How To Make Pickles

Posted by Binky on 2/23/2017 to How To Homebrew
How To Make Pickles

There are three basic methods to pickling:

Quick Pickles:  Produce being pickled is cleaned, trimmed, and cut or left whole. In some cases, it’s cooked or blanched to preserve colour. Produce is packed in jars, then filled with a heated pickling liquid (usually made up of some kind of vinegar, spices, sugar, and salt).
  • Easy to make, less attentive, requires little effort.
  • Must keep refrigerated if not processing.
  • Typically 2-3 weeks mature, improve with age.
  • Can use calcium chloride (pickle crisp).
  • Acetic acid / Vinegar used for brine.
  • No Probiotics.
Vinegar-Brine:  The intention of this method is the same as the salt brined method—to draw out water from produce. Often, this happens in several stages, with soaking in vinegar brine and salt brine over the course of a few days in cooler temperatures.
  • Includes both Acetic acid, (Vinegar) and salt for the Brine.
  • Salt excretes water from the product but does not ferment.
  • No probiotics 
  • Products is most always processed after packed
  • Requires little effort
  • Can use Calcium Chloride
  • Easy to make!


Lacto-Fermented:   This method is completely different from the previous methods, though a salt water brine is used. Produce is submerged in a salt water brine and left to ferment, often at room temperature. The salt draws liquid out of the produce, and naturally occurring microorganisms digest the sugars. This process forms lactic acid, which lowers the pH and gives a tangy, complex, pickled flavour. Sauerkraut is the classic example of a fermented pickle.


  • Most natural method to pickling - reclaiming food.
  • Requires some attention,  mostly patience.
  • Salt Content, Time and Temperature are the main factors.
  • Production of Probiotics.
  • NO CALCIUM CHLORIDE.
  • Last for months refrigerated or longer processed.
  • Highly seasoned.
What is Lacto-Fermentation?
Lacto-fermentation is a microbial process using beneficial bacteria including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium spp. and other lactic acid bacteria (LAB) (commonly known as probiotics), which thrive in an anaerobic fermenting environment.
A wide variety of beneficial lactic-acid bacteria (LAB) and yeasts are involved in the process of lacto-fermentation, all of which work together to convert raw food into more easily-digestible components, along with releasing and stabilizing nutrients of the food. There are many stages and processes along the way, when converting raw cabbage into sauerkraut, or raw milk into fizzy, tasty kefir. 

An example of just one step includes:  Naturally-present lactic-acid bacteria (LAB), one of which is Lc. mesenteroides, produce lactic and acetic acids that:
  • Lower pH.
  • Produce CO2 (carbon dioxide) which creates a desirable anaerobic environment in the fermenting vessel.
Worth Your Weight in Salt?

We Weight Salt, We never Measure Salt. Things to consider:
  • Salt may contain clay, trace minerals.
  • Salt crystals are different in size.
  • Salts have different moisture content.
Salt helps lactic acid bacteria win the microbial race.  At a certain salt concentration, lactic acid bacteria grow more quickly than other microbes, and have a competitive advantage.  

2% Salinity:  Carrot sticks, shreds, slices; broccoli, cauliflower, pearl onions, green beans (add grape leaves to preserve color), asparagus, green/red peppers deseeded, parsnip, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichoke, zucchini (whole), sliced radish, whole-small radish, whole green tomato, are but a few examples.

3.5% Salinity: Pickled cukes for pickling-varieties such as Kirby or Boston.  Fermented short-term (7-days on-counter, then 2 weeks in fridge) creates "half-sour" - still half-white, somewhat green inside.  More fermentation-time creates evenly-distributed green color and sublime flavor.

10% Salinity:  For those serious about brine-curing meat, crafting authentic feta-cheese, pepper-mashes, curing green olives, authentic fish-sauce, and shrimp-sauce.

Pickle Recipes

Refrigerator Pickles

  • 2 quart kirby cucumbers (approximately 3 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar or white vinegar 5% acidity
  • 1 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons pickling salt
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 teaspoons dill seed
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
Wash jars thoroughly in warm, soapy water. If you plan on making shelf stable pickles, prepare a boiling water bath canner. Put fresh canning jar lids into a small saucepan with 3 inches of water and set to the barest simmer.

Wash and dry kirby cucumbers. Remove blossom end. Cut into chips, spears or leave whole, depending on your preference.

Combine vinegar, water and salt in saucepan and bring to a boil.Equally divide garlic cloves, dill seed, black peppercorns and red chili flakes between jars. Pack prepared cucumbers into jars as tightly as you can without crushing them.Pour the brine into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace (that's the amount of space between the surface of the brine and the rim of the jar).Remove any air bubbles from jars by gently tapping them. You can also use a wooden chopstick or plastic utensil to help remove stubborn bubbles.

Wipe rims and apply lids and bands (don't screw them on too tightly).

If processing jars for shelf stability, lower jars into your processing pot. When water returns to a boil, set a timer for 10 minutes.

When time is up, remove jars from canning pot and allow them to cool. When jars are cool enough to handle, check seals.If you choose not to process your jars, let them cool before putting them into the refrigerator. Do note that your jars may seal during the cooling process. However, without the boiling water bath process, that doesn't mean they're shelf stable. Still refrigerate.

Let pickles rest for at least one week before eating. 

Bread and Butter Pickles

  • 4 cups thickly sliced pickling cucumbers (8 to 10 pickling cucumbers)
  • 1 cup sliced red bell peppers (about 1 small)
  • 1 cup sliced onion (about 1 medium)
  • 2 tablespoons pickling salt
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
Prepare two pint jars and a small canning pot. Combine the sliced cucumbers, bell peppers, onion, and pickling salt in a colander set in a large bowl. Refrigerate for one hour to remove excess liquid. Rinse vegetables and discard liquid.

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a large pot. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the mustard seed, celery seed, red pepper flakes and cloves. Increase the heat to high and bring the brine to a boil.Add the drained vegetables and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes, until all the vegetables in the brine are fully heated through. Using tongs, fill the sterilized jars with the vegetables. Slowly pour the hot brine over the vegetables in each jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Gently tap the jars on a towel-lined countertop to help loosen any bubbles before using a wooden chopstick to dislodge any remaining bubbles. Check the headspace again and add more brine if necessary.Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Let these pickles cure for at least 48 hours before eating. 

Small Batch Kraut

  • 1 small cabbage (approximately 2 pounds)
  • 2% salt brine
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
Remove core from cabbage. Cut in half and finely shred.

Place cut cabbage in your crock or jars and pour brine over it. Be sure to mix.When the volume of cabbage appears to have reduced by half, add the caraways seeds and work them in.

Pack the salted cabbage into the quart jar in layers, firmly pressing it down each time before adding more (the entire 2 pounds of cabbage should fit into a quart jar).

Press cabbage down firmly in the jar, so that liquid bubbles up over the surface of the jar.or add the weights if using a crock.

Loosely cap the jar and place it in a cool, dark spot.

Check every other day, removing any bloom and pressing cabbage down if it has floated above the liquid (be warned, it will be a bit stinky. That’s normal)

After two weeks, taste the sauerkraut. If you like the flavor, place the jar in the refrigerator. If you want something a bit stronger, let it continue to ferment until it pleases you.

Lacto Fermented Pickles

  • 2 quarts of 3.5% salt brine.4-6 grape, oak, or horseradish leaves
  • 6-9 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 large heads of dill
  • Spices to taste: black peppercorns, red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, etc. (Secret ingredient: for an extra bite, add a few strips of fresh horseradish to the spice mix!)
  • Enough pickling cucumbers to fill a ½-gallon jar

Make a brine in a half-gallon jar add a couple of the tannin-containing leaves, a few cloves of garlic, the heads of dill, and ? of the spices.

Pack half of the cucumbers tightly on top of the spices. (The longest ones work best at the bottom.)

Repeat a layer of leaves, garlic, and spices. Add another tightly packed layer of cucumbers and top them off with more garlic and spices.

Pour the brine over the pickles, leaving 1-2 inches of headspace. Place another tannin-containing leaf on top of the pickles as a cover between the pickles and the surface of the brine. Use a fermentation weight to keep the pickles under the liquid, if necessary.

Ferment at room temperature (60-70°F is preferred) until desired flavor and texture are achieved. If using a tight lid, burp daily to release excess pressure. The brine should turn cloudy and bubbly, and the pickles should taste sour when done.

Eat right away, or store in a refrigerator or root cellar for months and enjoy them all winter long.

Pickle Facts

The so-called "kosher" pickle is not necessarily kosher in the sense that it complies with Jewish food laws. It is called kosher because of its flavor profile made popular by New York’s Jewish pickle makers, known for their natural salt-brined pickles heavily seasoned with dill and garlic. So any pickle that is seasoned in the same fashion is referred to as a kosher dill.

People have been eating pickles ever since the Mesopotamians started making them way back in 2400 B.C.E.

The Department of Agriculture estimates that the average American eats 8.5 lbs of pickles a year.

A town in Michigan that claims to be the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World holds an annual pickle parade led by the Grand Dillmeister.

In Connecticut in order for a pickle to officially be considered a pickle, it must bounce.

The cucumber is a fruit, so technically the pickle is, too.

“Pickle” comes from the Middle English pikel, meaning “a spicy gravy served with meat.”

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