Traditional Pickles Using Garden Cucumbers

Ever had a traditionally made pickle? If you’ve got homegrown cucumbers, traditional pickles are a delicious, easy-to-make treat that is healthy, too.

“Traditional pickles” are made using the lactose-fermentation method, which creates a lactic-rich environment to naturally preserve foods. Also referred to as “culturing,” this makes foods more nutritious by increasing vitamin content and more digestible by fostering the growth of natural probiotics.

Garden-fresh cucumbers are easily cultured into pickles by mixing them with a salt and water “brine” and allowing them to sit in an air-tight container at room temperature for several days. (A glass Mason jar works well for this.) They can then be moved to the refrigerator where lacto-fermentation will continue, but at a much slower rate.

A small cucumber variety, like the Kirby, is best suited for making traditional pickles.

I like my pickles with garlic and herbs, but you can also add a few teaspoons of pickling spices, if you like. Some recipes even call for 1 tablespoon of mustard seeds. Fellow pickle enthusiasts have recommended adding a chili pepper to the mix, though I have yet to try this.

Recipe for Lacto-Fermented Pickles with Garlic and Herbs
Adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Makes 1 qt.

4 kirby or other type of picling cucumbers, preferably organic and/or homegrown
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
3-4 sprigs of fresh tarragon (or dill)
2 tbsp. sea salt
1-2 clean grape leaves (optional, but it helps the pickles stay crunchy)
1 very clean 1 qt. wide-mouth mason jar with screw-top lid, run through the dishwasher before using to ensure it is sterilized (if you want to use an antique glass jar, like the one in the photo, just make sure your top closes tightly)

1. Wash the cucumbers. Snip off the ends and quarter them lengthwise. Peel the garlic cloves.

2. Place cucumbers and garlic cloves into mason jar. All of the cucumbers may not fit, but do your best to squeeze as many in as possible. It may be helpful to lay your jar on its side to get all of them in. Add the tarragon or dill. Mix salt and water in a small bowl and pour into the jar. Add additional water so the contents are completely covered and the liquid is about 1 inch below the top of the jar. Screw the top on the jar and allow to sit at room temperature for three days.

3. After this time, go ahead and open the jar. The liquid may be a little cloudy, and should be pretty “fizzy,” which means the lacto-fermentation was successful. If there is any type of “off smell,” discard and start again. (I’m mentioning this as a caution, but in all my years of lacto-fermenting, I’ve never had anything go wrong with the process).

4. Go ahead and taste a pickle. If you are satisfied with the taste, move your jar to the referigerator for storage. If you like, though, you can leave these on the counter to lacto-ferment for a few more days (up to 7 days may be necessary when the weather is cooler). If they taste too salty to you, a brief rinse under running water should help.

5. You should eat these within 1-2 months (it’s unlikely they won’t get eaten up long before that, though).

Photo Credit: Winnie Abramson