Homemade Fermented Dill Pickles - Taste of Artisan (2022)

This summer, I decided to make my very first fermented dill pickles and I quickly realized that that task was not nearly as easy as I thought it would be. I am sure many other newbies would have the same challenges. You may ask: how is that even possible? As they say, the devil is in those tiny details. It took me several batches and a whole bunch of research to come up with the recipe with which I was 100% happy.

Homemade Fermented Dill Pickles - Taste of Artisan (1)

What are fermented pickles?

Fermented pickles are pickles prepared using the traditional process of natural fermentation in salt brine. The brine concentration can vary between 2% and more than 5%.

Vinegar is not needed in the brine of naturally fermented pickled cucumbers as the pickles become sour as a result of the activity of naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria. Pickles prepared with vinegar have a distinct vinegary taste that is inferior to fermented pickles. Ok, some may disagree with that statement but I would choose a fermented pickle over a vinegar pickle every time given the choice.

Fermented pickles are almost always fermented dill pickles. Why? Because pickles, or pickled cucumbers, are almost always seasoned with dill weed and dill seeds, which give them their distinct flavor. If you decide to skip dill, you will end up with fermented pickles.

Are fermented dill pickles the same as kosher dill pickles?

Dill pickles are also sometimes called kosher dill pickles. Can kosher dill pickles be fermented dill pickles? Yes. In fact, a typical kosher dill pickle is a fermented dill pickle, made in the traditional manner of Jewish New York City pickle makers. These pickles are typically made with a generous addition of garlic and dill to salt brine.

Full-sour vs half-sour fermented pickles

To make things more interesting, fermented kosher dill pickles can be full-sour and half-sour. Full-sour dill pickles are those that are fully fermented, while half-sour pickles are those that stay in brine only a short period of time, about 2-3 days. Half-sour pickles are still crisp and bright green. In Eastern Europe, these are also referred to as half-salty as the pickles that stay in brine for a shorter period of time will naturally be less salty.

My challenge making fermented dill pickles

My biggest challenge in making fermented pickles was how much salt to use. Search around for fermented pickle recipes and you will see how they differ from one another as far as how much salt to use. Some call for as low as 2-2.5% salt brine while others call for as high as 5%. Which ones are right? Is there the 'right' amount or is it a matter of personal preference? Which one is the safe amount? Which ones make a better-tasting pickle? My head was spinning while searching for the right answer. Making fermented sauerkraut wasn't nearly as challenging. The good news is that once you figure out the salt part, the rest is somewhat easy.

The 'right' amount of salt for fermented pickles

Salt plays a crucial part in the cucumber fermentation process. However, the more salt you add the saltier the pickles will be. Too salty a pickle is not a good thing. Less salty pickles are tastier. To a point. Pickles lacking in salt don't taste good either. There has to be a balance, the sweet spot. But where is it?

Similarly, the less salt you add the higher the likelihood of undesirable bacteria growing rapidly and spoiling your fermented pickles. To make matters even more challenging, the less salt you add the softer the resulting fermented pickles due to the enzymes which came from the cucumber itself, or yeasts and molds. So, more salt means more crunch.

Finally, what if you want to can your fermented pickles? Is there a minimum salt amount for fermented pickles to be safely canned?

After referencing numerous online and book resources, I found the answer in Stanley Marianski's Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Pickles & Relishes book. Marianski is the guru of anything smoked, cured, pickled and more, and is extremely health safety oriented. Here is the summary that he provides to this effect in his book:

Homemade Fermented Dill Pickles - Taste of Artisan (2)

Does this make sense? Sort of. I am still a little unsure though. All I get from this is that the salt level must be at least 5% for canning fermented pickles safely but otherwise, the minimum safe salt level is 3.5% but he seems to recommend at least 4% (4% and 5% highlighted yellow in the book). Can I go any lower than that if I am willing to take the risk of my pickles possibly getting infected? Will they still taste good?

(Video) Homemade Dill Pickles (Lacto-fermented)

Experimenting with different salt levels

Seeing how some recipes for fermented pickles call for as little as 2.5% salt level, I decided to do some experimenting and see for myself. I fermented three jars of pickles with the only difference being the salt level. Spices and seasonings, fermentation temperature and fermentation time were identical. I picked at 2.5%, 3.5% and 4.5% salt levels. I could do 4% but I thought that 3.5% and 4% would be too close to judge effectively. Five percent seems too high to attempt when not planning on canning the pickles.

All three kinds were fermented for 8 days. The brine is a bit cloudy, did not use fermentation lids. More on that later.

Homemade Fermented Dill Pickles - Taste of Artisan (3)

The results? They were a little surprising.

2.5% salt fermented pickles - Not salty enough! A little bland. Not enough flavor. Sourness slightly overpowering the flavor.

3.5% salt fermented pickles - Very good balance of flavor, sourness and saltiness. Noticeably more flavorful and generally tastier than the other two.

4.5% salt fermented pickles - A little too salty. The flavor got a little muddied by excessive salt.

Homemade Fermented Dill Pickles - Taste of Artisan (4)

Honestly speaking though, if I tried each pickle on separate occasions, I would have probably liked each. But when comparing them side by side, you immediately see the clear winner.

So, my conclusion is to use 3.5% salt brine to make fermented pickles that will be refrigerated and 5% when making fermented pickles that will be brined.

Pickle fermentation process

With the salt levels out of the way, the rest is easy. Dissolve salt in room-temperature water, fill the jars with pickling cucumbers, add the spices and seasonings, pour water to cover the cucumbers and ferment for 8-10 days. Simple enough.

Homemade Fermented Dill Pickles - Taste of Artisan (5)

Fermentation Temperature

Cucumbers ferment best at 64F - 72F (18C - 22C) temperature. At this temperature, the optimal lactic acid bacteria strain will dominate during the fermentation process. At those temperatures, the fermentation process is accomplished in about 8-10 days.

A few tips

  • Wash cucumbers of visible dirt but don't scrape them or brush them off. There are some lactic acid bacteria present on the surface
    and they are needed to start fermentation.
  • Remove all remnants of cucumber blossoms as molds and tissue softening enzymes are known to reside in those areas.
  • Add turmeric to improve the color of the final product.
  • Add chopped or sliced horseradish root to help keep pickled cucumbers crisp. Alternatively, you may add oak or black currant leaves.Homemade Fermented Dill Pickles - Taste of Artisan (6)
  • Home-made fermented pickles develop soft texture due to the enzymatic activity. One solution is to soak cucumbers for 12-24 hours in a solution of 1 cup of food-grade lime to 1 gallon of water. Excess lime absorbed by the cucumbers is removed by draining cucumbers, rinsing and then re-soaking them in fresh water for 1 hour. This rinsing and soaking step should be performed a total of 3 times.
  • Keep the cucumbers submerged in liquid during the entire fermentation process. I find that placing the top layer of pickles across the jar mouth will keep them down. Homemade Fermented Dill Pickles - Taste of Artisan (7)
  • The liquid in the jars will become cloudy as a result of lactic acid bacteria activity. This is normal. You will also see some white sediment collected at the bottom. This is also normal.
  • Check the pickles daily. Any traces of slime should be discarded right away. Those are the enzymes that soften pickles. You don't want to keep them in the jar.
  • You can place a small Ziploc bag filled with brine on top of the pickles. The bag will create an anaerobic environment that will restrict the production of slime by yeast.
  • Better yet, get yourself some wide-mouth jars and fermentation lids fitted with airlocks. These lids will expel excess CO2 but keep oxygen out, preventing the formation of slime. The brine will end up being less cloudy too. Homemade Fermented Dill Pickles - Taste of Artisan (8)
  • When transferring pickles to the fridge, you can leave them as is. Alternatively, you may filter the liquid using a coffee filter to reduce cloudiness if it bothers you. Yet another option is to make a new brine and transfer the fermented pickles into a new jar with a new liquid for storage. This will, however, drastically reduce the flavor of the brine.
  • If by the end of fermentation the pickles are soft, slippery or slimy, they may be spoiled so it's recommended to discard them.
  • You can eat partly fermented pickles after 3-4 days. They will still be deep green color, but the color will start turning olive green over time.

Homemade Fermented Dill Pickles - Taste of Artisan (9)

Fermented Dill Pickles

The recipe below is for one 1-quart jar of about 8 pickles. Scale the recipe to make as many jars as you need.

Print Pin Rate

Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack

Cuisine: American, Eastern European

Keyword: fermented dill pickles, fermented pickles, full-sour pickles, half-sour pickles

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Fermentation time: 10 days

Total Time: 10 days 30 minutes

(Video) Homemade Dill Pickles - How to Make Naturally Fermented Pickles

Servings: 8 pickles

Calories: 44kcal

Author: Victor

Ingredients

  • 8 pickling cucumbers a mix of large and small
  • 2 1/4 cups water 532 ml; room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp pickling salt about 18 g
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch horseradish root peeled and sliced or diced
  • 2 dill umbrellas or 3-5 dill twigs
  • 12 peppercorns black or assorted pink, green, white and black
  • 8 coriander seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 mustard seeds
  • 2 cloves whole
  • 2 berries allspice whole

Instructions

  • Wash cucumbers but don't brush them off. There are lactic acid bacteria on the surface that are needed to start fermentation.

  • Cut off about 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) off the blossom ends of cucumbers. Molds and tissue softening enzymes are known to reside in the cucumber blossom area.

  • Prepare 2 1/4 cups of 3.5% salt brine by whisking 1 Tbsp (18 grams) with water until the salt is dissolved.

  • Place half of the seasonings at the bottom of a clean 1-quart jar. Add the cucumbers. Arrange the top cucumber across the jar to prevent them from floating. Add the rest of the seasonings on top.

  • Pour in the brine leaving about 1/2" of headspace while making sure the cucumbers are covered with the liquid.

  • Attach the fermentation lid with an airlock filled with the leftover brine. Make sure that the bottom tip of the airlock stays slightly above the liquid. (see note 1)

    (Video) Homemade Dill Pickle Recipe | Crisp Lacto-Fermented Cucumbers

  • Ferment at 64F - 72F (18C - 22C). You should see bubbles going up after about 16-24 hours when fermenting at around 68F. Longer if fermenting at lower temperatures and a bit sooner if fermenting at higher temperatures.

  • Ferment for 3-4 days for half-sour pickles and 8-10 days for full-sour pickles.

  • Taste the pickles. If you are happy with the results, place them in the fridge which will stop further fermentation. (see notes 2 and 3)

Notes

Note 1 - Instead of a fermentation lid with an airlock you can use a sealed plastic Ziploc bag filled with brine placed on top of cucumbers. Make sure to regularly check the bag for any white slime and wash it as needed. The slime forms as a result of yeast activity and exposure to oxygen. If you don't remove the slime regularly it will cause the pickles to lose their crunch.

Note 2 - If the pickles are soft, slippery or slimy, they may be spoiled so it's best to throw them out and start again.

Note 3 - You can save some of the fermented pickling brine to use as a starter culture for the next batch. In Eastern Europe, fermented pickling brine is used for treating hangovers. It works!

Note 4 - If you plan on canning fermented pickles, follow my canned fermented pickles guide.

Nutrition

Calories: 44kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 272mg | Potassium: 433mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 220IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 1mg

(Video) Fermented Dill Pickles Recipe | LACTO FERMENTED PICKLES | Bumblebee Apothecary

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(Video) Pickles: Naturally Fermented and Delicious (captions in English, Spanish, and German)

FAQs

What are fermented pickles supposed to taste like? ›

Fermented vegetables, like pickles and sauerkraut, have a signature tang that foodies love: a little sour and a little savory. It's important to note that the pickles you buy on store shelves aren't fermented pickles: they're made with vinegar.

How long do homemade fermented pickles last? ›

Fully fermented pickles may be stored for about 4 to 6 months in the refrigerator. Canning fully fermented pickles is the optimal way to store them.

How do you know if dill pickles are fermented? ›

You can taste them at any point after you see bubbles, and ferment longer if you like. The brine will get cloudy as it ferments- this is a good sign! Once you see active bubbles, you can at this point place the jar in the fridge, where it will continue to ferment, but much more slowly. Keep the pickles submerged.

How long do dill pickles need to ferment? ›

Store where the temperature is between 70 and 75 F for about 3 to 4 weeks while fermenting. Temperatures of 55 to 65 F are acceptable, but the fermentation will take 5 to 6 weeks. Avoid temperatures above 80 F, or pickles will become too soft during fermentation. Fermenting pickles cure slowly.

Why are my fermented pickles bitter? ›

Bitter taste is usually in the peeling. Using salt substitutes. Potassium chloride ingredient in these is naturally bitter. Cucumbers too large for brining.

Should fermented pickles be slimy? ›

Fermented vegetables brines can become sticky or slimy, but this phenomenon is safe. It is caused by harmless bacteria.

Can you ferment pickles too long? ›

Fermented veggies and pickles should taste sour and pickled; they should taste… good. Most people love these flavors right away. A ferment that has been left too long will always show the signs: it will have a colorful mold and its smell will be cheesy, musty and moldy rather than fresh, sour and funky.

Should fermenting pickles be refrigerated? ›

If you have a fresh pickle, then it should be refrigerated. However, if you have fermented pickles, then it does not need to be refrigerated. Pasteurized pickles are cucumbers that have been soaked in brine (water, vinegar, and salt) and then sealed in a pickle jar or container.

How do you keep fermented pickles crisp? ›

Soaking your cucumbers in ice water 30-60 minutes before fermenting seems to help keep crispness.

What should fermented pickles smell like? ›

A good ferment will have a pleasant sour smell. Note: If there's Kahm Yeast present it may have a strong smell, but once scraped away it should have a pleasant sour smell if it's not spoiled. A spoiled ferment may be slimy in texture.

Why did my fermented pickles turn mushy? ›

If the pickles are soft, they are spoiled from the yeast fermentation. Don't use them. Using too weak a salt brine or vinegar solution may cause soft or slippery pickles, as can using moldy garlic or storing the pickles at too warm a temperature. These pickles are spoiled and should be discarded.

Are fermented pickles crunchy? ›

They'll be rich in probiotics for good gut health, as well as tasty, but most importantly, your fermented pickles will have a great crunch when you bite into them!

Can you put sugar in fermented pickles? ›

Adding sugar at the beginning of pickling (in the first four-days of primary fermentation) would have the sugar interfering with this natural process. And of course, boiling the sweet-sour brine would also destroy the culture.

Can you add vinegar to fermented pickles? ›

When it comes to adding vinegar in the salt-based pickles, there are at least two techniques. You can add some vinegar in the beginning, or at the end; after the initial four-day fermentation. You can used pasteurized vinegar or also consider raw, unpasteurized, unfiltered vinegar with all its culture still active.

What is the difference between fermentation and pickling? ›

Pickling vs Fermenting

The difference between pickling and fermenting is the process of how they achieve a sour flavor. Pickled foods are sour because they are soaked in acidic brine, while fermented foods are sour because of a chemical reaction between naturally present sugars and bacteria.

How do you get the bitter taste out of pickles? ›

To neutralize a bitter lemon or lime rind sauce you may want to put 1 to 2 teaspoons of fresh cream, honey, or sugar in it but do it gradually to taste. The sweetness will balance out the acid and it should taste a bit better.

How do you get rid of bitter taste in pickles? ›

the real answer is the mustard seeds are old and hence they have turned bitter. Only solution is to add lemon juice for the part quantity and only at the last minute of serving the pickle.

Why do you soak cucumbers in ice water before pickling? ›

For a quick and easy way to help ensure crisp pickles: soak cucumbers in ice water for 4 to 5 hours before pickling. This is a safer method for making crisp pickles. Using lime, or calcium hydroxide, in solution for soaking cucumbers changes the amount of acid in the cucumber tissue.

Can you get botulism from fermented pickles? ›

Many cases of foodborne botulism have happened after people ate home-canned, preserved, or fermented foods that were contaminated with toxin. The foods might have become contaminated if they were not canned (processed) correctly.

Can fermented pickles have botulism? ›

Unlike canning or oil marinades, there is no risk of botulism in fermented vegetables!

What is the white stuff on my fermented pickles? ›

One of the most common visible contaminations is a white, cloudy substance called Kahm Yeast. While Kahm yeast isn't harmful it can indicate that there is a problem with your ferment. Kahm yeast is actually safe to eat as long as there are no molds present and the ferment tests at a pH of 4 or lower.

Are fermented pickles different than regular pickles? ›

The difference between pickling and fermenting is the process of how they achieve a sour flavor. Pickled foods are sour because they are soaked in acidic brine, while fermented foods are sour because of a chemical reaction between naturally present sugars and bacteria.

Are fermented pickles crunchy? ›

They'll be rich in probiotics for good gut health, as well as tasty, but most importantly, your fermented pickles will have a great crunch when you bite into them!

Can you eat fermented pickles? ›

People preserve some pickles in a fermented brine that contains beneficial bacteria, which means they can be a good addition to a healthful diet. Fermented pickles offer more health benefits than other pickles. Even unfermented pickles, however, are rich in vitamins such as vitamin K and vitamin A.

What does fermentation taste like? ›

What Do Fermented Vegetables Taste Like? Fermented vegetables have a more or less pronounced tangy taste. It is similar to vinegar marinades but in a much less pronounced way. During fermentation, vegetables develop new and very subtle flavours.

Are store bought dill pickles fermented? ›

Most store-bought, big-brand pickles are not fermented. Instead, these cucumbers are just marinated and stored in a vinegar (and spices) brine. This method of pickling is called fresh-pack. These types of pickles don't offer the same probiotic benefits that fermented pickles offer.

Are supermarket pickles fermented? ›

Refrigerated pickles have been fermented with naturally occurring lactobacillus from the cucumbers, salt (to inhibit bad bacteria and mold growth) and water--that's it! The sour taste you get from them is a natural result of the fermentation process that produces sour tasting lactic acid.

Are refrigerator pickles considered fermented? ›

Another method of pickling is to simply soak the pickles in a vinegar brine solution, with whatever spices are desired. This is known as refrigerator pickling. Because the cucumber is neither cooked nor fermented, this is perhaps the crispiest pickle that can be made.

Can you ferment pickles too long? ›

Fermented veggies and pickles should taste sour and pickled; they should taste… good. Most people love these flavors right away. A ferment that has been left too long will always show the signs: it will have a colorful mold and its smell will be cheesy, musty and moldy rather than fresh, sour and funky.

Why are my fermented pickles so salty? ›

Initially, yes, they will taste salty if you try them after only a few days of fermentation. But given time, the fermenting vegetable will absorb more of the brine, which will disperse and dilute the salt from the brine throughout the whole vegetable.

Why did my fermented pickles get mushy? ›

If the pickles are soft, they are spoiled from the yeast fermentation. Don't use them. Using too weak a salt brine or vinegar solution may cause soft or slippery pickles, as can using moldy garlic or storing the pickles at too warm a temperature. These pickles are spoiled and should be discarded.

How many fermented pickles should you eat a day? ›

The short answer is as much as you can. Eating fermented foods daily will strengthen your immune system, reduce bloating, control weight, and will help many digestive issues. If you are new to eating fermented foods start with 1 tablespoon of sauerkraut or 1 pickle a day.

Are fermented pickles good for your gut? ›

Fermented foods like pickles are basically probiotic superfoods, packed full of good bacteria that can support the health of your gastrointestinal microbiome and are good for your gut bacteria.

Does fermentation change flavor? ›

During fermentation, these tiny microorganisms metabolize food to bring about chemical changes that create and release flavors. By breaking down larger, less flavorful compounds into a variety of smaller molecules, microbes amplify existing flavors, expand the depth of flavor and can create new ones too.

Is it better to ferment in glass or plastic? ›

Glass doesn't readily scratch and is therefore less prone to contamination than plastic. Tough surface residue may be scrubbed off with stiff brushes that could damage plastic. The transparency of glass lets you observe fermentation.

Videos

1. Best Fermented Dill Pickles - Easiest Recipe
(The Art of Unity - Bill Farr)
2. How To Make Fermented Kosher Dill Pickles
(Kreshnik Mucllari)
3. Dill Pickles! No Fail, Easy & Healthy Lacto-fermented Pickle Recipe! Perfect Every Time!
(Rainbow Gardens)
4. How to Make CRISP Lacto Fermented Pickles - A Probiotic Rich Food
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5. Homemade Dill Pickles takes 6 weeks to make | MyHealthyDish
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6. Brad Makes Crunchy, Half-Sour Pickles | It's Alive | Bon Appétit
(Bon Appétit)

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