Three Tips for Making Crunchy Lacto-fermented Dill Pickles


Vinegar-brined pickles are one of the most popular and well-known preserved vegetables. They are super acidic, tangy, sometimes spicy, and definitely crunchy.

If you’ve grown up eating vinegar pickles and then begin making and eating fermented pickles, you might be a bit disappointed with mushy pickles. In fact, is a mushy pickle is not a fun pickle, despite how good the flavors are or how healthy the pickle is for you.

So if you are interested in making delicious crunchy lacto-fermented dill pickles full of yummy flavor, try these tips:

  • Add a tannin-containing agent to your pickling jars. This is the most important step in achieving a crunchy pickle so don’t skip it. You could use some black tea, oak leaves, grape leaves, or horseradish leaves. Just be sure to add a few of the larger leaves or a good teaspoon or so of loose leaf tea or a teabag to a half-gallon jar.
  • Ferment at the coolest temperature you can achieve. A fast, hot fermentation can result in a less-than-stellar crunch to a pickle. Try to achieve the coolest temperature you can, even when you are making pickles in the heat of summer. A basement, cool garage, root cellar, or dark cool corner of your home should suffice. The refrigerator is too cool though.
  • Try small whole cucumbers first. These little pickling cucumbers tend to retain their crunch better than a chopped-up larger cucumber. This is probably due to the inner surface area of the larger cucumbers being exposed instead of protected by the tougher outer skins as the small pickling cucumbers would be.
  • Remove the blossom end. The end of the cucumber contains enzymes that soften pickles. Use a knife to remove a thin slice and preserve the firm texture.
  • Puncture the skin. If the cucumber is harvested a bit later in the year or has been on the vine a little longer, it will develop a thicker skin. Use a skewer or paring knife to prick a hole in each cucumber. The brine can penetrate faster and the cucumbers will culture more evenly.

With these tips in mind, you should be able to achieve the crunch that is so desirable in a pickle. 

Why Lacto-fermented Pickles are Superior

Before canning, dilled cucumber pickles were lacto-fermented. There was no canning process (or oodles of cheap vinegar) available to make the vinegar-brined pickles.

Instead, pickles were made in large crocks and stored underground in a cellar or a cave. These crocks were filled with the cucumber harvest, mixed with some herbs and spices, and covered in a salty brine. They were then weighted down to keep the brine above the pickles.

Placed in a cool cellar, the temperature remained consistent and cool enough to create a tangy, bubbly fermented pickle. These pickles were full of enzymes, beneficial organisms, and tart delicious flavor.

They could then be kept for months in the root cellar. Every so often the crock was uncovered, any froth removed from the crock, and the pickles were removed and eaten. The lactic acid and beneficial bacteria would keep these pickles healthy and delicious.

And, of course, the wild grape leaves kept them crunchy!




Fresh Pickling Cucumbers

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