Thanks to our member ,Roger Hester, for preparing these instructions and sharing them with the club.

Naturally Fermented Spicy Dill Pickles



Growing:  Varieties of cucumbers listed as pickling cucumbers work best.  They have a lower water content and tend to harbor more of the beneficial bacteria on the skin that promotes the fermentation process than salad cucumbers.

Picking:  I experimented with picking the cucumbers at all stages of development.  The very small, which make gherkin pickles, tend to be the most crisp tidbits.  The medium size cucumber will make standard size pickles and, and as long as not fermented too long will also come out quite crisp.  The giant cucumbers are more difficult to arrange in the crock for fermenting, and in the jars for canning.  They also will never make as crisp a pickle as the smaller cucumbers in order to achieve proper fermentation and spiciness.  That said, sometimes there is nothing like a huge pickle like the ones you can get at the movie theaters (or bigger).  It is not necessary to wait to get enough cucumbers to fill an entire crock (see preparing) before harvesting.  The cucumbers can be added as harvested, but should begin the fermentation process the same day as harvested.

Preparing for fermenting:  The cucumbers can be fermented in any glass, clay or plastic container, but not metal.  I found that wide-mouth one or two gallon glass crocks work well.  They are inexpensively available at Wal-Mart.  It might be desirable to start with one gallon containers in order to make any adjustments to suit individual tastes in the final pickles for future batches.  But, trust me, when satisfied with the taste, two gallon crocks are easier as long as you can lift them.  Something that will fit inside the crock to hold the cucumbers submerged while fermenting will be needed.  I found that  a plastic Tupperware lid or lid from an Anchor glass container worked well.  If choosing to add cucumbers daily until the crock is full, as I did, some kind of weight will be needed to put on the lid until the crock is full.  I used a ramekin or small Tupperware cup filled with brine effectively, and found it to be very easy.

The brine (salted water) should be prepared from distilled water.  Chlorinated water will slow or completely prevent the fermentation process.  Use Pickling and Canning salt, White Sea Salt or Himalayan Pink Salt.  Read the ingredients to be assured it is just salt. Iodized salt and non-caking ingredients will cloud the brine and, if I remember correctly, alter the taste as well.  I used Himalayan Pink Salt.  Add 3 teaspoons of salt per quart of distilled water.  Large quantities of the brine may be made, as it lasts indefinitely.   Make brine far enough in advance for the salt to thoroughly dissolve before using.  There is no need to refrigerate, and the brine should be at room temperature prior to use. 

After fermenting, canning jars with lids will be necessary for storage of the completed pickles.  Obtain jars appropriate for the size and number of pickles that are desired to be stored per jar.  Fermented pickles must be refrigerated upon completion to stop the fermentation process and for storage.  In addition to the spices listed below, one fresh hot pepper for each canning jar will be needed at canning time.

Preparing the cucumbers:  Wash the cucumbers in cold water.  If there is a white coating on the outside, use a brush to remove MOST, BUT NOT ALL, of the coating.  Excessive scrubbing will remove too much of the beneficial bacteria from the skin which is necessary for fermentation.  Also, if many cucumbers are fermented, as I did, minimizing as much work as possible will be desired.  Cut off about a 1/16th to an 1/8th of an inch from the blossom end (opposite the stem end) of the cucumber.  Leaving the blossom end on the cucumber will considerably reduce crispness of the final pickles.  Let the prepared cucumbers sit while preparing the rest, do not let dry, nor wipe dry after cleaning.  However, minimizing exposure to chlorinated water will be advantageous, so do not let soak in chlorinated water.

Starting the fermentation:  Place the prepared cucumbers into the crock.  Add enough brine to cover the pickles, plus about an inch.  For each gallon crock (double for 2 gallon crocks) add:

4 sprigs of fresh, not dried, Dill weed

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

3 teaspoons mustard seed

3 teaspoons dill seed

16 cloves of fresh crushed garlic  DO NOT USE GARLIC POWDER!

1 teaspoon summer savory

1 single serve bag black tea (pour tea leaves in and discard bag)

2 hot peppers sliced once, from just below the stem all the way through the other end

Add all the above ingredients,  regardless of the number of cucumbers added initially.  These ingredients need to be in the ferment the entire time.

Finish by putting the item chosen to keep the cucumbers submerged (the plastic lid) over the cucumbers.  There should be no air trapped below the lid, or whatever is being used.  Place the weight
(ramekin or small Tupperware dish) on the lid and fill with brine.  Assure that the cucumbers are securely held completely submerged with no part touching air.  Mold and bad bacteria will result if any part of any cucumber is exposed to air during the ferment. 

As cucumbers continue to be added and daily through the ferment, a scum will need to be removed from the surface of the brine.  Remove the weight and plastic lid, and remove the scum.  I found that the scum sticks to a DRY glass ramekin.  Rinse the scum from the ramekin, dry and repeat until all scum is removed.  The whole process only takes a couple of minutes, once familiar with the process. Then clean and return the plastic lid onto the cucumbers, once again making sure no air is trapped beneath the lid.  Then clean and return the ramekin to be used as a weight to the top of the lid and fill it with brine.  If needed to keep about an inch of brine above the cucumber, add more brine.  Add cucumbers only until no less than an inch of brine can be maintained from the top.

From the time that the last cucumbers are added, ferment for approximately two to three weeks,  removing the scum from the top of the liquid daily.  Feel free to taste the pickles whenever desired.  This will help in understanding how the cucumbers take on the spices and become more tender.  There is no danger in tasting at any time, as long as the cucumbers have been kept submerged in the brine.  The pickles will take on a little more spice and heat after fermenting and canning.  Taking this into account, determine when the pickles have reached the degree of spiciness desired, and/or have lost enough crispness to suit your taste.  As long as the pickles are fermenting they gradually soften, however the degree of crispness will change little to none after canning and refrigerating.  Don't forget to get enough fresh, hot peppers to provide one pepper for each canning jar prior to proceeding to the next step.

Canning:  When satisfied with the pickles, remove the weight, the plastic top and any scum that may be on the surface of the brine.  DO NOT POUR OUT THE BRINE!  Fill sterilized canning jars tightly with the pickles.  They should be compactly put in the jars so that they will not float once liquid is added. Cut one hot pepper in half from top to bottom, and slide into opposite sides of each jar.  After all the pickles have been put into jars, and the hot pepper halves have been added, pour the brine through a strainer into another container large enough to hold all the liquid.  All of the spices are now in the strainer.  Divide the spices equally between all the jars of pickles; simply spoon the spices on top of the pickles.  Once all of the spices have been divided among the jars of pickles, pour enough brine into each jar to cover the pickles.  The spices will flow down into the pickle jars with the brine.  Top off each jar until full.  Wipe off the rim, then seal the top securely.  Place a label on the lid or jar with at least the date.  As you make more batches, they will change and changes to labeling will probably be desired to differentiate the batches. There will be brine left over.  This is a precious gift.  Use in making salad dressing, or home-made mayonnaise.  It is an excellent base for a meat marinade.  Small amounts can be consumed straight to remodel or maintain healthy gut health.  Please read below prior to using the brine.

Eating:  You have now created fermented pickles and brine that have prebiotics (the food for the bacteria) and strong probiotic bacteria.  The pickles and brine are not only tasty, but like all naturally fermented foods, contain living bacteria that are very beneficial for gut health.  Start out eating a small amount of these pickles and/or brine.  If your gut is not very healthy, as these pickles and/or brine remodel your gut, you will likely experience loose stool.  Do not be concerned.  If this is experienced, consume a small amount every day or two and soon the beneficial bacteria will populate your gut flora promoting many positive benefits.  Once gut health is in progress the side effect of loose stool will no longer occur. Please explore the many benefits of fermented foods and other naturally fermented foods and drinks that can be purchased or made.