The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm


June 29th, 2009 · 8 Comments · Posted in garden, Recipes

Cucumbers magically ferment in salted water

Cucumbers magically ferment in salted water

Yes, we were so organized this year we already have our first pickling cucumbers of the season. As we know only too well, we will soon be inundated. These cucumber plants are stealthy fellows. No sooner have you picked a bucket of them, they are making new ones overnight.

How fast can you mix salt and water? That’s the standard brine for our deli-style pickles. The usual formula is three tablespoons pickling salt (or unadulterated sea salt, or kosher salt) for every quart of water. I make about one quart of water for every pound of cucumbers. Then add garlic cloves to taste (my wife says my pickles are too garlicky), some dill leaves and maybe a seed head, a few peppercorns and some fresh grape leaves. The tannin in the leaves helps crisp the pickles. I don’t have grape leaves, so I use leaves off the oak tree that grows at the curb in front of our house.

Place the cucumbers in a crock or a clean plastic bucket with the garlic, dill, peppercorns and leaves. Cover with brine. Cover this with an inverted ceramic plate so that the cucumbers are completely submerged. I usually place a plastic container filled with water on top of the plate to hold it down.

Put the bucket in a dark, cool spot. We don’t have too many “cool” spots around the house this time of year. The stairway to the basement is what I use. Check the pickles every day until they reach the point you like them. We like ours relatively fresh, but with a nice fermented tang. And crisp. For us, this usually takes about five days. Eat the smaller ones first to give the bigger cukes more time to ferment all the way through. (You can pickle them whole or sliced.) Placing them in the refrigerator will slow down the process, but not indefinitely.

Of course you can use less salt for more of a “half-sour” pickle. But in the summer the bacteria are especially active. More salt slows them down a little. You can adjust all of these variables to achieve pickles just the way you like them.

Next, you will need a generous helping of corned beef and cole slaw.

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  • Sylvie

    You were/are organized indeed – bravo!
    I made “pickled” cukes a few years ago – canned – and was disappointed that they came out mushy, but then I did not go through adding tannin or the multi-day brinning, rinsing etc. Since then I have made refrigerator pickle cornichons, which I love, but we would need a separate refrigerator to hold enough pickles to last one year. I have meant to try true pickles – so thanks for sharing the recipe.

    How long have you kept those pickles in the fridge?

  • Charlotte

    So how do you keep them? With any luck, I’ll have cuckes in a few weeks (yeah, we’re that far behind this summer) but it’s a long winter — can you can them? Do they get mushy? I did regular vinegar/salt cucumber pickles in a water bath last year, and while they weren’t as crispy as the refrigerator pickles, they’re good and I like them for lunch. I have a crock, and did kraut last fall, so I’d like to try pickles this year (but like I said, my cucumber plants are an inch tall right now).

  • mcmusser

    I do my lactofermented pickles in half-gallon canning jars and since we don’t have grapes or oaks, I use horseradish leaves.

    The pickles I did in September 2008 last year were still perfectly crisp in April 2009. Sadly, we ate the last one then and I don’t expect to see local pickling cucs here for another month or so. My own cuc plants are just barely out of the ground. 🙁

  • Ed Bruske

    Sylvie, we’ve made dozens of different kinds of pickles, including the refrigerator variety that you describe. We are anxious to make cornichons. Which variety of cuke did you use for that? We are still in the hunt for a recipe that will produce delicious, crisp pickles that keep in the pantry for a long time.

    Charlotte, we make pickles both ways–lacto-fermented to eat fresh out of the fridge, and processed for keeping in the pantry. I hope readers will share their recipes if they have one that makes anything like the crisp, processed pickles you get at the store, perhaps something with a bit of sweet/sour and spice would be my preference.

    Chris, I am anxious to know how you get your fermented pickles to last so long. Do you boil the brine at some point? Do you process them in jars, or simply refrigerate them?

  • Amelia

    Hmm, I just tried the first batch of pickles I made. Crisp and tart, but a tad too salty. I’m going to use less salt next time. I guess it’s all just a learning process, isn’t it!

  • Ed Bruske

    Amelia, it certainly is a learning process. And results from pickling can be very local, evening depending on the weather. But certainly your taste buds are the most important indicator. Adjust to taste.

  • amaloney73

    Once your pickles are done to taste, how do you store them?

  • Ed Bruske

    A, the done pickles go into the fridge, in their original brine. They usually last a couple of weeks at least. I’ve heard of people boiling the brine to kill the bacteria and make the pickles last longer. I have not tried this. Our pickles are eaten pretty quickly.