Homemade Dill Pickles
Ok, I love making homemade dill pickles at home. Well, my husband is often the one that actually makes them, and sometimes he adds onion because he enjoys that (as in the photo below) – but when I make them I just do cucumbers.
Here is what they look like on Day 1 BTW:
This way of making pickles is definitely one of those ‘earthy-crunchy’ things, where we do Lacto-fermentation.
Instead of using vinegar and boiling/canning the way many folks do – “lacto fermentation” is where you let it “ferment” naturally – resulting in a tangy pickle with all sorts of awesome enzymes – raw foodie stuff.
So, you don’t cook ‘em at all – they stay in the jar, and each day, you go and “burp” the bottle to let the gasses out – and after about 5 – 7 days or so, you have natural pickles that I’m told are REALLY good for you.
That same goes for making sauerkraut (which I don’t really like if it’s commercially prepared). But you can shred cabbage and let it “lacto ferment” and it also results in a good gut-healthy sauerkraut.
Also, “kim chee” – if done without msg and cooking – is also really healthy. Again, pro-biotics and that stuff…
LET’S MAKE SOME PICKLES!
In preparation, you can use as much spice as you like. Experiment a little to come up with the right balance of flavors for your taste buds.
One thing you will need is a source of either grape or oak leaves. Since I live up north, I have neighbors with both, and they let me use as many leaves as I want (they get pickles in return!). This is for the tannin. I’m told that this helps keep the pickles crisp, and it seems to work!
Again, you can use as much of the spices as you like, but here’s the general recipe for a gallon jar. Use small pickling cukes (if they are too big it’s just not the same).
BRINE: Boil up about 2 quarts of clean water (use bottled if your tap water is treated) and 3 heaping tablespoons of canning salt or any sale that does NOT have additives (notice the typical table salt these days has additives). Some people use more salt (4-5 tablespoons), but for me, it’s way too salty. 3 Tablespoons seems to work fine for me, and it’s not overly salty. Be sure to let the brine water cool to room temperature.
PREPARE YOUR SPICES: I use dill seed, peppercorns, mustard seed, and whole cloves. Make sure you have about 3 equal portions of each spice since you are putting them in layers – the bottom, middle, and the top.
PREPARE YOUR HERBS: I gather fresh dill leaves and dill heads, as well as a few cloves of garlic – again, enough to divide between 3 layers.
PREPARE THE PICKLES:
- I start by cleaning my jars, and then swooshing some boiling water in them to make them as clean as possible.
- At the bottom of a glass gallon jar, put a few grape or oak leaves – I put about 3.
- Put about a teaspoon (or more to taste) EACH of Dill Seed (we go heavy on the dill seed), peppercorns, mustard seed, whole cloves. If you like spicy pickles, you can add red pepper.
- Crush open a couple cloves of garlic and add them to the layer.
- Add some fresh dill if you like.
- Now, PACK a couple of layers of cukes – fill about half the jar.
- Make another layer of leaves and spices.
- Pack the rest of the jar w/ cukes to about an inch and a half below the top.
- Put in another layer of spices, and then TOP it with a couple of leaves.
- Pour in the Brine and make sure that it COMPLETELY covers the leaves. Keep about an inch of air space above the liquid to the lid.
- Cap the jar and put in a dark, cool spot. We use the basement. Because you may have some liquid escape over the course of the next few days due to the fermentation, you might want to put the jars on top of something to keep the liquid from getting on your floor or shelves.
WATCH IT HAPPEN:
- Within a day you should start to see a little bubbling and cloudiness.
- Regularly “Burp” the jar to release any built up pressure and re-tighten the lid.
- Do this daily, and keep watching.
- After 5-7 days you should have a fairly cloudy mix. We usually wait 7 days.
- Once you’ve determined that they’re ready, store them in the refrigerator. You can keep them in the liquid, and they will keep just fine – I don’t know how long they’ll keep, because we eat them so fast.
- I don’t know the science behind it, but I’m told that once you refrigerate them, the fermentation stops. I can’t say for sure! I do know that the longer we let them ferment, the stronger they get – and 5-7 days seems to be about right for us.