Many people ask me how to make ‘crisp pickles’ and often refer to them as ‘like the ones from the deli.’ The biggest difference between most deli/ ‘kosher’ pickles and the ones people make at home is the method; traditional pickles are fermented while many home preservers make quick pickles which add vinegar to cucumbers.
The addition of vinegar allows home preservers to water bath (and make large quantities of pickles shelf stable) while fermenting needs to be stabilized through refrigeration (this was often accomplished in a cold cellar).
Fermented pickles are easy and can be made in super small quantities this time of year so there’s lots of opportunity to experiment and create the flavors you want to keep for longer! This entire jar of pickles takes less than 5 minutes to make (not including the waiting time for the fermentation to complete) and has no cooking involved at all (ideal on warm days).
Here’s how to ferment pickles in a small batch:
- 1 pint of cucumbers (about 8-10 pickling cukes)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- Chilhi flakes or hot peppers (I used one extremely hot Devil’s Tongue Pepper).
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1-2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons of dill
- Water (most tap water should be rested for 60-120 minutes to let chlorine evaporate)
- A 1-Quart mason jar with conventional-width opening is best for this.
- If you are using tap water, pour a large bowl and set to the side to let chlorine evaporate (it will inhibit fermentation).
- Place 1 cucumber to the side and slice the others into equal-sized discs. I use a mandoline for this.
- Toss salt into the cucumbers and distribute well. Cover and let rest for an hour to pull their juices out (you’ll use these too).
- Add remaining ingredients (minus the water and reserved cucumber), stir well to incorporate.
- Fill a 1-quart (1 liter) mason jar with the mixed ingredients.
- Slice the remaining cucumber lengthwise (to make straps). You can see how these are used in the second picture – they ‘seat belt‘ the rest of the ingredients in (don’t put them in place yet). I like to slice them, carefully, with a mandoline.
- Fill with the water that’s been resting. Use a spoon and/or gently tap the bottle to release any air bubbles.
- Place the cucumber ‘seat belts’ in place. Tuck one side in and then the other. Don’t worry if it doesn’t feel strong enough at first – keep placing them and they will gain enough strength to hold the lot. Make sure the ‘straps’ rest no higher than the base of the neck of the jar (you’ll want them completely submerged).
- Top off the jar with additional water.
- Cover with a cloth (or cheesecloth) and rest in a warm area out of direct sunlight. Begin to taste on day 2 or 3 – they are ready as soon as they taste the way you want. This is generally 2-5 days. If mold appears, skim it off and continue.
- Once complete, store in fridge (will keep for months like this); this will slow the fermentation and keep them crisp and fantastic!