Seeing apples being sold at your local farmers market sure can make you feel like you’re falling behind on your summer preservation projects. Yeah, yeah, Ginger Gold is an early variety. But still. The canner has only seen my stove a handful of times in the past several weeks, and much of my “can plan” has yet to be put up.
Then again, I also feel like I’ve been holding out for beefier-looking produce (which- I know, I know- isn’t always better to put up). A lot of crops have suffered from minimal rainfall in the Northeast, while other summer staples have yet to reach their peak season. The corn and stone fruits, like peaches and nectarines, have been on the small side, and field tomatoes (… annnd bulk plums and apricots I’ve been expecting to find) have not made their presence known. And so the stacks of jars inhabiting my cupboards wait and I find other projects to work on, which are more often than not those in the Learning Garden.
With the recent soakings we’ve experienced, cucumbers and their cucurbit relatives have been coming in quite strongly. These sour dills are the perfect summer treat and a quick way to put up a hefty load of cukes. Because they are cured at room temperature via lactic acid fermentation, they are full of live active cultures that can help support your digestive health and require no canning as they will eventually be stored in the refrigerator.
Of course, you can can many fermented foods, but their happy-gut bacteria cultures are killed during high-heat processing and the creation of good bacteria is typically why people ferment foods in the first place! Personally, I would NOT recommend canning this recipe as I am unaware of its pH level.
Fermented Dill Cucumber Pickles
- unchlorinated water (I used distilled)
- pickling or sea salt
- 3 to 4 lbs fresh* pickling cucumbers, gently scrubbed and blossom ends removed
- several garlic cloves, crushed or sliced (amount to your liking)
- 3 to 4 fresh flowering dill heads OR 3 to 4 tbsp dill (fresh, dried, or seed)
- 1 handful fresh cultivated or foraged grape, cherry, oak, or horseradish leaves** (if available)
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
* If your cucumbers are not freshly-harvested, soak them in ice-cold water for 2-3 hours to perk them up.
** Their high tannin content inhibits the enzymes that make pickles soft.
Prepare cucumbers as indicated; slice if desired. Make a brine solution using 6 tablespoons salt to one gallon water. In the bottom of a clean crock, place the garlic, dill, grape leaves, and peppercorns, followed by the cucumbers. Pour the brine over the cucumbers; if more brine is needed to cover the cukes, make more brine (just under 1 tablespoon salt to each cup of water) and add it to the crock. Place a clean saucer or jar filled with water over the cucumbers to keep them submerged in the brine. Cover the crock with a cloth napkin or tea towel and relocate to a cool area of your kitchen or house.
As with all ferments, there is no exact date or time when the pickles will be ready, so you must check them every day or so. These sour dills take approximately 1 to 4 weeks to turn from salt-bombs to delish sour dills depending on your location. I made mine during an especially hot week, and so they were ready in about 14 days, at which point I moved them to the fridge to slow down their fermentation.
Another reason you want to check on them often is the scum that accumulates at the brine’s surface. Simply skim off as much as you can with a clean spoon and rinse the crock’s weight (aka the saucer or jar used to submerge the veggies under brine) as needed.
“Sour Pickle” recipe from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.