How to make crunchy homemade pickles

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Ahhh summertime! Time for outdoor fun-in-the-sun, gardening and barbecues. And crunchy, tangy, cool pickles! It's a great time to start preserving the garden bounty that is bursting forth. If you don't have a garden, you can get everything you need from your local farmers' market. Homemade fermented pickles are one of the easiest places to start. Here is a recipe that I love, and my kids devour. 

Per one quart canning jar, you will need:

Small fresh firm pickling cucumbers, usually 3 - 4 will fill a jar. It is tempting to use slicing cukes, but resist the urge! The slicers are prone to becoming mushy, which defeats the whole point of a crunchy pickle! Starting with the freshest, firmest cukes you can get your hands on is the single most important step to crunchy pickles. 

Filtered water to cover the cukes

2 tablespoons non-iodized sea salt (I like Real Salt brand salt)

Optional: Grape leaves or horseradish leaves to  add tannins which help make crunchier pickles

Also optional: You can add a clove or two of fresh garlic, a bay leaf, and/or some fresh dill. But simple is great too!

Here's what you do:

  • Rinse the cukes and place in the jar.
  • Cover with water, making sure the entire cukes are covered and leave about an inch from the top of the jar.
  • Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in a little hot water and add to the jar,
  • Add grape or horseradish leaves. and any other flavorings.
  • Screw a metal 2-piece lid on till just tight.
  • Wait a week before transferring to the fridge, where they will keep for 3 - 4 months. assuming they don't get devoured before that!

The brine is delicious and super good for you to drink when the pickles are all gone. Or use it to inoculate your next batch of fermented goodness. 

For first-time fermenters, here are some things to keep in mind:

1) The brine will get cloudy. That's perfectly normal.

2) The brine may fizz. That's a sign that the friendly bacteria are working their magic on the pickles! 

3) Jars can leak. I learned this the hard way. The carbon dioxide created by the fermentation process can cause expansion and the jars to leak. this is also perfectly normal, and can be avoided by not over-filling the jars. Just to be safe, I always put my jars on a plate or in a pie dish to catch any overflow. 

4) These pickles will have a pleasant sour taste, unlike vinegar-pickled cucumbers. The sour flavor is a sign of the health benefits, and it's delicious! 

Want to learn more about the many benefits of eating fermented vegetables? check out this post for all the details. Enjoy!