There is nothing quite like biting into a perfectly crunchy and sour dill pickle. The rush of saliva, the puckering of lips, the satisfying crunch and the inevitable smile. And, if you're making REAL dill pickles, the gut-healing, immune-boosting and mental balancing probiotics. I've got your recipe below! So, what makes a pickle real? A pickle is real when it has been lacto-fermented without adding bacteria-killing vinegar or heat. Commercial pickle makers often use heated vinegar to sterilize the cucumbers. This heat and the strong acidity of the vinegar kill the healthy bacteria and prevent the lacto-fermentation process. Some pickle companies lacto-ferment but then they pasteurize their pickles to make them shelf-stable, killing the heat-sensitive vitamins and enzymes along with the healthy bacteria. A good rule of thumb is that if it is not in the refrigerated section and it doesn't say "contains live cultures," it's NOT a REAL dill pickle.
Why are real dill pickles good for us?
The fermentation process allows healthy bacteria to flourish. These probiotics are healthy for our guts, immune system and brains. Real pickles also contain enzymes, vitamins and minerals. The fermentation process helps to pre-digest our food, making these nutrients more bioavailable.
Real Dill Pickles Recipe (makes 2 L jar)
12-15 pickling cucumbers, unwaxed
1 bulb of garlic
1/2 bunch of dill (preferably flowering head, but any part of the plant will do)
1/2 tsp black peppercorns (optional)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 handful fresh grape, oak, cherry or horseradish leaves (tannins will prevent cucumbers from getting mushy, you can even use a bag of black tea if that's all you have on hand)
Brine: 2 cups filtered water (chlorine inhibits fermentation) 2 1/4 Tbsp sea salt
- Peel garlic cloves.
- Rinse cucumbers, making sure not to bruise them. Then place cucumbers into a cold water bath (even ice water) for 30 minutes to an hour or more.
- Dissolve sea salt in filtered water to make your brine.
- Place garlic, dill, leaves and pinch of peppercorns into bottom of fermenting vessel, (I use a 2 litre mason jar with a wide mouth). Then add in cucumbers, packing tightly, but not bruising them.
- Pour in brine until within top inch of jar.
- Add weight to top, so cucumbers remain submerged. A clean rock works well for this. I used a smaller jar filled with water. Carbon dioxide is creating in the fermentation process and it needs to escape or pressure will build in your jar. So, don't seal your jar with a tightly screwed lid. I simply cover mine with a cloth.
- Place in a cool place. Some advocate a sunny window for dill pickles as they UV kills pathogenic bacteria and prevent molds. I set mine in a container in case the bubbling carbon dioxide makes some of the brine spill over.
- Check pickles every day, scooping off any surface scum and rinsing the weight or adding brine if it has evaporated.
- Begin tasting after a few days.
- Ferment for 1-3 weeks until fully sour and crunchy to your liking, then remove weight and transfer to fridge. Leftover brine can be used as a digestive tonic or to make probiotic-rich salad dressing!
Fermentation is easy, nutritious and delicious. If you would like to come to one of our Fermentation Workshops, check out our upcoming line-up. If you're ready to try more fermentation recipes, try my sauerkraut! Thanks for reading and enjoy!