One of the easiest and healthiest ways to preserve cucumbers is by fermentation. Fermented pickles are salty and sour and completely delicious! A perfect summer snack or sliced into coins on a sandwich. Come into my kitchen with me and learn how to make lacto-fermented pickles.
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What is lacto-fermentation?
Lacto-fermentation is a salt-based fermentation for foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and other vegetables. Lactic acid bacteria break down the natural sugars in the food which creates carbon dioxide and encourages more lactic acid production. This eliminates the oxygen and prevents other microorganisms from forming. The alcohol and acid that is produced is what preserves the food.
Fermentation usually takes from a few days up to months depending on what you are fermenting. Once the ferment is finished the product is stored in a cool place such as a refrigerator to slow down the fermentation and prevent spoilage.
Is fermenting healthy?
Yes! Fermenting food actually causes the nutrients in the foods to be more easily absorbed by your body and provides an environment that encourages growth of probiotics.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help grow and maintain your gut health. Basically, by eating fermented foods you are boosting your immune system so that you are more able to fight off sicknesses.
What variety of pickle do you use?
Any pickling cucumber variety will do well for the fermentation process. My favorite is the Boston Pickling Cucumber from Baker Creek Seed Company.
What do You need?
Masontops Pickle Pipes Airlock Fermentation lids: These lids are designed to let your ferments “burp” during the fermenting process. Pressure builds up from the carbon dioxide which can pop the lid off or even crack the glass jar. The airlock lids provide a one-way waterless valve to automatically vent the gas.
The lids do not allow oxygen to get back into the jar which ensures a good ferment. I have had mine for three years and I love them. They work well and are easy to clean and store.
Glass fermenting weights: The glass weights are designed to weigh down the food to keep it submerged in the salt brine. It is an extra safety feature to make sure your food does not mold and spoil. I really like the glass knobs in the middle because they allow you to grip the glass weight and pull it out of the jar with ease.
Sea salt: Sea salt is best to use for fermenting because it is unrefined and is full of natural vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Other options include pickling salt or kosher salt. I use Pink Himalayan Sea Salt from Azure Standard.
Glass jars and metal rings: Use ball canning jars in pint, quart, or half gallon size. You will also need canning rings to hold the silicone pipe in place.
Filtered Water: Use distilled or filtered water for all ferments. Chlorine and fluoride can affect the microorganisms in your ferments by hindering the growth of the good bacteria. A really good water filter is Berkey Water Filter.
How to Make Fermented Pickles
After harvesting your cucumbers rinse them off in water and cut the ends off.
Pack the cucumbers into a half gallon glass jar.
Make the Brine
In a quart size glass jar pour in 4 cups of filtered water and add 4 tbsp sea salt. Stir to dissolve. A different process that works just as well is add 4 tbsp. sea salt right onto the cucumbers in the gallon jar then pour the water on top. Just make sure that all the salt gets into the water.
Place the glass weight on top of the cucumbers and push down so that the weight stays in place and all of the cucumbers are submerged under the water. Place the pickle pipe on top of the jar, place the metal ring on the jar and screw it on tightly.
Place the jar in an out of the way place to ferment for 7-14 days. Make sure your jar is not in direct sunlight. You may want to put a glass dish under the jar to catch any brine that may come out of the jar during fermentation.
How do you know when the pickles are finished?
The brine will have little bubbles that float to the top in the first few days of fermenting. After about 5 days or so the brine will become cloudy. This is exactly what you want because it means that the good bacteria are doing their jobs. The cucumbers will also turn a pale green and will be softer but not mushy.
If you are still unsure you can use a PH testing kit to check the ph levels of your brine. The level should be below 4.6.
When fermenting goes wrong
When I first started fermenting vegetables, I was terrified that I was going to poison my family by doing something wrong. I will tell you, you will know if something is wrong! It will be easy to tell.
White, pink, or black mold is a definite sign that something went wrong. A pungent smell that makes you want to gag or a slimy film on the vegetables. When in doubt, throw it out!
Don’t be discouraged if something goes wrong. You are learning so just try again! Soon you will be fermenting all kinds of things.
Other Post you may enjoy:
- 8-15 Whole Pickling Cucumbers
- 4 tbsp Sea Salt
- 4 cups Filtered Water
- Gently wash the cucumbers under cold water. Pack the cucumbers into a half gallon size glass jar. Add 4 tbsp. of sea salt into the jar of cucumbers.Add 4 cups of filtered. water. Make sure all of the salt goes into the water.Place the glass weight on top of the cucumbers. Push into place ensuring that all the cucumbers are submerged under water.Put on the silicone pickling pipe and screw on the ring.Put the jar in an undisturbed area out of direct sunlight and heat for 7-14 days. After 7 days taste the brine if it is fermented to your liking or check the brine with a ph tester. The ph should be below 4.6Once the fermentation is complete store in the refrigerator to stop and further fermenting. Enjoy!