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Making Crispy Traditional Pickles Like a (c)Rockstar

Tips from the Farm to Fermentation Festival.

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Note: Recipe shows batch of 30 lbs pickling cucumbers. Small batch recipe is included at the end.

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Choose cucumbers that are young and still have their bumps and ridges. They should be very firm, and the sooner you can begin fermenting after they have been picked from the vine, the crisper your pickles will be. Check out farmer’s markets and ask your farmers when they picked the cucumbers.

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Pictured is the flowering end of the cucumber. You’ll want to slice off a very thin piece of the vegetable to remove the flowering tip and expose a bit of the interior flesh.

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Repeat the process on the other side of the cucumber to allow the brine to penetrate both ends.

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Chop 1-2 white onions, 15-20 heads of garlic and half of your fresh dill. Add this to the bottom of your fermentation vessel along with 2 tablespoons of black pepper seed, 3 tablespoons mustard seed and 20-30 dried red hot peppers.

Cold soak: Letting your cucumbers sit in an ice water bath for 3-4 hours is a great way to keep your pickles crunchy after fermentation.

Fermentation vessel: You don’t need a traditional “crock” for fermentation! Use any non-reactive container, including ceramic, food grade plastic, or glass.

Quantity tip: Approximately 8-10 pickling cucumbers will fit into a 2 quart glass canning jar. This is ideal for a first batch of pickles!

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Stack the cucumbers vertically, fitting as many as you can into one layer. This will help keep them under the brine, and will also fit the maximum amount of vegetables into a vessel! Place some more of the dill in between layers of cucumbers.

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Place a plate or food grade plastic lid on top of the second layer of cucumbers.

Tip: if you are using a 2 quart canning jar, a lidded half pint canning jar filled with water works great as a replacement for this plate/bag.

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Fill the vessel with your salt brine. Add 2 teaspoons (or 12 grams) of sea salt (or any non-iodized) to every 2 cups of non-chlorinated water to create a brine.

Tip: If you have any unpasteurized (sometimes sold as “raw” or “with mother”) apple cider vinegar, add 1 tsp to each 2 cups of brine to jump start the lactic acid bacteria.

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What a difference a week makes! Check your pickles after 4-5 days if temperatures are over 75º in your home. Once sufficiently sour, move your pickles into the fridge to keep for weeks. (In a pickle-loving home, they won’t last more than a week!)

Add a leaf: Packing your vessel with grape or bramble leaves (3-4 is sufficient) underneath your weight will help keep your pickles crunchy due to tannins in the leaves.

Covering your vessel: Cover with any loose towel or cheesecloth to allow airflow, but to keep any flies or bugs out.

Check the surface: In warmer temperatures, a yeast (called “kahm”) can show on the surface. Scrape this away if it appears. It is not harmful, but can produce lemon-y flavors instead of true sour dill pickle acidity.


Small Batch Fermented Dill Pickles

  • 2 lbs pickling cucumbers – unwaxed and organic are preferred
  • 1 large bunch fresh dill
  • 1 large white onion, sliced (optional)
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper corn (optional)
  • 4 teaspoons mustard seed (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt for every 2 cups of water (you may need more or less, depending on how tightly your cucumbers are packed into your vessel)
  • 3–4 grape or other bramble leaves (optional)

Follow previous instructions and check on your pickles after 5-7 days of fermentation. Peek into the top and check for any surface growth and skim with a spoon if needed. In warm summer months, I often move my vessel to the fridge after 5 days of fermentation.


The Farm to Fermentation Festival is revving up to be another fantastically lively event in Santa Rosa, California on Sunday, August 24. There will be classes on making fermented foods and beverages at home, delicious samples from California’s premier fermented food producers, and educational presentations from authors and entrepreneurs in the industry. The VIP Libation Lounge will offer sips of locally crafted cider, mead, beer, and wine!

Jennifer Harris

Jennifer Harris

Jennifer is a freelance fermenter and self-described bacteria advocate. In addition to coordinating the Farm to Fermentation Festival, she enjoys teaching people how to create delicious ferments at home year round – everything from wild fermented backyard wine to traditionally fermented pickles and sauerkraut.


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