Salt-brining, or lacto-fermentation, is an ancient practice of preserving foods, especially vegetables. Connecting to another time in food history is super gratifying. These pickles only take 20 minutes to prep and then the flavors ferment over three to seven days.
Special kitchen equipment: One half-gallon-sized jar with a lid, washed with hot soapy water and well rinsed.
Technique tip: Look for uniformly sized Kirby or pickling cucumbers 3- to 4-inches long. Trim the blossom ends from the cucumbers (opposite of stem end) because they contain enzymes that encourage spoilage. Use filtered water that does not contain chlorine. While spoilage is not super common, it does exist, especially at warm temperature. Ideally, fermentation works best in cooler temperatures, so aim for 60 to 70 degrees. If your pickles have pink or fuzzy mold, or simply smell rotten, discard them and start over.
- 2 pounds Kirby or pickling cucumbers
- 1 ½ teaspoons whole coriander seeds
- 1 ½ teaspoons whole caraway seeds
- 1 ½ teaspoons whole yellow mustard seeds
- 1 ½ teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- 6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 10 to 12 dill sprigs, thick stems trimmed
- 3 to 4 bay leaves, preferably Turkish
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 6 cups filtered water
1. Soak cucumbers in ice water for 15 minutes, then drain and trim both ends.
2. In a small bowl, combine the coriander seeds, caraway seeds, mustard seeds and peppercorns. Sprinkle about 1/3 each of the spice mixture, garlic, dill and bay leaves into a half-gallon sized jar or crock.
3. Drain cucumbers and tightly pack half of them into the jar. Top with another 1/3 of the spices, garlic, dill and bay leaves. Pack the remaining cucumbers into the jar and top with the remaining spice mixture, garlic, dill and bay leaves.
4. In a pitcher, combine the salt and water and stir until dissolved. Pour mixture into the jar, covering the ingredients and leaving about 1-inch of space to make room for expansion. You may not need all of the brine. If the cucumbers aren’t tightly packed or float to the top, add a glass disc or clean stone to keep the cucumbers fully submerged. Cover loosely and set the jar into a shallow container to catch any liquid. Transfer the pickles to a cool, dark room.
5. Check the pickles after three days to watch for any bubbling activity. If your lid is screwed on tightly, lift the lid (it will “burp”) everyday to release any excess pressure. The pickles are done when the liquid is a little cloudy and the cucumbers are characteristically tangy. This process may take up to a week.
6. Once ready, move the jar to the fridge and enjoy.