Foodie Friday Recipe: Naturally Fermented Sour Dill Pickles

Got extra cucumbers? Try your hand at naturally fermented foods with these delicious fermented sour dill pickles!

Earlier this week, we talked about the importance of including fermented foods in your diet, so I thought I would share a recipe today for one of the most popular fermented foods around – and it’s one that is singularly well suited for summer! I’m talking of course about the much loved all-American dill pickle.

Pickles just seem to scream summer (kind of like ice cream) – you see them alongside burgers at the barbecue, in potato salad at the potluck, and as relish on your grilled hot dogs. This all makes sense if you grow a garden, as cucumbers tend to be very prolific, and there aren’t a lot of ways to preserve them other than pickling. If you’re overwhelmed with cucumbers, you may have tried putting up some as pickles.

But the kind of pickles I’m talking about here today aren’t the super-vinegary, eye-wateringly  mouth-puckering kind you find on supermarket store shelves. The kind I’m discussing today are the traditional dill pickles that your grandma might have made. The kind that require no vinegar at all, and instead rely on naturally occurring lactic acid to ferment your cukes into crunchy, briny goodness unmatched by any kosher dill you can find at the store. Here’s a bit more info from the Nourished Kitchen:

Naturally fermented, sour pickles are rich in beneficial bacteria and food enzymes, offering a dairy-free source of probiotics. Vinegar pickles lack the beneficial bacteria and many of the heat-sensitive vitamins found in traditional, sour pickles.   You see, real pickles are naturally fermented through lactic acid fermentation – a process that conveys many benefits by encouraging the proliferation of beneficial bacteria.

Keep in mind that these pickles won’t be as sour as you’re used to. They also might not be quite as crisp, but they usually will keep their crunch for at least a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. But they probably won’t last that long, as they’re just plain addictive!

Note: I debated sharing a kimchi recipe instead, but since kimchi can be an acquired taste, I figured sour pickles would be more familiar to most people. (I LOVE all sorts of naturally fermented vegetables, which I often call “kimchi” even though technically traditional kimchi is cabbage-based. If you’d like to try a good traditional kimchi recipe, here’s a good basic one to try.)

Without further ado, let’s make some pickles!

Naturally Fermented Sour Pickles

  • 1 Gallon Organic, Unwaxed Pickling Cucumbers
  • 2 Big Bunches Organic Dill, (Preferably Flowering Heads)
  • 2 Large Bulbs of Organic Garlic
  • 3-4 Tbsps Pickling Spice , (Allspice, Mustard Seeds, Cloves, Bay Leaf, Black Pepper etc.)
  • 5-6 Tbsp Unrefined Sea Salt
  • 1 Horseradish Leaf , (Stem Removed)
  1. The first step in making sour pickles is to thoroughly soak the pickling cucumbers in chilly water. This is a very necessary step unless you picked your cucumbers that day as it helps to perk them up a bit before the fermenting begins.
  2. Next, you’ll want to makes sure all stems and flowery ends have been removed as either may contribute an off-flavor to the sour pickles. Make sure your pickling cucumbers are well-scrubbed and clean.
  3. Peel each bulb of garlic and use only the best and freshest cloves of garlic to season the sour pickles.
  4. Add the pickling cucumbers and garlic, dill and pickling spice to the jar or vegetable fermenter in layers, I like to sprinkle a little salt between layers.
  5. Add the horseradish leaf to the jar as well (you can leave it whole)…. The leaf not only yields a subtle additional flavor to sour pickles, but it also helps them to remain crisp, not mushy, when the lactic acid fermentation is complete. (If you don’t have horseradish leaves, you can also substitute a couple of grape leaves.)
  6. Prepare a brine of 2 ½ – 3 tablespoons of unrefined sea salt to 1 quart filtered, chlorine-free water and shake or stir it to ensure the salt is fully dissolved. Pour the brine over the pickling cucumbers, spices, garlic, dill and horseradish until all of the ingredients are submerged in salt water. It usually takes about 2 quarts of salt water to sufficiently cover the vegetables and spices.
  7. Make sure that the vegetables are completely submerged beneath the salt water which is easy if you’re using a vegetable fermenter. If you’re using mason jars, simply place a smaller, plastic lid or other clean weight in the jar on top of the vegetables until it weights them down sufficiently. (You can also get a pickling jar topper kit such as The Perfect Pickler, which will help achieve this as well.)
  8. Allow your ingredients to ferment for at least a five days and more likely seven days and quite possibly ten days. (Fermentation is an inexact art. Warmer temperatures speed fermentation, so in the summer if your house is somewhat warm, it may only take 4 days. If you keep it cool, it will take longer.) Taste them every few days to see if they’ve soured to your liking. Once they’re done, simply place them in the fridge and use wisely and judiciously.