Homemade Pickles

For the vessel, you’ll need a wide-mouth jar or pickling crock with a weight that fits inside. These are easily found at your local housewares store or online. You may want several, so that you can make another jar every few weeks throughout the growing season. Wash the jars and weights well, preferably in the dishwasher, before starting.

Firm pickling cucumbers
Garlic (about one head per gallon)
Dill (a generous handful per gallon; I grow my own, so often it’s got flowers or even seeds on it)
Salt (non-iodized)
White oak, grape, horseradish, and/or currant leaves (1-2 of each per gallon)
Unchlorinated water (chlorine kills beneficial microbes)

Make a 4 percent brine by dissolving 40 grams of salt per liter of water; you’ll need enough to completely cover the vegetables. For my two-gallon crock, I usually make four liters (a little over a gallon) of brine. If you heat the water to dissolve the salt, be sure to cool it to room temperature before continuing. I dissolve the salt in a small amount of hot water, then add that to the rest so I don’t have to wait.

Peel the garlic. Wash the cucumbers and remove any little spines. Pack the cucumbers into the jar without bruising them, adding garlic cloves from time to time. When you get close to the top, and allowing room to add the weights, make a layer of the leaves and dill and place the weights on top. Gently pour in the brine until it covers the weights by an inch or so, then put a lid on the container. If you’re using a jar with a screw top, make sure it’s not tight so that gas can escape during fermentation.

Let the jar sit at room temperature overnight to jump-start fermentation, then move it to a cool (55˚F) place for a month or more. Try one. If it’s not sour enough for you, let them go a bit longer. Half-sour pickles ferment for a short time (a few days) and retain their bright color; I prefer the fully sour, olive green glory of mature pickles. When they taste great, they’re done. Move the jar to the fridge (which slows fermentation dramatically) and enjoy!

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