How to Make Pickles (especially when it’s hot)

We often get asked how to make pickles.  Especially the kind of pickles you can buy in a deli or like your Granny used to make.  The fermented(often thought of as ‘kosher’) kind.  To make matters worse, people often want to know how to make pickles when cucumbers are in season and their houses are incredibly warm.  If that’s the case with you, look no further!

It’s 4,000,000 (million) degrees celsius in our apartment.  For our friends who measure temperature in the Imperial system, that’s approximately 3,756,432 degrees farenheit.  Approximately.

It’s too hot to make salad.  It’s almost too hot to make ice.  I may curl up into the oven to cool down.  But I’m not cooking.

This is why it’s an ideal time to make pickles.  Fermented pickles to be exact.  And, if you have a jar that’s big enough, you can make 2 liters (i.e. quarts) in less than 2 minutes of work.  And you don’t even have to turn the stove.

How to Make Pickles (especially when its hot) pickles fermented pickles cucumbersThe recipe is entirely scalable so make as much as you want.  I have some nifty 2 quart (nearly 2 liter) jars that are perfect for the job so that’s the basis for this recipe.

How to Make Pickles – Ingredients

  • Enough cucumbers to fill a 2 quart (2 liter jar).  I used about 7 large ones (if using a wide-mouthed mason jar, keep the smallest cuke to the side)
  • 3 tablespoons pickling (or coarse salt)
  • 1 quart/ liter of dechlorinated water (if your town uses chlorine, boil it or let it sit in an uncovered pot for an hour).  If your town ads chloramine (which does not evaporate), buy purified water
  • Seasonings (hot peppers, dill seed, garlic).  Go wild.
  • 1 large jar (I prefer a large wide-mouthed mason jar though they are tough to get outside of Canada)

How to Make Pickles – Instructions

  1. Optional: the cucumber has 2 ends – one that has a stem and one that had a blossom.  Scrape the end of the blossom off (like in the photo); many beleive this will lead to a crisper pickle as it removes an enzyme from the cucumber.
  2. Place all but the small cucumber in the jar.
  3. Add the salt and seasoning.
  4. Wedge the small cucumber in sideways – this ‘seatbelts’ the rest of the contents to stop preserves from floating.
  5. Top with water.
  6. Place on a warm spot in your kitchen, it will start bubbling in a day or two (as long as your temperature is about the mid-60′s).
  7. Cover with cloth, cheesecloth or a cover your fermenting pickles with a reusable coffee filter (my personal favorite)
  8. Check daily for mould on the surface.  If it appears, remove it with a spoon.
  9. Once bubbling stops (which will take a few days to 2-3 weeks depending on how warm your kitchen is), taste your pickles.  They will finish quicker in warmer temperatures.  Know that they will be crisper when chilled.
  10. When the texture and taste are what you like, you’re done!  Store in the fridge to slow (and practically stop) the fermenting.

What do/would you add to fermented pickles?

Comments

  1. Noel Holly says:

    I have heard/read that you should add an oak leaf or some grape leaves at the bottom for the crispiness factor. Has anyone else heard this or done it this way?

    • Hi Noel,

      Indeed young grape leaves (or oak leaves) are supposed to change the tanin level and add to crispiness of fermented pickles. We tried it a few years back and had good success with it (we bought grape leaves)

  2. Janet M says:

    Would this work in a gallon plastic jar type container? Do you leave it open or cover it–lid or cloth?

    • It would indeed Janet though some people are worried about plastic (at the very least, ensure it si food safe). A lead-free cermaic crock is also a good alternative.

      • My pickles are sitting on the counter–bubbling foam on the top. Will that look different if it is “mold”? Or do I skim off the foam stuff? Water looks a little cloudy today. This is interesting for sure. I’m having fun! Thanks for helping me learn.

        • Hi Janet!

          Congrats on trying it out! Mould is unmistakable; it looks and smells like mould. You can never go wrong with skimming though so don’t hesitate. I find if I skim the foam it often prevents mould and the foam can be a bit slimy (which isn’t a problem until you taste a pickle and cover it in slime when you pull it through that foam).

          It will get cloudier as most brines do (pickling salt can help keep it clear but I like the murky mystery!)

          Try them often; you’ll find you may like them less fermented than fully (they will always be crisper when cold).
          :)

    • I missed the second question Janet – we do indeed loosley cover it; I will update the article in the next few minutes… :)

  3. I’ve found that adding a couple of grape or cherry leaves helps keep them firm and crunchy longer. This is discussed in Wild Fermentation.

  4. I’ve put together a batch today. I’ve tried before but haven’t been happy with the results but this time I’m using a crock. Where do you find grape leaves if you want to add?

    • Hi Deborah,

      I’ve found them in Middle Eastern and Greek grocers which use them as a common cooking ingredient. They are sold in jars and must be refrigerated when opened. :) J

  5. Hi,

    Just wondering how long they will last in the fridge for?

    Thanks!

  6. I thought this was a great idea! Unfortunately, my pickles turned slimy the second and third day.
    At first I only saw foam on top and started scooping. Then everything rose to the top and after an inspection I noticed that the “seatbelt” pickle turned mushy and so did the others. :(
    Any ideas? Thanks.

    • Heike,

      Sorry to hear! Knowing that fermenting has been done this way for as long as people have been preserving, there will be an explanation.

      It’s odd that they turned that fast. The two most likely culprits are heat (i.e. it was too hot; this is most likely) or water (that it contained chlorine or chloramine). Could also have been something on their surface?

      Can you share any more information about either one of these? Would like to know…

      P.S. While slmiy isn’t what you’re going for you may consider rinsing them well and turning them into relish….

      Joel

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