Ever wondered how to ferment cucumbers the simple, old-fashioned way? Welcome to the world of fermented dill pickles, where we skip the vinegar and let nature do its magic.
With this easy-to-follow fermented pickles recipe, you’ll get the taste of authentic naturally lacto-fermented pickles with gut-healthy benefits that boosts immunity – right from your kitchen.
After exploring this fermented cucumber guide, don’t miss out on my other tantalizing ferments: the vibrant fermented red cabbage recipe, the refreshing fermented shaved carrot salad, and the earthy fusion of fermented beet and cabbage delight, fermented watermelon, fermented tomatoes, cauliflower and fermented fish.
Let’s get fermenting and dive into the delightful world of cucumber fermentation. Explore the difference between pickled vs fermented cucumbers, and discover the joy of creating fermented cucumber slices or whole cucumbers with that crisp, tangy bite!
Why Try This Recipe
Fermented cucumbers, or as they are traditionally known, dill pickles, offer an array of health benefits. Unlike pickled vs fermented cucumbers that primarily use vinegar, the lacto-fermented pickles use natural fermentation. This process introduces beneficial probiotics, enhancing gut health.
Where You Can Use Fermented Cucumbers
Lacto-fermented pickles are versatile! Add them to sandwiches, chop into salads like this Olivier potato salad or this potato and egg salad, or serve as a tangy side with grilled meats, with chicken fritters, chicken roll ups or meatballs. You can also blend them into dressings or pair with cheeses on a charcuterie board.
You can also drink shots of the brine as probiotic supplement. Or use it in a Martini drink.
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Ingredients Needed and Their Purpose
- Cucumbers: Make sure they are roughly the same size, the smaller the better. Either ferment whole cucumbers or cucumber slices. Slicing the cucumbers will speed up the fermentation process and ferment more uniformly because the brine can access more of the cucumber. But on the other hand, thicker slices or whole cucumbers tend to retain their crunchiness better over time. Thin slices might become softer faster due to the increased exposure to the brine.
- Dill: Adds the signature dill pickle flavor. Use fresh dill, dry dill weed or both.
- Garlic: Introduces a slight pungency and depth of flavor.
- Spices: Dill seeds, mustard seeds, whole peppercorns and coriander seeds. These spices can be used individually or in combination, depending on personal preferences and the specific flavor profile you’re aiming for in your pickles.
- Tannic Ingredient (optional): Tannins work to keep the firm (crisp) texture of the cucumber throughout the fermentation process. Grape leaves, oak leaves, horseradish leaves, bay leaves and cherry leaves are great. If you prefer crunchy, firm fermented cucumbers, it’s worth considering the addition of one of these tannin sources to your fermenting jar.
- Salt: Essential in cucumber fermentation, salt pickles by drawing out moisture and creating a brine, preventing harmful bacteria from developing. Gray Celtic salt is often hailed as the best choice for fermentation due to its rich mineral content and absence of additives; however, other unrefined salts, like natural sea salt, is also excellent for supporting the fermentation process effectively.
- Water: Used to create the brine in which the cucumbers ferment.
Step by Step Recipe Instructions
- Preparation: Choose fresh, firm cucumbers. Rinse them well to remove any dirt.
- Salt Brine: Mix salt with water until dissolved. This brine is essential for fermenting cucumbers the right way.
- The salt-to-water ratio in a brine affects taste and fermentation speed. A 2-3% brine, made from 2-3 grams of salt per 100 milliliters of water, is commonly used for fermenting vegetables and offers a balance of flavor and preservation (you can drink it). A higher percentage, like 5%, yields a saltier brine that can slow down fermentation and enhance preservation but might be too salty for some tastes. Conversely, a lower percentage, such as 1%, speeds up fermentation but provides less preservation and may risk spoilage.
- Jar Preparation: Place dill and garlic at the bottom of a clean glass jar along with chosen spices. For fermenting pickles, select a jar that’s large enough to hold your cucumbers comfortably. Ensure there’s 1-2 inches of headspace at the top to allow for brine expansion and gas release. Tight-fitting lids are crucial to prevent contaminants but ensure gas can escape or “burp” the jar occasionally. I like these wide medium size 67 oz glass jars with airtight design.
- Pack the Cucumbers: Place your clean cucumbers into the jar. You can either use cucumber slices or go for whole cucumbers.
- Add the Brine: Pour the salt brine over the cucumbers, ensuring they are fully submerged.
- Seal and Store: Cover the jar lightly with a lid, allowing it to breathe. Let the mixture sit in a dark, cool place for 5-7 days. Check daily. The magic of how to ferment cucumbers will unfold during this period.
- Check and Refrigerate: Once you’ve achieved the desired fermentation level, refrigerate your lacto-fermented pickles to halt the process.
Tips and Tricks
- Always ensure your hands, tools, and jars are clean to avoid introducing harmful bacteria.
- To keep the cucumbers submerged in brine to prevent exposure to air and avoid spoilage:
- Place a large grape leaf on top of the cucumbers pushing it down to act as a barrier.
- Fill a smaller, clean jar with water, seal it, and place it on top inside the fermenting jar to weigh the cucumbers down.
- Or fill a Ziploc bag with water and place it on top of the cucumbers to act as a weight.
- If you see any mold or a bad smell, it’s a sign something went wrong. Discard and start anew.
While this recipe focuses on fermented dill pickles, you can also introduce:
- Additional Spices: Fennel Seeds (with a sweet, anise-like flavor, fennel seeds introduce a fragrant note reminiscent of licorice, adding a unique layer of complexity to pickles, or red pepper flakes for a kick or allspice berries (a warm, slightly sweet flavor with hints of clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg).
- Herbs: Fresh tarragon or basil for a different aromatic profile.
FAQs For Naturally Fermented Cucumbers Without Vinegar
Pickled cucumbers primarily use vinegar (an acidic medium) for preservation, whereas fermented cucumbers rely on natural bacterial action to ferment. This natural fermentation process imparts a distinct, tangy flavor without the use of vinegar, and often introduces beneficial probiotics to the mix.
When stored in the refrigerator, lacto-fermented pickles can last for several months. Always ensure that they remain submerged in the brine and check for any off odors or mold before consuming. I find it best up to 3 months, after that they tend to get softer.
Soft pickles can result from over fermentation or using overripe cucumbers. Ensure you use fresh, firm cucumbers for best results.
It’s recommended to use pickling salt or sea salt as they are free from anti-caking agents and iodine. These additives, often found in table salt, can interfere with the fermentation process and may produce off-flavors.
Yes, a cloudy brine is a natural part of the fermentation process. It indicates the presence of lactic acid bacteria, which are beneficial for gut health. However, if the brine becomes too murky or develops an off smell, it’s best to discard the batch.
While there are special fermentation weights and lids available to make the process more streamlined, they are not strictly necessary. A clean jar and ensuring that your cucumbers remain submerged in the brine are the basics, just use the suggestions listed above. However, if you find yourself fermenting often, investing in fermentation tools might be beneficial.
Remember, fermenting is both a science and an art. Trust the process, but also trust your senses. If something looks or smells off, it’s best to start fresh. Happy fermenting!
Lacto-fermenting cucumbers (vinegar-free dill pickles) is not only a culinary adventure but a gateway to better gut health. The tang, crunch, and satisfaction of enjoying your homemade lacto-fermented pickles are unparalleled. So, why wait? Embrace the magic of natural fermentation, craft a jar of these delights, and elevate your meals to a whole new level. Your taste buds and gut will thank you!
More Fermented Recipes
Fermented Cucumbers (Dill Pickles) No Vinegar
- 2 to 2.5 lb pickling cucumbers - ~ 10 to 12 cucumbers (5-6 inch size)
- 8 garlic cloves - lightly smashed
- 2-3 sprigs fresh dill - or 1.5 tsp dry dill weed
- 5 cups filtered water - ~ 1.2 liters
- 36 g celtic sea salt - ~ 2.1 tablespoons
- 1/2 onion - sliced
- other favorite spices - celery seeds or jalapeños
- Choose fresh, firm cucumbers. Rinse them well to remove any dirt.
- Also make sure your jar was thoroughly washed and steamed steamed with boiling water.
- Mix salt with water until dissolved. This brine is essential for fermenting cucumbers the right way.The salt-to-water ratio in a brine affects taste and fermentation speed. A 2-3% brine, made from 2-3 grams of salt per 100 milliliters of water, is commonly used for fermenting vegetables and offers a balance of flavor and preservation (you can drink it). A higher percentage, like 5%, yields a saltier brine that can slow down fermentation and enhance preservation but might be too salty for some tastes.
- In this recipe I'm using a brine concentration of 3%. Feel free to add a little bit more, if you pefer salty food.
- Place dill and garlic at the bottom of a clean glass jar along with chosen spices. Or spread them around the cucumbers. For fermenting pickles, select a jar that’s large enough to hold your cucumbers comfortably, or split into 2 jars.
- Ensure there’s 1-2 inches of headspace at the top to allow for brine expansion and gas release. Lids are crucial to prevent contaminants but ensure gas can escape or “burp” the jar occasionally. I like these wide medium size 67 oz glass jars with airtight design.
Pack the Cucumbers:
- Place your clean cucumbers into the jar. You can either use cucumber slices or go for whole cucumbers.
Add the Brine:
- Pour the salt brine over the cucumbers, ensuring they are fully submerged.
Seal and Store:
- Cover the jar lightly with a lid, allowing it to breathe.
- To keep the cucumbers submerged in brine to prevent exposure to air and avoid spoilage I like to fill a smaller, clean jar with water, seal it, and place it on top inside the fermenting jar to weigh the cucumbers down.
- Let the mixture sit in a dark, cool place for 5-7 days. Usually sliced cucumbers will be ready in about 3-4 days and whole cucumbers a little longer – 5 to 7 days.
Check and Refrigerate:
- Once you’ve achieved the desired fermentation level, refrigerate your lacto-fermented pickles to halt the process.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator.
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