One of the great fermenting classics, sour dill pickles are deliciously sour and tangy making them the perfect addition to burgers and sandwich. And unlike vinegar pickles, the lacto-fermentation process and infusion of flavourings gives the cucumbers that extra depth of terrific flavour + they're much easier to digest and rich in beneficial bacteria and enzymes.
It can be a little tricky to stop them from turning to mush during the fermentation process but there are a few helpful tips to making crunchy pickles:
- Small gherkin-type cucumbers work best and they must be VERY fresh.
- The cucumbers must be cleaned well, blemish-free and make sure you cut off the blossom end - it will spoil the batch if you don't.
- Soak the cucumbers in a bowl of ice water and thoroughly dry before adding to brine.
- Use fresh tannin-rich leaves such as grape, oak or horseradish. This is one of most effective tips to achieving crunchy pickles we learnt from the godfather of fermentation, Sandor Katz.
- Monitor every day. The minute they start to turn soft, transfer them to the fridge.
(makes around 2 litres)
8 - 12 small pickling cucumbers
4 - 6 garlic cloves, peeled + scored
handful of grape leaves (you can also use oak leaves or horseradish leaves), thoroughly washed
4 heads of flowering dill (or 4 tablespoons chopped dill leaves)
½ teaspoon dill seeds
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
2 small bay leaves
1 small red chilli
6 tablespoons sea salt
2 litres of filtered water
*brine should taste fairly salty
2.5 litre fermentation pot
ceramic weight stones
jar or measuring jug for brine solution
Wash your fermentation pot and ceramic weights. Dry thoroughly.
Wash the cucumbers well and soak them in a bowl of ice water for an hour or so before placing them in the brine solution.
Make the brine solution - add salt to water in jar or measuring jug, and stir until completely dissolved.
Place flavourings in the bottom of the fermentation pot, and then gently pack in the cucumbers and garlic.
Once the pot is close to 2-3 inches below the neck, pour the brine over the cucumbers and insert your ceramic weights on top and press down lightly. The cucumbers must be completely submerged. Fill the gutter - roughly half - with water, and place the lid on.
Place the jar in a warm spot in your kitchen but not in direct sunlight.
Check the pickles everyday and if any mould appears, skim it off and then stir the pot to disperse any smaller particles of mould. Be sure to rinse the weights.
After a three days, try a pickle. If it is starting to go soft, transfer to airtight container and store in fridge. If the pickles are still hard, you can continue to ferment for up to four weeks. Just make sure you check the pickles every day and top up the gutter if the water falls below the half-way mark..
They should keep for up to a month in the fridge. You can also store your pickles in an airtight container in cupboard. They keep for up to 3 months.