my neighbour bought me a few years ago called Wild Fermentation: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Cultural Manipulation (DIY). It’s the book I used to create my own yeast for sourdough starter. Since it is dedicated to all things fermented and the sourdough starter worked out, I figured the fine folks who wrote it would have a pretty good handle on the fermented Kosher dill. Plus the author’s last name is Katz.

First a little explanation of what a fermented pickle is.

Fermented pickles are made sour or half-sour naturally.  There is no vinegar in the recipe (although some do include a little).  You simply combine salt, dill, water and pickling cucumbers in a crock and let them sit at room temperature for around a month. Some people add garlic.  I do not.

 

 

making-pickles

 

 

Even though I accidentally grew pickling cucumbers this year (Kirby cucumbers) I ended up having to buy cucumbers to make these pickles because my pickles plants are kapoot.

 

Kirby-pickles

 

I was, however, able to provide my own dill seeds for flavouring.  I grew a ton of dill in my community garden this year so I just went up there and picked the heads off of my dried up dill.

For your dill flavour in these kosher dills you can use any type of dill you can get your hands on.  Fresh dill, dill seeds, dill heads, dried dill (as a last resort).  But chances are if you can get your hands on pickling cucumbers, you can also get your hands on fresh dill or dried dill seeds.

 

dill-seed

 

The book.  If you’re gonna buy a book about making kosher dills, you wanna go with someone with a last name like Katz.  Or Steinberg.  Or Greenbaum.  Or anything that sounds like they’d have a good grasp on challah, latkes or brisket.    Jews make the best pickles. It’s not cultural stereotyping if it’s the truth and something to be jealous of.

 

wild-fermentation

 

This is me.  This is me making pickles.  This is me making pickles by getting them ready to soak in water.  If you soak your pickles in cold water for a couple of hours before putting all of your ingredients together you’ll end up with crisper pickles.

Speaking of crispy pickles (nobody likes a limp noodle), the other thing you can do to get them to stay crisp is using a leaf with tannins in it.  Like grape leaves, oak leaves or horseradish leaves. Just throw in a handful.

 

karen-bertelsen-making-pickles

 

This is all there is in terms of seasoning.  Salt and dill.  Optional things to add are a few peppercorns and garlic.

 

pickle-ingredients

 

Layer everything in your crock.

 

brined-pickles

 

Cover the pickles with water that has the salt dissolved in it.

 

crock-pickles

 

Admire the beauty that is the fledgling kosher dill.

 

brining-pickles

 

Make sure all of the cucumbers are beneath the surface of the brine by weighing them down with something. I just used a few sandwich plates stacked on top of each other.

covered-pickles

Then you wait. After just one day my pickles were starting to ferment. You can see the bubbles.

fermenting-pickles-after-1-day

 

After reading Wild Fermentation I’ve figured out that what I made years ago must have been “full sour” pickles. That means they have a lot more salt in the recipe which makes them last longer. This type of recipe would have been popular back in the olden days when refrigerators weren’t around to keep pickles from going bad. So they used salt to preserve them.

The recipe I used from Wild Fermentation is for a a Half-Sour which calls for a brine that is around 5% salt, as opposed to the full sour which would call for around 10% salt or even more.

Wild Fermentation has their Kosher Dill pickle recipe online here. Read it, understand it, make it.

Mazel Tov!

 




77 Comments

  1. Patti says:

    Looks Lovely !!! Can’t wait to see the progress !

  2. chris aka monkey says:

    dam woman is there anything you can’t do?? i am so impressed… and next year i am raising another cat hopefully monarch lol xx

  3. Barbie says:

    OMG! Karen I wish you had posted this a month ago!!! I had so many pickling cucumbers this year and I canned them ALL so as not to lose any. I have ALWAYS wanted to do fermented ….because I want (like you) that kosher taste. I must have tried 5 different recipes. Last years pickles were WAY to sour and no one likes them …this year I did find one that is better…still not like a fermented pickle. I had NO IDEA it was as easy as this. We make sauerkraut every year and that is just as easy (well not quite as easy as this) a lot more work in the shredding and smashing and all… and SO good. Next year I will try this recipe. I do NOT want to go buy any cukes ….I already have so many pickles I could feed all of Spokane!

    • Karen says:

      Crud. That sucks, lol! Well there’s always next year. I’m hoping mine will be just about ready for Canadian Thanksgiving, which I host every year. My plan for Thanksgiving this year is to have everything I serve, be something I grew. But I didn’t grow the pickles, lol. I think fermenting them should count though.

  4. Amber says:

    hey, you, who deliberately takes photos with odd oddments in random corners just to see if her readers will ask about them: what are the golden thingies next to the lady in blue?

    • Amber says:

      I see that the lady in blue is actually Our Lady of Kitchen Twine…

      • Denise says:

        I like the lady in blue. Do you have a suggestion on where to purchase her?? Love the fermenting, too. Takes me back to early days with my mom….smile…..

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Hey you! Who looks at random things in pictures that the photo clearly isn’t about. That’s my gold flatware which I got at an antique show for $40. forks, knives, spoons, ladles etc. LOVE them. ~ karen!

      • Amber says:

        well I wasn’t going to comment on how good you look in tight jeans because frankly, I’m jealous. Are you ever going to do a post on how you got rid of your tubular underarm tumors? I’ve been hiking all summer and mine have brought friends in!

        • Karen says:

          Uch. Nothing worse than a tumour friend. I didn’t have arm ones though. Back. Back tumours. All around my back. Big fatty ones. yeah. They’re still there. ~ karen

  5. Elen Grey says:

    I’ve never heard of fermenting pickles, Karen! Like you, I love the kosher dill. How long can they be stored in the fridge, and what are you storing them in? Where is your crock from? Gorgeous pics for this post, by the way.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Elen. That’s thanks to my photography lesson last week. 🙂 See? Photos are important. 😉 You can store them in the fridge for months. This kind of pickle isn’t meant to be canned. Which is why when you buy Kosher Dill pickles at the grocery store they’re in the refrigerated section. They haven’t been processed. They’re just in their brine. The more salt the recipe has the longer they can be stored, but they’re also pretty much inedible that way so you don’t want to store them so much as throw them out. ~ karen!

  6. Stephanie Hobson says:

    Added to my list of favorites, ” It’s not cultural stereotyping if it’s the truth and something to be jealous of.”

  7. Cred says:

    Oh crap, I just made a batch of dills (vinegar method though) and I forgot the grape leaves until I read this.
    Would love to know how these turn out. My 14yo daughter loves kosher dills and we were just talking about finding a recipe and having a go.

    • Karen says:

      These have only been “going” for a little while now Cred. A week maybe? And I tried my first bite last night. I couldn’t help myself. I knew it wouldn’t taste like anything yet, but I had to do it. And low and behold they tasted like pickles! So after a few more weeks they’re gonna be GREAT. As long as they don’t get too salt. That salt is a bugger. You need it for preserving and some flavour but it’s SO easy to go overboard. ~ karen!

  8. Melissa says:

    I just started fermenting this year, and I’m on my 2nd batch of pickles. First batch I used the open crock method, like you are doing, but my current batch is in a jar with an air lock. I’m excited to see how they turn out.

    I did fermented salsa as well, and it was great!

    Sandor Katz is the expert on all things fermented.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Melissa! I actually had to put a lid on my crock because of the relentless fruit flies this year! Not even a triple layer of cheese cloth could keep them out, so we’ll see how they turn out. ~ karen!

  9. TucsonPatty says:

    I have two pickle crocks from my grandma and my mom and I really should use them for this instead of pinecones and pretty flowers. I remember watching these being made and then eating them – I do not remember them sitting arounf in a kitchen for a month! Woonderful. I love my Vlasics!

  10. Nur Costa says:

    Lovely VERTICAL pictures, hehe 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hah! See? 😉 (Nur is referring to something I was teaching in my blogging course last night. I have to use horizontals the odd time, but only when I *have* to. ~ karen!

  11. Lisa says:

    I was wondering which other pals would be hanging around here at midnight. Well done patti! 🙂

  12. barbee says:

    No lie-I just searched your blog today for pickle recipes.

  13. Edith says:

    It’s not only the author’s last name: his first name might point to Hungarian roots. As I was born and raised for ten years in Hungary, I have known kosher dills since the day I was born (being Catholic). As far as my relatives remember, kosher dills where the ONLY thing I was willing to eat for the first 5 years of my life. In my mother’s recipe there are only two things different from Sandor’s: my mother adds a slice of white bread to the pickles, and she makes little lengthwise cuts into them . That way the whole process of fermentation is much faster an you can enjoy your pickles sooner. On the other hand: you have to eat them fast, as they actually begin to rot quickly!
    Germans use Sandor’s recipe for making Sauerkraut. I also LOVE Sauerkraut. Luckily, my home country for the last 32 years has been Germany …

    • Jasmine says:

      Yes! These are like the Hungarian Pickles I mentioned a while back on your pickle post that my Grandfather (Nagypapa in Hungarian) used to make. We actually put in several slices of bread-I used rye bread- and put them in a glass jar and out in the sun everyday. They are ready in a couple of weeks, depending on how sunny it is. My first batch was gone so fast I made another. This will be a yearly event for me. Yum!!

  14. Tigersmom says:

    Pickles, blah blah blah….salt……blah blah blah……..

    LOOK AT YOUR BUTT IN THAT PICTURE!!!!!

    I’m off to go destroy all the mirrors in my house in a fit of envy.

    • Tracey says:

      Tigersmom, well said!
      LoL, really don’t like Kosher Dills, but I read the post anyway, and all I came away with is….”damn Karen looks good!”
      I.Must. lose. Weight. Argh
      Oh ya….and I also noticed how lovely your photography is…just beautiful!

  15. Carol Hogan says:

    I, too, noticed how great you look from behind. I wasn’t going to say anything – thinking it not politically correct – but since others did, WOW girl. You look great. The fella was clearly an idiot and I am so jealous.

  16. Su says:

    agree with other posters – you do rock those jeans lady!
    I’ve never made pickles like this. I’ve done the bread and butter, the refrigerator dills (which are super delish!) and regular canned pickles, tho. I’ve also made sauerkraut in the 5 gal crock (weighed down with a plastic bag filled with water) hidden in the depths of the basement of a 100+ yr old house. It was awesome.
    I’m so glad that you share this stuff with us. Even tho I don’t ‘put up’ like I used to when my children were small, it makes me smile to know that tradition is still going strong and being promoted.

  17. Jane says:

    My husband loves Kosher Dills and I’ve never tried this before. Looks good in the crock kinda old fashion and I would imagine better for you.

    Have your tried making Kombucha?

    • Karen says:

      I have not Jane! And yes, fermented foods are supposed to be very good for you because of the acids and bacteria it introduces to your gut and all that stuff. ~ karen!

  18. Susan S says:

    When I worked at Food Advisory Division at Agriculture Canada (now defunct) in the 1980’s our test kitchen developed a fermented dill pickle recipe with the help of Dr. Pivnick, a microbiologist from Health Canada. These pickles were actually fermented in their individual jars so you could make as many jars as you wanted without having to get a big crock. These were really good pickles and also easy to do and they will be ready for Canadian Thanksgiving if you make them now. Here is the link: https://archive.org/stream/picklesrelishes00cana#page/16/mode/2up
    Thank goodness the food preparation booklets developed by Food Advisory Division can still be accessed.

  19. Jody says:

    Well since we are talking about YOU making pickles here is a shout out to whoever cuts your hair (and it better not be you). It is a great cut. And back to pickles. I want to know when they are ready how closely they taste to Strubb’s kosher dills.

  20. Langela says:

    Obviously “someone” has never worn kittens as slippers or “she” wouldn’t be lumping me into the category with lonely, diabolical laughing person. I have tried walking around the house diabolically laughing. It wasn’t for me. But the kittens as slippers…ohhhhh, the pure luxury. Don’t knock ’em till you try ’em, Karen.

  21. Jean says:

    There is a greater than 10% and less than 100% chance I will try this. Question. Do you boil the water and salt prior to pouring? Do you can like you would tomatoes?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jean. There’s no need to can fermented foods. You just need to keep them refrigerated after they’re done fermenting. You don’t have to boil the water, but I brought mine close to the boil in order to dissolve the salt properly. Then you have to make sure you let the water cool down before you pour it on the cucumbers otherwise you’ll cook them. ~ karen!

  22. Connie S. says:

    I Luv kosher dills, especially Strubbs too! They remind me of the ones my Oma would make . She would eat them sliced in half lengthwise…. and spread with honey- YES!!! I remember looking at her with my mouth hanging open , doubting my beloved Oma’s sanity for just a fraction of a second – until i tried it…yummm 😉
    sadly i don’t have her recipe but glad to have found this one! will give it a try. thx Karen
    ( and i agree with the others- YOU look GREAT!)

  23. Angie says:

    Sandor Katz is my hero.

    I’m halfway through reading his latest book – The Art of Fermentation. Fascinating!

    Thanks to Sandor, I’ve made (just since July of this year):
    3 batches of sauerkraut
    2 batches of mixed vegetable ferment (radishes, turnips, carrots, herbs)
    fermented garlic
    kefir using grains I purchased from Fusion Teas
    heirloom Bulgarian yogurt (using starter purchased from Cultures for Health)

    This is not to mention the hundreds of loaves of sourdough bread I’ve made since I began sourdough one year ago.

    Fermentation is a fascinating topic. Did you know that kefir that you purchase in the store is not really true kefir? And that heirloom yogurt cultures can produce lovely thick yogurt indefinitely where using a bit of yogurt from the store will not (you would have to continue to use newly purchased yogurt as a starter or it will become thinner and thinner)?

    The next project will be cheese…

  24. AKing says:

    These pictures are especially gorgeous! 🙂

  25. Ruth says:

    I dislike pickles… really. I can handle a slight ‘tang’ but anything that goes off into the sour realm, and is intended to be enjoyed without a mask of sweetness (a la lemon or key lime pie)…. Nope. Not gonna do it.

    That, however, does nothing to quell my fascination with your ‘Laura Ingalls-ness.’ You go, Laura… I mean, Karen. 😀

  26. Deb J. says:

    I’ve never made fermented dills although they are a family favourite. My mom’s vinegar recipe produces a pretty good pickle. However a few months back my son decided he wanted to make pickled eggs. I was skeptical ‘cos it conjured up images of those rubbery sad looking things floating in the jars in the bars of my ill-spent youth. Not sure anybody actually ate those things – I thought maybe they were for decoration like those jars of vegetables you see in tacky Italian restaurants. Anyway, after trying a recipe we found online and being disappointed, he brought home some pickle juice from the sub/pizza place he where he works (Strubb’s we think) and stuffed eggs in that. Surprisingly good! They work in sandwiches, egg salad – even deviled eggs. So Karen, maybe you could stick some if the girls’ produce in your brine when you’re done:)

  27. Rondina says:

    Pickling isn’t my thing, but I noticed that I have the same set round metal scoops that you have salt in. I bought mine in Pensacola, Florida and use them to scoop dirt when I pot plants.

  28. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    Question: what if you don’t have a crock, what can I use?

    BTW…you do look great! You are camera ready.

    Did you know to get rid of fruit flies all you have to do is to put about a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar in a container with a drop or two of dishwashing liquid. Swish the mixture together and stand back and count the victims! I usually set out a fresh bowl every couple day until the little devils are gone.

    • amyfaith says:

      You can use a large wide mouth mason jar. However, I discovered that the Ace Hardware website sells nice plain crocks in several sizes and the prices are quite reasonable. If you have an Ace near you, they will ship the crock to your store for you to pick up and you will not have to pay any shipping.

      And to anyone who has a lovely old crock they’d like to use: be extra EXTRA sure that it is food safe. Even if your granny used it way back when, it was more common than not for the glazes to have lead or other heavy metals added and so it isn’t safe. Just think how much contaminant would leach into a food that’s been soaking in an acidic bath for weeks.

    • Pam'a says:

      Oddly, I just found this remedy today on the internet. I have the container sitting there with vinegar and soap, but NOT ONE fruit fly. If it’s possible to botch the recipe, I must have. And dang– I HATE fruit flies!

      • Melissa in North Carolina says:

        Pam’a did you use apple cider vinegar? Add one or two drops of dish soap and swish around to mix. That is it, I know it works. Good luck.

  29. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    They are the prettiest pickles I have ever seen..and the whole process seems so easy..If I can afford a big crock sometime I am trying the kosher pickles..all I have ever done is refrigerator pickles which were very good too..I had a friend (passed away) who I helped make sauerkraut ever year..It was so good right out of the crock..we would take jars to friends and family every year to use in their New Years meal..I not going to tell you how cute your butt is..you already know that 😉

  30. Debbie says:

    The pickles you have on today will have to wait till next year. However you inspired me with the bread and butter pickles. I somehow totally forgot about these. My Mom made them in the 60’s and I loved them. So, with your recipe 48 pints were born. Thank you for bringing that great memory back to the present.

  31. Chrissy says:

    What is the difference between a pickling cuke and a regular ol’ cuke?

  32. theresa says:

    I am a pickle fancier but I am confused…you say you don’t put garlic in your kosher pickles but whenever I have bought kosher pickles (or Jewish pickles as my husband from Philly calls them) I thought they were garlicky–is that just the spices???

    thanks for the link to the government recipe–I may just try some of this over the winter.

  33. Julie says:

    so, does it _have_ to be a crock? bucket? pail? enamel pot? hollowed out pumpkin? 🙂

  34. Karen, Janet here with the Whitestrips…the photos are amazing. Loved the post, want to grow cukes in my earth boxes but in Florida ugly worms like them better, but the photos made me want everything. From the pickles, crock and beautifully weathered pier-like board beneath. No, I am not comment number one, but you are wearing us out with the webinar. Plus I do want the gold fork with brown cake on black plate….it’s a whole gorgeous masculine room in the making. It’s amazing where interior design ideas can come from…pickles!

  35. Linda S. in NE says:

    Beautiful photography, Karen. You look so cute, and more importantly, so healthy in that “back” photo. Good summer?

  36. judy says:

    I have never been able to eat pickles or cukes cause of heart burn but I found these little cukes at Costco that are so good and do not for some strange reason cause me stomach upset but and finally….the reason I mention them is they rot in the bag in the fridge like instantaneously -any input as to why? I would love to keep buying them for salads but I only get about 2 salads and the rest have to go in the trash. great post and you look marrrrrrrrvelous Darling! Who said that? Can’t remember………….

    • Karen says:

      Billy Crystal. The little cucumbers you’re talking about are probably Kirbys, or some sort of pickling cucumber. Instead of keeping them in the bag they came in try keeping them in a ziplock produce bag. They’re bags made especially for produce. They’re covered in tiny little holes to allow ventilation. I find they’re really good for keeping produce fresh. ~ karen!

  37. Thank you Amber for saying what I was thinking. You can say it, but a guy who lives less than a block away from Karen, might get slapped. 😀 – rbs

  38. Debbie says:

    Hubby and I have a mixed marriage. I like half sours and he likes full sours. Thankfully, the kids take after me. L’Chaim!

  39. Wendy says:

    Hi Karen…I enjoyed this post and may try this method next year. My husband has an old family recipe for making something similar. Stuff washed pickles into a jar with a couple cloves of garlic & sprigs of dill making sure they are quite tight at the top and won’t pop up through your brine. Pour over them the brining fluid (1/4 cup pickling salt/kosher salt to 4 quarts water mixed til salt dissolved). We then put them in a cool room for up to a week with no lids. Everyday, we skim the tops making sure to remove any pickles that “pop” above the brine and we add more brine to cover as needed. When they stop working, they’re ready to be capped and these store in the fridge for up to a year. They are crunchy and delicious! I like the idea of yours being less salt and it being sea salt is nice. Thanks for sharing! wendy

    • Karen says:

      Hi Wendy! Your recipe is probably basically the same only instead of doing it in one big crock you’re doing them individually. I’m sure they’re great! ~ karen

  40. We make pickles this way too. You should try kimchi….but only if you like spicy hot stuff! So good!

  41. My FIL makes pickles like this every year. The only difference it he adds green food colouring. They turn out looking radi0active. After 15+ years with my husband I still have not eaten one of these pickles. They may taste great. I just can’t handle the colour.

  42. paige says:

    Ever since I bought an oversized airtight cookie jar at a flea market I’ve been imagining pickling in it….lol im gonna try it. It’s really not good for holding cookies…end up with a crumbfill at the end of the month…

    • Karen says:

      Hi Paige. I have 3 pickles left from the entire batch I made in the fall. They are really, REALLY good pickles. Way better than a cookie. 😉 ~ karen!

  43. mat says:

    if u thnik jews making best pickles, its just because u havent tried the eastern european ones…

  44. Barbie says:

    OK, so I am at about week 3 in the process of fermenting my pickles in a crock as the recipe says….I used leaves from my pin oak tree. I could not find any other available leave with tannins in it so hope that was a good choice. Now I am wondering how to know when it is done? The recipe said two weeks sometimes is enough….however I just don’t know for sure. Can you tell me how to check? Should I just try a pickle from the crock? Also, it’s a 5lb crock and it is FULL…once they are done…what then? How do I store them? Never thought about that part! LOL
    PS: They smell awesome! I have them in the laundry room fermenting and every time I walk past I take a wiff….yummmmm

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barbie! Yes, just try your pickles dammit! Taste them as you go. Once they seem right to you they’re done. 🙂 If you keep them in the crock in the fermenting liquid they’ll keep fermenting and fermenting. The problem with this is they’ll get softer and softer. Once you think they’re good, just put them into mason jars with the liquid and either keep them in a cool, dark place (they’ll last a long time this way because of all the salt in the brine) or put them in the refrigerator. If you keep them in the fridge they’ll stop fermenting and stay the way they are now. If you keep them in a place that’s warmer, they’ll continue to ferment and get softer. ~ karen!

  45. Christine says:

    Hi!
    I’ve heard this before (adding grape leaves, oak leaves or horseradish leaves) leaves with tannons, but where can I get some?
    Just pick one off a tree? Can you help 🙂
    Thanks so much!
    Christine

    • Karen says:

      That’s exactly what I do actually Christine! Oak leaves are probably the easiest for you to find but for me it was horseradish or grape leaves. I have a plot at a community garden where we all have our own plots and plenty of people grow horseradish and grapes. I just asked if I could steal a few. 🙂 ~ karen!

  46. Liz Gehlsen says:

    This may be a dumb question, but what happens if I want to make pickles NOW, can I get those Kirby pickles in the stores now ? All my stores have now are regular cukes, English cukes and the small Lebanese ones…would any of them do, or do I have to wait till summer brings the next crop? Thanks Karen, love your posts, still making bread since that post 3 times a week and my son makes his every day. Best, Liz G.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Liz! Picking cucumbers are firmer than a regular cucumber which keeps the pickles crispy. Just get whatever small cucumbers you can get your hands on and you’ll be fine. 🙂 ~ karen!

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