Oh hey you. How's your July been going?
Is it better now that you have five gallons of fermented pickles curing in your disgusting-but-soon-to-be-awesome root cellar? Ya. Me too.
On a quick road trip to visit family near the Canadian border this past week, I just so happened to visit a little organic roadside stand that sent me into nirvana.
Bouquets of zinnias were strewn about the farm… succulents were trailing off the potting tables… early cherry tomatoes were lined up in little baskets… and *cue the angels to start singing* boxes of fresh pickling cucumbers were ready for the taking.
I hear what you're saying. But Shaye! Didn't you plan ahead? Don't you have a garden? Surely you remembered that you'd want to have a ton of pickles to put up so I'm sure you remembered to plan your cucumber plants accordingly?
Psh. Ya, ya. I know. Every year I think I've planted enough. But here's the thing about cucumber plants: They only put off so many cucumbers at one time. So even though I was collecting little wee cucumbers each day from my dozen plants, it still wasn't enough to give me a big-Daddy amount. So when I saw the box of pickling cucumbers, I bought the box of pickling cucumbers. Okay?! Quit judging. I did it. I had a double espresso before I went. Ain't no going back now.
I arrived back on the farm with 25 pounds of pickling cucumbers in tow and I knew, I knew, that this year I wanted to do it differently. In years past, I've done the vinegar/water canning ritual over and over and over again. And it's fun, don't get me wrong. But we've been working diligently on doing things intentionally and dangit, pickles are included in that. I've yearned so desperately to be like Ruth from Victorian Farm when she lines her crocks of ferments into her root cellar. The pickles mingle together, all winter long, being disturbed in their crock only when someone visits the root cellar room and scoops out a few into a bowl to eat with their Sunday roast. Swoon.
To top of the fact that these are actually easier than vinegar pickles, they also feed your gut big time. Just like sauerkraut, these pickles are fermented in a salt brine. The salt wards off the growth of bad bacteria while the cultures develop. Then, the good bacteria and cultures grow and florish. When you eat the pickles, you're giving your body a huge boost! How wonderfully awesome is that.
(If video is more your thing, I did this one just for you. For those who prefer a recipe, proceed below.)
Barrel Fermented Pickles
You will need:
- Pickling cucumbers
- Sea salt
- Fresh dill
- Garlic cloves
- Grape leaves (these keep the pickles crisp)
2. Fill the crock half full of cucumbers before laying in a few sprigs of fresh dill, a clove of garlic, a chunk of onion, a pinch of peppercorns, and a few grape leaves. Stop it. I can hear you complaining. Yes, I realize this is vague – but that's okay. They're your pickles and you can spice them with whatever you like! I haven't noticed a bit enough difference between using different measurements of spices to waste the time being precise about it all.
3. Fill a quart jar with filtered water and 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt. Stir to dissolve the salt and pour this over the cucumbers. Continue to fill the quart jar with this same water and salt mixture, pouring it over the cucumbers each time, until the crock is full and the cucumbers can be completely submerged in the liquid.
4. Place a crock weight (or plate if you don't have one) over the top of the pickles so that they remain completely submerged during the course of their fermentation. You can also layer on some grape leaves to help protect the cucumbers from oxygen as well.
Allow the pickles to ferment on your countertop for 3-5 days, checking each day for mold. So long as the cucumbers remain submerged in the brine, they will be fine – have no fear! Once they are seasoned and fermented to your taste, move the crock to cold storage (or your refrigerator). The pickles will keep through the winter if kept cold.
Fermented pickles shouldn't scare you. Are you scared? Don't be. It's not complicated. Once you practice a few ferments, you'll get the hang of how they should look, smell, and work.
Also, don't be scared that your kids won't eat these. They're delicious. I cannot keep my kids out of them which is (super) annoying because they're for the winter, obviously. Fresh cucumbers in the summer. Fermented pickles in the winter. Simple concept. Harder execution when there are four little mouths around here that are acclimated to eating delicious fermented foods.
In another fabulous news, Juliette is now walking. Y'all, my baby is walking. I love it. I don't want to change a second of it.
It's a friggin' madhouse around here. But we've got our babies. And fermented pickles. So it's alllllll good.
Barrel Fermented Pickles
- Pickling cucumbers
- Sea salt
- Fresh dill
- Garlic cloves
- Grape leaves these keep the pickles crisp
- Fermentation barrel or crock
- Pick through the cucumbers and remove any that are moldy, squishy, or damaged. Only the best can make it into the crock, man. You can gently rinse them in water, if you need to remove dirt or debris.
- Fill the crock half full of cucumbers before laying in a few sprigs of fresh dill, a clove of garlic, a chunk of onion, a pinch of peppercorns, and a few grape leaves. Stop it. I can hear you complaining. Yes, I realize this is vague – but that’s okay. They’re your pickles and you can spice them with whatever you like! I haven’t noticed a bit enough difference between using different measurements of spices to waste the time being precise about it all.
- Fill a quart jar with filtered water and 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt. Stir to dissolve the salt and pour this over the cucumbers. Continue to fill the quart jar with this same water and salt mixture, pouring it over the cucumbers each time, until the crock is full and the cucumbers can be completely submerged in the liquid.
- Place a crock weight (or plate if you don’t have one) over the top of the pickles so that they remain completely submerged during the course of their fermentation. You can also layer on some grape leaves to help protect the cucumbers from oxygen as well.
More Pickling and Fermenting Recipes:
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I really prefer measurements like this. I like to “wing it” most of the time in life ?
I made these. They got cloudy. Are they ok???
Cloudy is good!
Question…..a couple of my cukes popped up and I yanked em outa there so I am hoping the whole 3
30 gallon batch won’t go bad. When I take my plate out to rinse the scum off, at that point can I replace the original grape leaves with fresh grape leaves? I have been making barrels of these for years but I have never had so much scum and cukes popping up.
Shaye, I do have a question. You say use filtered water. I have spring water. Would that be ok to use? Thanks
the use of spring water is feasible, just do not use chlorinated tap water
Thank you so much!
My mother and aunt also both made fermented pickles this year.
I followed your recipe and all of them felt that mine were the absolute best.
They now have your recipe for next year!
Crock wont fit in my refrigerator, can I transfer the pickles to jars??
Cathy J Kelley
Cold storage – can they be removed from the crock placed in mason jars and stored in the refrigerator? I will NEED my crock for sauerkraut later in the fall.
Thanks for your wonderful work.
Yes, once you’ve achieved the desired sourness, you should refrigerate the pickles. Mason jars are good, but I’d recommend plastic lids, since pickle juice tends to corrode metal lids and rings.
I had a lot of yeast and wondering if I should make new brine when moving them to jars?
I have so badly wanted to do this! My previous attempt at fermenting pickles turned into a moldy mess, so I have been afraid to try again. Thanks for your clear instructions, I may give it another shot!
I hope you did try them again. My first attempt last summer was a disaster. These came out great.
I want to be like Ruth of Victorian Farm too! Love that show.
Hi Shaye. I also use both methods when preserving my cukes. You may like to know that you can substitute oak leaves for the grape leaves. Perhaps you know that already. Grape leaves are hard to come by here in Western PA, but we have oak trees everywhere. They work the same.
This is great. I was just thinking where in the world am I going to get fresh grape leaves? But oaks, I live in MN, oaks I have! Thanks!
You can also use black tea leaves. It is really the tannins you are after so your pickles don’t get mushy. I’m in Minnesota too : )
How do you use the black tea leaves?
BlackBerry leaves work well also!
I’ve used oak and blackcurrant leaves combo, hoping for a crunchy success
Do you think maple leaves would work? Ohio girl here!
I just watched. ‘Mary’s Nest’ channel on YouTube called, ‘How to Make Crisp Lacto Fermented Pickles’, she said she has used 3 things that have the tannins needed to make sure your pickles come out crisp. They were grape leaves, oak leaves
or 1 bag of tea.
Doesn’t matter if it’s decaf or regular, it won’t affect the the taste or color.
Hi, I can’t wait to try making these pickles, our garden is FULL of cukes right now! What kind of grape leaf do you use? My in-laws have a grape vine (with green grapes), do I just cut leaves off and use them? OR are these a specific type…?
Grape leaves of any kind. You can also use horseradish leaves.
You can use rasberry leaves and they work awesome. Have tannins in
Do the pickles have to stay in the crock? I have a dumb fridge I won’t be able to put anything in if my crock is in there!
I can’t wait to hear how you make your cellar less disgusting… I have a gross one too and I’m at a loss about how to make it cleaner and less scary. Right now I don’t use it much because I don’t like going down there…
I was wondering if they are supposed to end up with a mild slime? New to fermenting and followed this recipe to a T including the grape leaves… the water is cloudy (which I understand is fine) but the water is slimy as are the pickles. ??? Is it supposed to do that or did I mess up somehow?
I have used your From Scratch cookbook so much, the pages are sticking together. Sometimes I get it out and read a bit, just to feel encouraged and to belly laugh (you’re humor is AWESOME). Now, I see I can order more of your creations…well, guess I’ll have to have a tiny house just for my book collection! Seriously, thank you, thank you, thank you. You rock!
People remember this, You don’t have to buy a crock for fermentation. crocks are big and bulky. I use a small simple lining to a crock pot with the lid. Or just use a recycled extra large container that can hold 10 quarts.
This information is pure gold, Jason. Thank you!!!
Jason – I would love to use my crock pots that I have here laying around. What kinds of lining options are you suggesting? Just anything that will hold the food down in the water? Ideas? Very eager to put all the cukes to use!
He means just use the inside part of the crockpot, just the ceramic part. It is also referred to as the liner. Not the metal electric part.
Why is there no vinegar in this recipe? I thought all pickles had vinegar.
V Isabelle Haines
Vinegar pickles are fairly modern (ish)! Fermented pickles are the way foods used to be preserved before modern canning
This will be my 1st time trying to make these. I’m just trying to get it right. How important is it to use a crock or fermentation barrel?
Ate tons of these when I was a kid…I’m gonna make some it’s year!!!
But can I use canning salt in stead of sea salt?
I want to be able to can the pickles after they are done. Any suggestions or tips you can help me with? Can I slice them before I can them?
Thanks for any help you can give me!
I would suggest not canning them. Once they are canned in hot water they lose their probiotic goodness. If you have a cold room or cellar that is cool or a second fridge, just put them in jars no need to can them.
When you say canning them I envision them going into jars then a hot water canner. That in itself will make your cucumbers soft.
How long does the fermentation process take?
Once fermented will these last in a root cellar?
Can you tell me if I can buy jarred grape leaves to use as a substitute to fresh? They are hard to find and everything I’ve read grape leaves are the way to go.
Can I slice my cukes before fermentation? Will it work the same?
Matthew J Hadis
First time using this recipe was last week. I’ve been ‘sampling’ every day after the first 3 days or so. These are the very best pickles I’ve ever eaten. SERIOUSLY! Will continue making these addictive little cukes for YEARS to come now…
Big question is that since I use a 10 gallon crock, is it a bad idea to reuse the pickling liquid for a second batch or should I dump it all out and start again with fresh pickling liquid? I don’t think I’d want to try for thirds but wonder if each batch of pickles require a fresh crock of salt water/spices/etc?
Can I use squash leave instead of grape leaves to cover the pickles in the crock? Got no grapes , got squash 🤷🏻♂️
I opened my crock a day after the water seal broke and I have a white film of mold? on the top. Do I need to throw it out or can I rinse and rebrine them for the fridge?
It’s fine! The mold is just the surface. As long as the pickles are submerged, they’ll stay fine.
How do we take the pickles out of there was mold on the top of the brine?
Jessica L Small
I had a friend of a friend make their pickles this way, i believe. I was given the pickles a year after they were made, had never been refrigerated, i believe the friend had tried them at some point because the lid was loose. BUT these were the best pickles ive had in my life! Sweet and crunchy and perfect!
I am an on lad woman and been making these for years I use a cup of salt to a gallon of water.
Granny added salt until an egg would float.
Thanks for this recipe. I think it’s the one I’ve been looking for! It’s 90 degrees during a heat wave when my cucumbers decided to produce quite a bit but not enough to fill my crock like you have pictured. I am using a large crock pot crock which fit nicely into my larger cooler. I put it in there to keep it at 70ish degrees since even my basement seems warm. I come back with my results!
I can’t seem to find any place that sells grape or oak leaves. Do you know of a place online you can order from?
I was just wondering if grape leaves in a jar from the grocery store would work the same as fresh grape leaves for making your pickles crisp. Thank you.
I am making these now. Thank you for sharing!
How long will they last in the fridge?
I can’t wait to try this recipe! Where can I find grape leaves? My local grocer doesn’t carry them.
I’ve been wanting to try doing this for a year. I picked up my crock tonight and went to town. I can not wait to try these. Thanks so much for sharing your method. This is my kind of recipe!!
Can you use alum instead of grape leaves?
My pickles are fermented, but I would like them a little more sour. Can I put a bit of vinegar in them before I store them in the fridg?
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Do you have to use a crock
This recipe I just what I was looking for! I making my second batch. I didn’t have enough to use my sauerkraut crock to I used the insert to a crockpot. It was perfect AND it fit in the fridge til I needed it again.
I have seen a few recipes for pickles and most suggested removing the blossom end be for canning. Does this hold true for this recipe?
Hello! I am trying to ferment my pickles and I used your recipe and after a week of fermenting I have cloudy water, some whitish bubbles and a little green mold floating on top. How can I tell they are successful and don’t have botulism? Can I test it some how? Thanks!
Is it important to completely fill the crock pot with the brine if the cucumbers only come a quarter of the way up? Or can I just put in enough to submerge them?