Fermented Crock Pickles

I have been on the hunt for a really good pickle recipe, and it’s been a real challenge because there are SO many recipes and techniques.  I have used a basic pickle recipe for canning, pre-mixed pickle solutions for canning, and this year we are trying fermented pickles.  Fermented pickles have been around for a long time, so I figured I should at least give it a try since my ancestors probably made them, enjoyed them, and knew no other way of making them.

Fermented pickle recipes do vary, but the basic idea is to have a salt water solution and whatever spices and herbs you like.  I used the “Brined Dill Pickles” recipe from the Ball Blue Book.  I have not obtained permission to print the recipe, so the closest you’ll get to exact measurements is to watch my video:

Once you figure out a salt water and spice combo that sounds good to you, you’ll need a large container to put everything into for the fermentation.  Put your cucumbers (smaller cucumbers are better than large cucumbers) and spices into a ceramic pickling crock or a large glass container (do not use plastic).  Pour the salt water (brine) over the pickles until the pickles are covered by AT LEAST a couple inches of liquid.  Keep in mind that the pickles will float, so you’ll need to weigh them down with something to keep them under the surface.  I used a plate and some dry beans and rice (double bagged in zipper bags).  I also covered the crock with a towel and secured it with a large rubber band.  Fruit flies were attracted to the brine, so the towel really helped keep them out.

The amount of time you keep everything in the jar or crock varies from recipe to recipe.  The one I used says to let it ferment for 2-3 weeks and then process them in jars using the boiling water canner.  But many people, especially from generations past, remember keeping the pickles in the crock all winter.  I say do whatever is most practical for you.

While the pickle crock sits, there will be a “scum” that forms on the surface of the brine.  I’ve read that this scum is actually yeast, though I have not tried to use it for anything that calls for yeast.  Anyway, if the scum builds up or bothers you, simply scoop it up with a spoon and get rid of it.

Fermented foods that remain unprocessed by heat have great health benefits because they contain probiotics.  Probiotics are good for keeping our digestive systems functioning properly, which helps the rest of our body stay healthy.  I could go on about the health benefits of probiotics, but I’ll let you have fun surfing the net and learning on your own.

We are very happy with how our pickles turned out and will definitely make more of these in the future.  One thing that really surprised me was that they are crunchy.  I expected them to be soft or mushy from sitting in the brine.  They are definitely on the salty side, but that is easily fixed by slicing up a few pickles and letting them soak in a container of water in the fridge overnight.

Have you made fermented pickles or other fermented foods?  I am new to the fermentation scene and I would love to hear about your experiences!  Leave a comment below or send me an email.