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Lacto-fermented Pickles: Benefit of Fermenting Foods

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Since my last post 5 Recipes using Fresh Dill, I went to my local grocer and got some small pickling cucumbers.  I still had some dill left and wanted to put it to good use! My next project is homemade lacto-fermented pickles! 

Too much trouble, you say?  Not really.  It’s as simple as using salt, vegetables and water.  No additional canning or boiling is needed.

How does this work?  The process uses bacteria found in the environment to make healthy probiotics for us.  We’ve all been hearing a lot in the news lately about these healthy critters and many health professionals are encouraging their clients to improve their gut flora by taking probiotic supplements.  I am in favor of such supplementation, but here is a great way for us to get some of these benefits naturally. 

Lacto-fermentation takes advantage of the fact that bacteria harmful to us cannot tolerate as much salt as healthy bacteria.  A good bacteria helps aid our digestion by populating our intestines with a healthy gut flora.  One such bacterium is called Lactobacillus (hence the name, lacto-fermentation).  These organisms help us recover from damaging yeast overgrowth and have an anti-inflammatory effect which helps prevent chronic disease. 

As the bacteria grow, they convert the sugars in the vegetables into acids, hence giving pickles their tart taste.

I admit, I am fairly new to this “cooking” process, but have had great results the dozen or so times I have made sauerkraut and pickles.  I leave the briny jar wrapped in a towel on my counter for about a week (timing depends on how warm the air is in the kitchen) and then put the finished pickles in the refrigerator.  I like a little crunch with mine, so I check them periodically to see how they are doing.  If you leave the pickles to ferment for too long in the heat, they will become soggy.  Because of this, some recipes call for adding grape leaves.  Reportedly, the tannin levels in the leaves help keep the pickles crunchier. 

I like to add a couple of cloves of garlic to my recipe and, as I have mentioned before, I prefer my pickles less spicy, so I don’t add chili pepper flakes to my pickling spices.

A very important tip in making pickles is to cut off the top and bottoms of each cucumber before packing them into the Mason jar!  Rumor has it, the blossom end harbors microbes that can cause softening.  Most recipes include this step, so I do it every time.

For this recipe, I made my own combination of spices for the pickling mix, but in the past I have used McCormick brand Pickling Spice.  Please share if you have made your own pickling mix.  I would love to hear what other combinations there might be!

Homemade Lacto-fermented Pickles

Ingredients

6-8 pickling cucumbers (these are small with very little seeds)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled (2 if you don’t like a strong garlic flavor, 3 or more if you love garlic)
6-10 fronds of fresh dill, omit the stems
1 quart of water
4 Tbsp of salt (needs to be iodine free, I use course sea salt)
2 Tbsp of pickling spice (see below)
Pickling spice mix:
1 tsp Allspice  berries
½ tsp Black Peppercorns
½ tsp coriander (I used powdered)
½ tsp celery seed
¼ cinnamon stick
½ tsp whole cloves
1 bay leaf crumbled
1/8 tsp ginger (I used powdered)
½ tsp coriander (I used powdered)
1/8 tsp Mustard seed (I used powdered)

Directions:
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat water and salt until boiling and salt has dissolved.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
  2. Thoroughly wash a 1 quart glass Mason jar and lid with hot soapy water.  Let dry.
  3. Meanwhile, wash your cucumbers and trim off the ends.  Pack them firmly into the Mason jar, the closer packed the better. (I could have used some more, I had 6.)
  4. Add the garlic cloves, dill and pickling spice mixture. 
  5. Pour the brine over the cucumbers making sure everything is submerged under the waterline.  Tap the jar to remove any air bubbles that may have become trapped. 
  6. If your jar is well-packed and you have no air spaces you can tightly twist on the lid. Loosening the lid every now and then is a good idea to release any pressure that may build up during the fermentation process.  I had some extra space, so I placed a small Mason jar on top to keep everything submerged (see photo below).  I twisted the lid on top as best I could and held it in place with some rubberbands.
  7. Store the jar on the counter in a cool, dark place.  I cover mine with a towel.
  8. Check the jar periodically to make sure that all the contents are below the water level of the brine.
  9. After a week, you can test one pickle to see if it is done.  If it is to your liking, secure the lid and place it in the refrigerator.  If you would like it a bit more “sour”, leave it out for another couple of days or so.
And that’s it.  Enjoy! Pickles can last for weeks in the refrigerator.

Have you tried making pickles?  I would love to hear about your experience and learn about your recipe(s)!
Yours in Health,
Evey


P.S. Below are photos of the spices and mix, as well as the small Mason jar holding down the contents with the brine added:
spices
These are the spices I used.
spice-mix
This is what the mix looked like.

jar-of-pickles
Finished jar with weight on top.




 



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