My world changed the day I found out pickles were required in my daily meal plan. I’ve always loved pickles, but never thought they were good for me. Fermented foods provide the stomach with good, beneficial bacteria and make your stomach more acidic in order to release bile for proper digestion. However, some of the store bought pickles have ingredients that turn me off: vinegar, calcium chloride (to enhance crispness), sodium benzoate, sugar, etc. I became inspired to make my own pickles the healthy way.
My grandparents always make pickles every August, and I decided that this was the year to learn from them. They make theirs with a coarse salt brine. I made with two types of brine: sea salt (9 jars) and whey (2 jars). Both produced “the best pickles I’ve ever had” pickles!
Some tips for those who have never made pickles before:
- For maximum crispness, it’s best to buy pickling cucumbers the day they were picked and to ferment them that day too.
- Taste cucumbers before pickling them. If the cucumbers taste bitter, the pickles will be bitter.
- The most fresh, aromatic garlic comes from your local farmer (it’s also a lot easier to peel than supermarket garlic!).
- If you’re looking to avoid unnecessary oils and additives found in pickling spice packages, make up your own recipe like I did!
- If you’re looking to make whey, drain yogurt using a cheesecloth in a bowl for the majority of the day - the liquid at the bottom of the bowl is the whey (and the leftover yogurt is homemade cream cheese!).
- If the lids are getting too tight during fermentation, you can unscrew them to let the gas escape - just don’t take the lid off! Screw them back up after releasing the gas.
- The dill is special for pickling - be sure not to mix it up with the dill commonly found in grocery stores.
- August is the best time to make pickles - that’s when the pickling cucumbers are in season.
(makes 16.5 L)
Pickling spice mix (need to make 2-3 batches for this recipe)
2 tbsp mustard seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 bay leaf torn up
11 1.5L Mason jars
½ bushel pickling cucumbers
- Sea salt brine (¾ cup sea salt + 2 cups boiling water + 12 cups cold water) or
- Whey brine (6 tbsp whey + 1.5 tbsp sea salt + water to fill rest of jar)
Dried chili peppers
Garlic bulbs, peeled
15 bunches flowering dill + stems
Recipe (please disregard the non-sensical numbers. The order of steps to follow are correct.)
- Make brine (see note below)
a. Mix ¾ cup sea salt into 2 cups boiling water. Add approximately 14 cups cold water or
b. Mix 6 tbsp whey with 1.5 tbsp sea salt
- In 1.5 litre jar, put 2 flowering heads of dill, 2 cloves of garlic, 4 tsp. pickling spice, and 2 dried chili peppers.
- Add the cucumbers, fitting them in as tightly as possible (they shrink during the fermentation process), but leaving enough room at the top of the jar for another layer of spices and 1 inch of room between the top of the brine and the lid of the jar.
- On top of the cucumbers, add 1 flowering head of dill, many dill stems slotted down all sides of the jar (for added flavour), 1 clove of garlic, 2 tsp. pickling spice, and 1 dried chili pepper.
- Fill the bottle with either the sea salt or the whey brine, leaving 1 inch of space between the top of the brine and the lid. Make sure that the brine covers the pickles and the spices.
- Close the bottle, but not too tightly.
- Let sit for 5-7 days until bubbles form and the pickles taste the way you like! Then refrigerate to stop/slow the fermentation process.
Adapted from my grandmother’s recipe
Both the sea salt and whey pickles are AMAZING. They are delicious and very crunchy. I let my pickles ferment for 7 days.
*Note: The sea salt brine is enough to make about half the jars. They whey brine recipe is for one jar only.