How To Make Lacto-Fermented Dill Pickles
The reason I make these the old fashion way (without boiling the water or adding vinegar) is because the purpose of this is not just for a great tasting kosher dill pickle style pickle, but to grow good gut bacteria or probiotics. For more fermented foods also see how to make Kefir, Water Kefir, Fermented Vegetables, and Kombucha (coming soon).
Health Benefits of Lacto Fermented Pickles:
These fermented foods, promote the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria, aiding digestion and supporting immune function, including an increase in B vitamins (even Vitamin B12), omega-3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, lactase and lactic acid, and other immune chemicals that fight off harmful bacteria and even cancer cells. These benefits only apply to homemade pickles prepared this way through fermenting, not commercial processed pickles.
See my blog here to learn the many benefits of probiotics foods rather than taking probiotics supplements for your digestion and overall health.
Fermented foods have increased nutritional value The fermentation process increases certain nutrients, such as increased vitamin C content in sauerkraut, and many others fermented food show a big jump in vitamin content. Pulque, a fermented plant sap has increased thiamine from 5 to 29 and niacin from 54 to 515! Just from fermenting. There is a lot of evidence that the fermentation process actually enriches foods with higher amounts of nutrients. Source Fermented foods are more digestible More than just probiotics, the fermentation process actually makes the food more digestible to us by breaking down hard to digest cellulose in food. Because so many of us have digestive issues, fermenting our foods could give our bodies a head start in the digestion of our food, while feeding our healthy gut bacteria at the same time.
Pickle Making Process is Simple:
The simplest way is to just put the cucumbers in a jar with water, sea salt, garlic and dill. From there you can flavor it anyway you like. I like mustard or pepper seeds but you can use so many different spices, the easiest is pickling spices.
Ingredients (all should be organic):
- Kirby Cucumbers (next best is Persian, but any cucumber will do)
- Fresh Dill
- Garlic Cloves
- Spice For taste
- Pure Water
- Glass Jar with Lid
- weight to hold pickles below brine. (small jars don't need this)
Healthy Spice Options:
- Pickling Spice
- Black or White Peppercorns
- Mustard Seeds
- Coriander Seeds
- Horse Radish
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Cumin Seeds
- Fennel Seeds
- Cilantro leaves
Measurements per quart of water:
- 2 Quarts of Pure Water
- 2 - 2.5 Tablespoons of SeaSalt
- 1 – Large head of dill
- 3 - 4 Cloves of peeled garlic
- 1 - 3 Table Spoons of Spice
- 2 – 3 bay, grape, oak or horseradish leaves (black tea can be used as well)
- - Enough Cucumbers to fill jar
How To Make the Pickles:
- Make a brine by mixing 2 quarts of chlorine-free water and 5 tablespoons sea salt. Mix well and be sure water is cool to room temperature. Preparing the pickles in cold water will keep them crunchy.
- Cut the ends off the pickles that are sprouting (These contain an enzyme that will soften the pickles.
- Add a couple of the bay or grape leaves (or black tea) into your empty jar to start. (The leaves contain tannin they will keep the pickles crunchy.)
- Then add a few cloves of garlic, the heads of dill, and 1/3 of the spices you plan to use.
- Pack half of your cucumbers tightly on top of these spices. You can cut them in half, ¼ (spears) or just put them in whole. (The longest ones work best at the bottom if you are laying these flat.)
- Repeat a layer of leaves, garlic, and spices. Add another tightly packed layer of cucumbers and top them off with more garlic and spices.
- Pour the brine over the pickles, leaving 1 to 2 inches of headspace. Place more tannin-containing leafs on top of the pickles as a cover between the pickles and the surface of the brine.
- After everything is in there tap or shake the jar to get any air bubbles out of there since they can cause mold.
- Weigh the cucumbers down to be sure they don’t rise above the surface of the water.
- Cap the jar and place in a safe spot at room temperature for 3 days to 3 weeks.
- You will know your pickles have fermented when the brine is cloudy, the brine has stopped bubbling, and the pickles have a bubbly sour taste. The warmer the fermenting temperature, the shorter the fermentation time, though a cooler fermentation temperature is desirable (less than 80°F).
- There will be some mold on top and you can just remove that but don’t worry that won’t effect the pickles since they are under the water fermenting anaerobicly.
- If you’re using a jar that seals such as mason jars burp the jars every day or two since the fermentation produces carbon dioxide.
For a similar strong typical pickle taste, depending on your temperature, I recommend fermented between 2 and 4 weeks, and that’s based on your taste as well. After that they are fully sour or the way you like them you can bring them to the fridge with the brine and they will last for months.
If you like the taste less salty, after fermenting put them in a jar with more pure water added than brine.
You can do this same process with cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, onions, and other vegetables.
Regarding Vinegar – it is not necessary for lactic acid fermentation and some find it to be a hindrance. The acetic acid in the vinegar can often overwhelm the lactic acid that needs to proliferate in order for a true lactic acid fermentation to take place.
Fermented foods are safer than raw vegetables to eat This is something that was done constantly in our grandparents time and earlier, we are just not as used to it. Raw vegetables can have E.coli on it, once the fermentation process starts, the lactic acid and the E. coli are in direct competition with each other, and lactic acid is a serial killer of E. coli. Fred Breidt from the USDA’s Food Science Research Unit at North Carolina State University published a paper on this subject specifically in regard to lactic acid fermented cucumbers. He says, “The presence of live growing cells of lactic acid bacteria, which are the ones that ferment pickles and cheese and a lot of things, actually in competition cause E. coli to die off rather quickly, because they produce things other than just the acid, that’s in the fermented foods. Lactic acid bacteria are highly efficient killers of other bacteria, and they do a marvelous job. This is why vegetable fermentations pretty much always works. It’s been working for thousands of years. It’s one of the oldest technologies known to man and it always works, and the reason is these lactic acid bacteria are very good at what they do, and we take advantage of that as a technology.”