If you ever had a salt beef bagel from a Jewish deli then you’ll know that these are by tradition called “kosher dill pickles”. Crunchy, tangy, delicious, and goes with almost any savoury dish.
- Difference between pickles and fermented cucumbers
- Health benefits
- Lacto fermentation brine formula
- The simple science
- Ingredients needed
- How to make it
- How to know when it’s ready?
- How to store?
- Other popular questions
- Serving suggestions
- Other recipes you might like
- Useful equipment for this recipe
- Easy Lacto Fermented Cucumbers - Dill Pickles
- Nutrition Facts
Fermented cucumbers are not pickles by definition, but rather a Lacto ferment. This recipe will tell you all the important things you need to know about fermenting cucumbers and how they differ from pickles.
You can use this recipe to make half-sour or full-sour proper deli pickles.
If you want to skip all the how-to and why then just skip straight down to the recipe and method. You’ll still make the best fermented cucumbers of your life. Although, you won’t really know the details of what’s happening in the fermentation process…
If you want to learn more about fermentation and the finer details then read along as I explain these in more detail and in an easily understandable manner.
Difference between pickles and fermented cucumbers
This is a very grey area. Some people call it pickles even when Lacto fermented. It’s not technically correct because pickles are not fermented cucumbers. Here is how they differ:
- With pickles, you add the sourness and sweetness in the form of vinegar and sugar. The acid in vinegar comes from acetobacter. Acetic acid producing bacteria that needs oxygen.
- With fermented cucumbers, or any other Lacto fermented food, the sourness is produced by lactic acid producing bacteria. Called Lactobacillus, naturally occurring on the skin of the cucumbers and preferring anaerobic or oxygen free conditions. Traditionally it’s also not sweetened.
So, not the same friends. Not the same at all.
Fermented cucumbers are healthy, while store-bought pickles made with vinegar, are not. The fermented version has live probiotic cultures in it while the pickle has none. The probiotics come mainly in the form of gut-healthy lactic acid bacteria which helps protect against harmful pathogens and nasty bacteria.
Because store-bought pickles contain sugar as well as pasteurised vinegar. They have zero health benefit to you.
When you eat fermented cucumbers, you get all the goodness from the cucumber as well as the live active culture of bacteria. They taste a lot better than pickles anyway and they are also more useful in other dishes.
So, don’t buy or make pickles with vinegar but rather ferment your own for the full health benefits.
Lacto fermentation brine formula
Weight of salt needed = (Weight of water needed to completely cover ingredients + weight of ingredients) X 0.03
Why this ratio?
It will ensure the best environment for the lactobacillus to survive and grow while deterring unwanted bacteria from creeping in.
The perfect amount of salt to have in the cucumbers is 1.5%. Because the cucumbers have no salt in them, we somehow need to get the salt into them.
Thankfully this is naturally taken care of by nature.
The simple science
Say hello to osmosis and diffusion. I group them together because they are also slightly different “equalising” processes with an overlapping quality. Much like the difference between pickled and fermented.
In this case, the overlap is to equalise the amount of salt so that the salt in the brine is the same as the amount of salt in the cucumber. Because of these two processes, it means that each bite of cucumber will have 1.5% salt and each spoon of brine will also have 1.5% salt.
You can test this by mixing 1,5g of salt into 100g(ml) of water, mixing it and tasting it. It is the perfect level of saltiness.
The simplest way to explain the difference between the two, for our purpose, is like this:
Diffusion is responsible for the salt being equally spread out in our brine while osmosis enables the salt to enter the cells of the cucumbers. The difference between these two are that diffusion does not happen through a semi-permeable membrane while, osmosis does.
So, basically the one process depends on the other. If diffusion did not happen then the salt would not evenly spread in the water and no osmosis would take place. If osmosis did not happen then the cucumbers will never get fermented.
The process comes full circle.
Make sure you have a nice big fermentation vessel or container before you start. Use weighing scales as it’s more accurate than spoons, cups, handfuls and all those other weird ways of weighing ingredients.
Although, If you are not ready to switch yet, I do include those measurements in this recipe too.
With fermentation, what you put in, is what you get out. In a sense that, your ingredients need to be of the best quality. Fermentation won’t bring dead ingredients back to life and works best when the ingredients are super fresh.
- Cucumbers – Use fresh, crisp and preferably seasonal medium-sized cucumbers about 10cm or 5 inches long and 3-4cm or 1,5 inches in diameter.
- Water – Good quality clean drinkable water.
- Salt – Natural salt. Don’t use iodised as it contains some mild anti-bacterial properties. We need bacteria for this to work.
- Dill – I used fresh dill blossom but you can easily replace it with fresh dill.
- Garlic – Use the freshest, nicest and juiciest garlic you can find.
- Spices(optional) – I used whole black mustard seeds but, you can use regular or just leave it out. If you want you could also add things like bay leaf, all-spice, juniper, dill seeds or chilli flakes. You could also add fresh chilli if you like.
How to make it
- Wash the cucumbers under cold running water. Place a large properly cleaned 3L Glass jar or plastic bucket onto the scales and zero the weight. If you do things in gallons then use a 1-gallon container. Make sure to wash the container, your hands and utensils properly to avoid any unwanted bacteria from joining the party.
- Add the cucumbers so that they neatly fill the container.
- Fill the container up with water taking note of the total weight of the ingredients and the water.
- Multiply that number by 0.03. That is the amount of salt needed in the recipe. Pour the water out into a jug or container and mix in the salt until fully dissolved along with the garlic, mustard seeds and dill blossom. Now you have the brine.
- Pour this brine back into the vessel with cucumbers and place a small plate on top or a plastic bag filled with water. This is to make sure the cucumbers stay submerged in the brine.
- Close the container with a lid, leaving 4cm or 2 inches room at the top of the vessel, and let the cucumbers ferment at room temperature (21C) for 5 to 12 days or until you are happy with their taste.
The time differs as temperature differs from place to place and time of day. The general rule is. The hotter, the quicker it ferments. So, give it a taste after about 3 days and then every few days after that until you are happy with the amount of sourness.
I give you this extra in-depth knowledge because your vessel might be different and you might use differently sized cucumbers as well as ferment at different temperatures. Never let your ferment go above 28C. It will ferment too quickly and produce strange flavours.
Wild fermentation, like this, is something you’ll learn over time and the more you ferment the more you will get the hang of it. It’s that simple.
How to know when it’s ready?
They should taste pleasantly sour, but not overly so. It will also have a slightly savoury, umami taste. Their texture should be crunchy when you bite into them and the inside not mushy.
Those are the qualities of the perfect fermented cucumber.
How to store?
As soon as they are ready, you should move them to the fridge. Brine-and-all.
Fermentation will come to a crawl in the fridge but won’t completely stop. For this reason, they are best consumed within a few weeks. I always try and eat mine within a month. That’s if they last that long.
For personal advice
Follow me on Instagram
I help many people with a wide variety of questions about food and other cooking-related issues. Simply send me a message and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.
This way you will become a better and more confident cook.
Other popular questions
Unwanted bacteria crept in. Make sure that you clean your equipment well before starting to make a ferment.
Note. There is something called kahm yeast that might look like a thin white film of mould but, is actually harmless. Just carefully remove from the top if it does appear as it can affect the flavour of a ferment.
If you start with immaculate cucumbers they will probably not need any help keeping crispy. I never use any of these methods but you can do the following to ensure crispiness.
Soak the cucumbers in ice water for 5 minutes.
Add a grape leaf or bay leaf to the brine.(It contains tannin that helps keep the skin crispy)
If you are buying from a farmer’s market then ask the vendor for pickling cucumbers or look for the Kirby variety.
The correct answer here differs from person to person. I find that they are best consumed within a month. Although, you can keep them in the fridge for up to 6 months, correctly stored without introducing bad bacteria through contaminated utensils or dirty hands.
Apart from being a healthy snack, fermented cucumbers can be used in various other dishes and preparations like the following:
- As a fresh tangy side with rich meat dishes like crispy pork belly, lamb chops, koftas or ribeye steak.
- Same goes for fish like grilled angelfish or pan-seared salmon. If you making a tartar sauce for these then use these instead of store-bought gherkins.
- I also like adding a spoon or two to stews or chilled/hot soups right before serving. Like this Ukrainian beetroot soup or this Viking stew. It gives a nice bit of balance and brings nuance to the dish.
- Serve alongside other snacks like Moroccan zaalouk or green pea and feta dip.
Other recipes you might like
If you like fermented foods then you will find the following recipes useful:
Useful equipment for this recipe
3 L Glass jar - Buy Now
Kitchen scales - Buy Now
THIS PAGE CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS - I MIGHT EARN A TINY % OF THE SALE THROUGH THESE LINKS AT NO EXTRA COST TO YOU. PROBABLY NOT EVEN ENOUGH TO BUY A BEER).
If you found this recipe helpful or have learned something, comment, subscribe and follow me on social platforms for more delicious recipes.
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?
Tag @PANTSDOWNAPRONSON on Instagram and hashtag it #PANTSDOWNAPRONSON