This year I planted 2 cucumber plants in my straw bale garden and they have grown wild – I’m picking 8 to 15 every other day! Since I have been having so many cucumbers I decided to make pickles with them! At first I just made a recipe I found on-line but they had a super strong taste and no one liked them 🙁 So I started making recipe after recipe and didn’t much like any of them. Since I couldn’t find a recipe that we liked I decided to experiment and come up with my own recipe that tasted like the store-bought pickles we are accustomed to and – after TWELVE jars of pickles – I finally found the perfect one!
They are cool, crunchy, slightly sour, a cinch to make, and packed with nutrition 🙂
You might be wondering what lacto-fermentation means and if it has dairy in it. “Lacto” is short for the friendly bacteria called Lactobacillus. So despite how it sounds, it’s not from lactose and is dairy free – it is only called this because it was first studied in milk products.
How Lacto-Fermentation Works:
Lacto-fermention is the oldest form of food preservation. It happens because harmful bacteria can’t tolerate much salt and the healthy bacteria can. The salt water brine kills off the harmful bacteria while the Lactobacillus bacteria (the good guys) survive. Then the Lactobacillus bacteria begin converting lactose and other sugars into lactic acid. This creates an acidic, oxygen free environment that safely preserves the vegetables – and gives lacto-fermented foods their distinctive tangy flavor.
And it’s super easy...
All you do is sprinkle the spices over the sliced cucumbers, then shake up a simple salt water brine and pour it over the veggies. Then you just let it set a few days – that’s it!! In my opinion it’s pretty much the easiest and safest form of food preservation out there!
When the Lactobacillus bacteria converts sugars into lactic acid, not only does it inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, it also increases or preserves the vitamin and enzyme levels making the food easier to digest and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. It strengthens your immune system, promotes a healthy gut, increases vitamin and mineral absorption and helps balance hormones – YAY!
Why Not Store-Bought?
While I’ve certainly bought my fair share of store-bought pickles, now that I know how easy making my own can be and how much healthier the homemade version is I don’t think I can ever go back! Store bought pickles are usually packed with unhealthy ingredients (including sodium benzoate, calcium choloride, table salt, natural flavor, polysorbate 80 and yellow 5) and just don’t offer the benefits of lacto-fermented pickles.
Choosing The Best Cucumbers:
Always use homegrown cucumbers or buy pickling cucumbers from a farmers market because the ones at the store have a wax coating and will not turn out well. Pick small to medium sized cucumbers (about 4 – 5 inches long) that are firm and aren’t wilt-y or limp.
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Here are the details:
- 4 - 6 Pickling Cucumbers (depending on size), finely sliced into chips or cut into spears
- ¾ tsp. Dried Dill
- ¾ tsp. Dill Seeds (If you can't find these I've successfully replaced these with more dried dill)
- ½ tsp. Garlic, minced
- ½ tsp. Mustard Seeds
- 2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
- ½ tsp. Loose Black Tea Leaves (I just opened up a tea bag from my pantry!)
- 1 Tbsp. Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, or Pickling Salt (do not use table salt)
- Filtered Water (fill same same jar about ½ way)
- If pickles are floating cover with lettuce leave. Seal tightly. Set on counter around 5-7 days or until bubbles stop forming
- Wash cucumbers and thinly slice.
- Tightly pack half of the cucumbers in the jar, then sprinkle on approximately half of the the dill, dill seeds, garlic, mustard seeds, tea, and apple cider vinegar on top.
- Add the remaining cucumbers, packing tightly up to about 2 inches below the rim of the the jar.
- Sprinkle on the the remaining dill, dill seeds, garlic, mustard seeds, apple cider vinegar, and tea.
- In a separate jar the same size, fill about halfway with filtered water and add the salt. Cover and shake vigorously until the salt is dissolved.
- Pour the salt water over the cucumbers, filling until the jar is about 1 inch below the rim (If you didn't make enough salt water, just top off with more filtered water). Make sure all the cucumbers are completely submerged. If veggies will not stay below the water (sometimes they float), place a clean, folded cabbage leaf or similar lettuce leaf into the top of the jar, pressing it below the water line.
- Tightly screw the lid on and place on counter or in pantry out of direct sunlight for 3-4 days. The longer they set the more tangy or pickle-y they will taste. The warmer your house is, the faster they will ferment. Then transfer to the fridge and enjoy!