Fermented Honey Garlic Pickles

Many people ask me how to make ‘crisp pickles’ and often refer to them as ‘like the ones from the deli.’  The biggest difference between most deli/ ‘kosher’ pickles and the ones people make at home is the method; traditional pickles are fermented while many home preservers make quick pickles which add vinegar to cucumbers.

Fermented Honey Garlic Pickles Honey Garlic Cucumber

The addition of vinegar allows home preservers to water bath (and make large quantities of pickles shelf stable) while fermenting needs to be stabilized through refrigeration (this was often accomplished in a cold cellar).

Fermented pickles are easy and can be made in super small quantities this time of year so there’s lots of opportunity to experiment and create the flavors you want to keep for longer!  This entire jar of pickles takes less than 5 minutes to make (not including the waiting time for the fermentation to complete) and has no cooking involved at all (ideal on warm days).

Here’s how to ferment pickles in a small batch:

Ingredients

  • 1 pint of cucumbers (about 8-10 pickling cukes)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • Chili flakes or hot peppers (I used one extremely hot Devil’s Tongue Pepper).
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1-2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons of dill
  • Water (most tap water should be rested for 60-120 minutes to let chlorine evaporate)
  • A 1-Quart mason jar with conventional-width opening is best for this.

Fermented Honey Garlic Pickles Honey Garlic Cucumber

Instructions

  1. If you are using tap water, pour a large bowl and set to the side to let chlorine evaporate (it will inhibit fermentation).
  2. Place 1 cucumber to the side and slice the others into equal-sized discs.  I use a mandoline for this.
  3. Toss salt into the cucumbers and distribute well.  Cover and let rest for an hour to pull their juices out (you’ll use these too).
  4. Add remaining ingredients (minus the water and reserved cucumber), stir well to incorporate.
  5. Fill a 1-quart (1 liter) mason jar with the mixed ingredients.
  6. Slice the remaining cucumber lengthwise (to make straps).  You can see how these are used in the second picture – they ‘seat belt‘ the rest of the ingredients in (don’t put them in place yet).  I like to slice them, carefully, with a mandoline.
  7. Fill with the water that’s been resting.  Use a spoon and/or gently tap the bottle to release any air bubbles.
  8. Place the cucumber ‘seat belts’ in place.  Tuck one side in and then the other.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t feel strong enough at first – keep placing them and they will gain enough strength to hold the lot.  Make sure the ‘straps’ rest no higher than the base of the neck of the jar (you’ll want them completely submerged).
  9. Top off the jar with additional water.
  10. Cover with a cloth (or cheesecloth) and rest in a warm area out of direct sunlight.  Begin to taste on day 2 or 3 – they are ready as soon as they taste the way you want.  This is generally 2-5 days.  If mold appears, skim it off and continue.
  11. Once complete, store in fridge (will keep for months like this); this will slow the fermentation and keep them crisp and fantastic!

That’s as easy as it is to make fermented pickles!  For those of you who make them, do you add anything different?

Comments

  1. I recently tried fermenting pickles for the first time, and they came out pretty good for a first attempt.

    I also did them in a quart jar. While they were fermenting, the bubbles would sometimes get trapped under the shoulders. I tried to tap them out, but some of them were stubborn. Is this a problem? I’m so used to air bubble = bad from canning, but I wasn’t sure if it was an issue for fermentation, especially considering it shouldn’t actually be air.

    • Hi Trish,

      Not at all!

      Here’s a trick: use a spoon or a really rounded handle of a knife to set those free. But it’s not the end of the world if you don’t (though always best to if possible). It’s one of the reasons I love doing it in glass jars – you can see easily! :)

      J

  2. One thing you may not be aware of is the common use of chloramine in water treatment in replacement of chlorine. Chloramine will not dissipate like chlorine will after sitting for a while. Better to use filtered bottled water. The use of chloramine was pointed out to me several years ago when I used to keep fish in an aquarium … not healthy for fish either!

    • Leslie,

      I have heard more and more on this lately and going to have to do some more research – I miss the days when water was water. :) Joel

  3. I haven’t tried honey, but I do put dehydrated minced onion and garlic in mine.

    • And I haven’t tried onions (though I did try it in my hot sauce this year – time will tell!).

      The honey was a new thing – the sugar seemed to help speed fermentation and there’s a mild trace of it but it’s tough to notice… Kind of curious about fermenting honey alone now (although I suppose I have with out honey wine)… :) J

  4. I have heard, (not tried) if you add grape leaves to the batch, the veggies will come out crisper. It’s worth at try. I ferment a lot–teas, veggies, coffee,- you name it–well, almost! I look forward to trying this recipe. Thanks.

    • Hi Linda,

      We did this last year and it did seem to help.. The tannins apparently make a difference as do oak leaves (which I haven’t tried).

  5. I have also fermented many things. And have found that using an air-lock will virtually eliminate any mold problems. View our blog post pertaining to the airlock. http://blog.kitchentherapy.us/2011/09/how-to-make-an-airlock-cap/

  6. Casey Never-Fermented-Before DelliCarpini says:

    I made these pickles and they smell AWESOME, and the one that I gave a little nibble on SEEMed right… My problem is that the liquid they were in turned sort of slimy (I let them sit for 3 days in a dark closet), and also it evaporated a little. I topped it off with a little bit of water and put them in the fridge. There was some mold on top, but I scooped that away as best I could. I also discarded the “seat belt” since those pieces got sort of mushy. So, did I do this right?? Will I DIE if I eat these?? I really want to eat them, but that slimy-ness in the liquid threw me off a little…

    • Hi Casey,

      Fermentation is generally far safer than water bath canning. I haven’t had the experience you describe but it sounds absolutely fine.

      Mold is very natural in the process and topping it up was the right thing to do – the key to fermenting is keeping things under the surface of the liquid.

      If you’re still nervous (which is totally normal; I still get a little queasy at times!), there’s a really great forum with hundreds of people that you can ask and or search to see what others have posted. I’m not trying to push you away – but I know someone there will have had that experience as there’s just so many… Check out the Wild Fermentation Forum (it’s part of the site of Sandor Katz who is the absolute king of fermenting) here: http://www.wildfermentation.com/forum/

    • Casey,

      Let us know what you think of things over there too – it’s pretty amazing!

  7. I had an overabundance of lemon cucumbers and made these last week. Incredible flavor!!!! The texture is a little soft due to the nature of the lemon cucumbers. I think if I made these with a pickling cucumber, they’d be pretty much the perfect pickle!

  8. Hey Joel, I’ve been using a paper towel to keep my veggies submerged. I’ll cautiously replace the paper towel every few days but I’m wondering if this technique is common or if there are concerns about the chemicals in the towel leeching into the brine.

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