Pickling Pickles

pickles in a container fermenting
Pickles in a Container Fermenting with Spices, Garlic and Brine

It sounds daunting, making your own pickles, but the trick is assembling the ingredients and equipment. The rest is throwing it together and patience. You don’t want to use vinegar in your pickles – the whole idea is to create your own fermentation, so you can reap the benefits of the good bacteria from pickling. This recipe was inspired by the Sour Pickles recipe in Sandor Ellix Katz’s book Wild Fermentation.

Ingredients and Equipment

  • 1 large jar or jug or plastic bucket (just has to be big enough to fit your pickles)
  • 6 medium-sized pickling cucumbers (you can use as many as fit in your container)
  • 2 tsp. Ball Pickling Spice (or make your own with black peppercorns, dill seed, cardamom seed, mustard seed, allspice, coriander, bay leaves)
  • 3 – 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced in half
  • 4 tsp. sea salt
  • water – enough to cover the pickles
  • grape or oak or horseradish or sour cherry leaves (to keep the cucumbers crisp – the tannin in the leaves is supposed to help) – I used oak leaves
  • 1 piece of cloth and 1 rubber band
  • 1 small lid + 1 weight, such as a rock or two to weigh down the pickles (I updated this recipe with this recommendation)

Place the spices, leaves, garlic and cucumbers in the container. Sprinkle at least 3 tsp. of sea salt on top. Pour water into the container so that it covers the pickles. If you want, you can then add some more salt. Sandor Katz suggests covering the pickles with a plate and a weight; since I don’t have a plate that small (he was using a big bucket instead of a jar), I used a smaller jar lid from a different jar and two rocks to weigh down the pickles. Cover with cloth and rubber band.

Check the pickles every day. If a little mold is growing on the top of the pickles, wash off the mold. The pickles may be ready in a week or in two. My first batch tasted a bit like a mild sour pickle after one week of soaking in the brine and spices.

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If you like homemade pickles, maybe you will enjoy homemade sauerkraut, too.

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14 thoughts on “Pickling Pickles

  • It does not look difficult once you have gathered all the ingredients. What kind of leaves did you use? Have you (and your family) eaten them all or are you waiting some more?

    • I used oak, because there is an oak tree across the street from my house.

      We’ve eaten two out of five – three more are sitting in the jar. Tempting.

  • This looks like a fun thing to make. Do you really have to put in the leaves? And where do you get the spice mix from? Does Stop & Shop have it?

    • Sandor Katz said use the leaves to keep it crisp, so I used the leaves. As I haven’t experimented with or without, I don’t know.

      I bought the Ball pickling spice at Walmart, and I noticed that Acme carries it, too, along with pickling jars. Stop & Shop here is a small store.

    • So far, the hard part is getting the pickles the way I *want* the pickles to taste, instead of accepting the flavor that I’ve gotten thus far. I want a sharper flavor. Maybe more garlic in the next batch…

      • I have just put up a batch with LOTS of garlic and it smells pretty pungent . . . so maybe more garlic is the answer. Maybe it is also a matter of letting the pickles ferment longer?

      • My pickles have been pickling for just two days and I am already seeing bubbling, like soda, and the liquid is already turning cloudy and the pickles are no longer bright green. I’m shocked that they are fermenting so fast!

      • If you did this in January (I started the sauerkraut in February), it would take much longer.

        I’m going to pickle with 3 3rd grade girls next week. They tried our pickles and liked them! So we are going to do a little pickle club.

      • I think that your point on my post about the jar lid promoting faster fermentation is well taken. I kept it screwed on very loosely, but still there wasn’t as much air as with the cloth and rubber band method.

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