Wild Fermented Dill Pickles

by Kaitlynn Fenley
a jar of cucumbers with pickling spices and onions. A pitcher of water is puring water into the jar.

I’m sharing our exact recipe for our Cultured Guru Fermented Dill Pickles with you! Fermented cucumbers are wonderful for gut health. They’re packed with probiotics, fiber, and beneficial vitamins and minerals. Cucumber fermentation is one of the quicker fermentation projects, so these will be ready to eat in just two weeks!

a jar of pickling cucumbers with onions, salt and spices mixed in

How to Choose a Good Cucumber

There are two types of cucumbers I suggest using to ferment your own pickles. The first is English cucumbers, the long cucumbers normally sold tightly wrapped in plastic. The second is pickling cucumbers, the shorter, bumpy, lighter green cucumbers.

Do not use slicing cucumbers for fermentation. These are the very smooth, dark green cucumbers. They’re usually fat and long. Most slicing cucumbers will turn into a soggy mess through the fermentation process. Slicing cucumbers are also normally wax-coated, which disrupts the fermentation process.

Heres my checklist for choosing good cucumbers:

  1. Density: The cucumber should feel heavy like it is hydrated and has turgor pressure. It should not feel hollow, like yellow squash, if you tap your finger against it.
  2. Check for surface mold: Look for indentions and soft spots in the cucumbers. You do not want to buy a cucumber that is squishy. Cucumbers that are close to molding will have dark, small, circular indentions or black “pocks” on the surface.
  3. Small is Better: The bigger the diameter of the cucumber, the soggier your pickles will be. If buying English cucumbers, look for one with a smaller diameter. If you are buying pickling cucumbers, go for the smaller dainty cucumbers.
  4. Color: Pickling cucumbers should be predominately green with streaks of yellowish-green. English cucumbers should be a solid medium green color.

Fermented Pickle Benefits

Have you ever heard of GABA? It stands for Gamma-aminobutyric acid. It is a naturally occurring, non-protein, amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain. GABA is studied and produced for its multitude of benefits like:

  • relieving anxiety
  • improving mood
  • inhibition of cancer cell proliferation
  • reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • aiding in attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) treatment
  • lean muscle growth
  • stabilizing blood pressure
  • relieving muscle pain

Well, it turns out that GABA is produced in multitudes by microorganisms during lactic acid fermentation of vegetables! This is especially true in fermented cucumbers. North Carolina State University USDA extension even studied our Cultured Guru Fermented Dill Pickles for GABA research. Biologically synthesized GABA is more usable by the human body than chemically synthesized GABA. So if you’re feeling like you need a mental wellness boost, eat some fermented pickles.

a jar of pickling cucumbers on counter top with red onions, salt and pickling spices mixed in.

Probiotic Bacteria in Fermented Pickles

Cucumbers naturally have a lot of Lactobacillus plantarum on their surface. This means that cucumbers ferment a little faster than other vegetables. While cabbage takes four weeks to ferment, pickles take about two weeks. You can ferment pickles for four weeks, though, for extra sour flavor. This abundance of Lactobacillus makes fermented pickles wonderful for gut health.

Soggy Pickles?

Cucumbers are subject to sogginess when fermented. Since the inside of a cucumber is mostly water, when cucumbers are fermented, Leuconostoc bacteria in stage two of the fermentation can break down the cucumber structure in excess causing soggy pickles. To help prevent sogginess, start with cold cucumbers. You can also add in bay leaves, sencha green tea leaves, and grape leaves for tannins. You can also try adding calcium chloride salt to pickles, which is very effective at keeping things crunchy. (Some sources of calcium chloride are natural from limestone… and some sources are chemically produced. I suggest doing your own research on this salt and deciding for yourself if you’d like it in your food). The most immediate fix for soggy pickles is to use a 3 to 4% total salt concentration.

The slicing impacts how the pickles hold up during fermentation too. You should always remove the ends of cucumbers, and do not include the ends in the fermentation. The blossom end of cucumbers contains enzymes that can also soften the cucumbers. You can try a ripple cut using a ripple blade on a mandolin, or try fermenting pickle spears instead of pickle chips.

Supplies to Ferment Vegetables at Home

For this recipe, you will also need pickle spices. CLICK HERE for My Easy Homemade Dill Pickle Spice Blend Recipe

Mastering Fermented Foods

If you’re going to master fermentation you’ll need to use weight measurements for your fermentation ingredients. That means you need a kitchen scale. In order to select for the best probiotic bacteria (the ones that are actually beneficial) in your ferments, you must weigh salt to create a specific salt concentration.Weighing salt is the only way to create a salt concentration that will select only probiotic microbes to thrive. You can read more about why you must weigh your salt here.

We recommend this scale for weighing ingredients and salt. You can also get a food scale for cheap at target or Walmart.

Why Does Garlic Turn Blue in Fermented Vegetables?

Who has seen vibrant turquoise garlic in their fermented vegetables before? This is completely normal and safe to eat!

Garlic contains an odorless sulfur compound called alliin and an enzyme called alliinase. When we mince or crush a piece of garlic, the alliin and alliinase combine to create an organosulphate compound called allicin.
Allicin is what gives garlic its delicious aromatic garlicky flavor.

When garlic is combined with an acid, like the microbial-produced lactic acid in fermentation, the allicin reacts with amino acids in the garlic creating carbon-nitrogen compounds called pyrroles. Pyrroles can combine to form polypyrroles, which results in blue and green hues! Polypyrroles made up of four pyrroles shows as a green color and those made up of three pyrroles show as blue.

Fermented Pickles Recipe Tips

During the first few days of fermentation: carbon dioxide and bubbles will be produced. Sometimes jars will become very full of liquid, and this liquid can seep out. 

If using a standard mason jar lid: remove the lid and tamper everything back down using a gloved hand, tamper, or spoon. Make sure everything is still submerged below the brine. 

If using a silicone airlock lid: If liquid comes out of the top of the lid, you can remove the lid and tamper everything back down, or you can leave the lid on and just rinse the top off in the sink. 

Always Trust your sense of smell

Fermented cucumbers should smell pleasantly sour and more smooth than a vinegar pickle. Never eat fermented vegetables that smell repulsive or like alcohol. 

Never eat anything that has mold growing on it

By following directions you should not encounter this problem. Note that most “vine-growing” vegetables that are wild fermented will have something called pellicle growth. This is completely normal for vine growing vegetables as long as it does not look furry, pink, blue, black, green, or magenta.

A safe pickle pellicle is normally opaque, off white, and kind of crinkly. If you have surface growth like this it’s a harmless mixed colony of wild yeasts. It’s not “mold”…you can skim it off the top and still eat your pickles. See the two pictures below as a reference for what a normal pickle pellicle looks like.

This type of surface growth is also common when spices float and sit on the surface of the brine. If using dry spices in pickles you can avoid this easily. Just put the spices in a small piece of cheese cloth and tie it closed. Nestle the little spice pouch at the bottom the the jar, under the cucumbers. By doing this, you will still get all the flavor from the spices, without anything floating.

Taste test at two weeks

If you prefer the pickles to be more tart and sour, let them ferment for another week.

Got soggy pickles?  See the paragraph on soggy pickles above. You can try using more bay leaves and grape leaves or try adding calcium chloride to your pickles. You can also try different slicing techniques. A ripple cut pickle holds up better than a straight sliced pickle. You can also try fermenting pickle spears, which hold up even better than pickle chip slices.

What Temperature Should I Keep My Fermented Foods At?

Keep your fermenting pickles at a temperature between 70-80 degrees F. Keep out of direct sunlight

How Long Should I Ferment Pickles For?  

After 2 weeks, remove the fermentation weight and smell and taste test. Your fermented pickles should smell pleasantly sour. They should taste tart like a smoother version of a vinegar pickle.

Do I Need to Refrigerate My Fermented Pickles? 

After fermenting for at least two weeks, place a regular mason jar lid on the jar and refrigerate. Consume within 6 months for full probiotic benefits

close up of dill pickles fermenting inside of a mason jar.

Fermented Pickles Timeline

We tracked our fermented pickles throughout the fermentation process. By checking the progress of microbial stages with our handy microscope and differential stains, we have provided you with this accurate timeline. If you follow our recipe and directions, your timeline for fermented zucchini should approximately match ours! 

24 – 72 hours: All contents in the jar should be submerged beneath the brine. At this time there are still Gram negative bacteria and possible pathogens present. 
  
 72 hours – 7 days: After 72 hours you should start to see lots of bubbles being produced. This is the stage in which you will burp the jar if you are using a standard sealing lid. This is when the ferment enters stage two of vegetable fermentation. Leuconostoc bacteria begin to thrive and produce a lot of carbon dioxide and acetic acid. Gram negative organisms die off during this time. 

7 – 12 days: The bubbles in the brine will decrease, as the ferment leaves stage two and enters stage three. The mixture will become cloudy and start to develop a pleasantly sour smell. Lactobacillus species are most abundant during this time period.

12 – 14 days: Lactobacillus make up the majority or all of the microbial population. They produce copious amounts of lactic acid, and make the ferment smell even more pleasantly sour. This is the time in which the vegetable mixture becomes preserved. This is when you want to smell and taste test.

Print

Fermented Dill Pickles

I’m sharing our exact recipe for our Cultured Guru Fermented Dill Pickles with you! Fermented cucumbers are wonderful for gut health. They’re packed with probiotics, fiber, and beneficial vitamins and minerals. Cucumber fermentation is one of the quicker fermentation projects, so these will be ready to eat in just two weeks!

  • Author: Kaitlynn Fenley
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 16 Ounces
  • Category: Fermented Foods
  • Method: Fermentation
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

  • 200 grams of pickling cucumbers (about 1-2 pickling cucumbers)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (or a few crushed garlic cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon onion, minced
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 200 grams filtered water
  • 12 grams unrefined sea salt

Instructions

  1. Wash all of your fermentation equipment (jar, weight and lid)
  2. Wash your pickling cucumbers in cool water.
  3. Slice your cucumbers. You can slice them in spears or chips. Just make sure you are slicing thick enough. Slices should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  4. Place your kitchen scale on the counter. Turn it on and set it to weigh in grams.
  5. Place a mixing bowl on your kitchen scale and tare/zero the scale. Note: Taring/zeroing the scale with a container on it subtracts the weight of the container, allowing you to weigh only what is added to the container.
  6. After taring/zeroing the scale, the scale should read 0.0 with the container on it.
  7. Add the cucumbers into the bowl on your scale until the scale reads 200 grams.
  8. Remove the bowl from your scale and set aside.
  9. Place your empty, clean mason jar on the scale, and tare/zero the scale. Make sure your scale is still set to grams and add 200 grams of filtered water to your mason jar.
  10. Add the 200 grams of cucumber from your bowl, into the mason jar with water.
  11. Place a small bowl on your scale and tare/zero the scale.
  12. Weigh out 12 grams of salt. Then add the 12 grams of salt to the jar of cucumber and water.
  13. Add in all the spices and bay leaves. (If using dry spices, you can avoid them floating to the surface. Place the spices in a small piece of cheese cloth and tie it closed. Nestle the little spice pouch at the bottom the the jar, under the cucumbers. By doing this, you will still get all the flavor from the spices, without anything floating.)
  14. Place your standard mason jar lid on the jar, and secure. shake the jar vigorously for 2 minutes.
  15. Remove the silver standard mason jar lid. Place your clean fermentation weight in the jar making sure to submerge the cucumber pieces and weight fully in the liquid.
  16. Secure the standard mason jar lid to the mason jar.
  17. Let the cucumbers ferment for 14 days at room temperature, then refrigerate.
  18. Burp the jar daily when it is bubbling.

Notes

  • This recipe at 1x is for a 16- ounce jar.
  • See fermentation care instructions above for how to care for your fermenting pickles for two weeks.
  • You can add other spices like allspice or clove for sweeter flavor profiles, or chili flakes for spice.
  • You can sub the bay leaves for green tea leaves or grape leaves
  • You can ferment cucumber for up to four weeks, they may become soft though.

Keywords: fermented,dill,pickles

References

Production of GABA by Microorganisms

Postbiotic metabolites produced by Lactobacillus plantarum strains exert selective cytotoxicity effects on cancer cells

Assessment of the Non-Lactic Acid Bacteria Microbiota in Fresh Cucumbers and Commercially Fermented Cucumber Pickles Brined With 6% NaCl

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38 comments

Allison Cowart May 4, 2020 - 3:20 am

Thank you for sharing this recipe! I am ready to give it a try, but when do I add the garlic, dill, and other seasonings? Also, how much faster do you think it will ferment if I add a little culture from another ferment?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley May 4, 2020 - 1:44 pm

Hey there, you add in all the spices right after you add in the salt. You shouldn’t add in culture from another ferment to this recipe. It will not speed things up, and it will disrupt the process of bacterial succession. Doing this usually leads to soggy pickles.

Reply
Allison Cowart May 4, 2020 - 7:31 pm

Great! Thank you!!

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Tressa Watkins June 1, 2020 - 5:27 pm

My store didn’t have dill. Would it be ok to add it in within 24 to 48 hours after the rest of the ingredients? I have to thank you for your clear information about fermenting. I was hesitant to ferment before reading your blog, all the conflicting information was overwhelming. I have read all your blog posts, and every one is so helpful. Thank you!

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Kaitlynn Fenley June 1, 2020 - 5:49 pm

I’m so happy to hear that our blogs helped to remove your fear of fermentation! You are able to add in the dill in that time frame. I just wouldn’t add it in after the 72-hour mark.

Reply
Tressa Watkins June 1, 2020 - 6:39 pm

Thank you so much!

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Elizabeth Murray July 15, 2020 - 6:45 pm

Hello, thank you for sharing! Do you think it would be ok to double the recipe as I have 32 ounce jars? Thanks in advance!

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Kaitlynn Fenley July 15, 2020 - 7:26 pm

absolutely! My dad makes his pickles by doubling this recipe. You can also press the 2x button on the recipe card.

Reply
Lora July 16, 2020 - 4:03 pm

Hi There and thank you for the recipe. This will be my first go at fermenting my cucumbers and I was so happy to stumble upon your site. When it comes to the salt which brand do you recommend using in this recipe? I looked up unrefined sea salt and so many options popped up on Amazon but I didn’t know which to choose. Any suggestions are appreciated 🙂

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Kaitlynn Fenley July 16, 2020 - 4:13 pm

We’re happy that you found us here! For salt, check out a company called Salt Works. They have the best sea salts in my opinion, and this is the company we use to craft our fermented vegetables. Any of their salts should work great.

Reply
Anna October 13, 2020 - 2:09 pm

Hello! I saw instructions on fermentation that allowed the use of some liquid from a completed ferment as a starter for a new ferment with reduced salt content. Whey and kombucha were listed as alternative starters if one didn’t have a jar of fermented vegetables on hand. Is this acceptable and safe?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley October 13, 2020 - 3:46 pm

Hello!

Good question. The short answer: no.

In my opinion, the fermentation of cucumbers is safe and healthy when using the recipe in this blog as I wrote it.
1. I do not suggest using whey in fermented vegetable recipes. This can increase the biogenic amine content (which is bad).
2. I would never use kombucha as a starter for fermenting vegetables. Kombucha is a vastly different type of fermentation and involves yeasts and microbes that are not a part of the vegetable fermentation process. Adding in kombucha yeast will lead to completely unsafe pH levels.

If you would like to create safe, low salt fermented pickles:
I suggest making this recipe exactly as stated. Once fermentation is complete, pour off half the brine and replace it with raw apple cider vinegar. This will result in completely safe, probiotic pickles with about half the salt content.

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Tom November 2, 2021 - 1:06 am

Kaitlin, how will the substitution of apple cider vinegar for the pickled juice affect the probiotic organisms (bacteria colonies)? Thanks.

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley November 2, 2021 - 10:44 am

As in replacing some of the brine with ACV after fermentation? It doesn’t influence them at all. The pH stays around 3.5 and Lactobacillus are fine living in the presence of acetic acid and acetic acid bacteria.

Reply
Kathi Shurow January 29, 2021 - 2:45 pm

Is 200 Grams correct for English cucumber? At 1/2 inch slices, that’s only 12 pieces?

Thx

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley January 29, 2021 - 3:25 pm

yes. This is correct, for a 16-ounce mason jar. (check the notes) If you are using a bigger jar, you can double or triple the recipe accordingly using the 1x, 2x, 3x options on the recipe card.

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Nat January 29, 2021 - 2:46 pm

Is 200 Grams correct for English cucumber? At 1/2 inch slices, that’s only 12 pieces?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley January 29, 2021 - 3:24 pm

yes. This is correct, for a 16-ounce mason jar. If you are using a bigger jar, you can double or triple the recipe accordingly using the 1x, 2x, 3x options on the recipe card.

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Guy from Poland February 19, 2021 - 11:35 am

Fun fact: In the region of present day Poland that I’m from, we used to have tradition of fermenting dill cucumber pickles in barrels sunk into rivers for whole winter (making fermented cucumber pickles was a common part of preparations of food reserves for winter, so was making sauerkraut). But it was decades ago when water was much cleaner. Nowadays we use mostly stoneware if we are preparing “low-salt” variant that is fermenting them up to 2 weeks when they still preserve crispness.

As for typical additions to pickles that is used in Poland (and few other countries of region) it would be
– horseradish (around 10cm stripe per mason jar)
– garlic
– dill
– bay leaf
– allspice

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Justin Schwartz April 3, 2021 - 3:12 am

Hello Kaitlynn, thank you for sharing this dynamite recipe. I ferment currently in the Philippines, all types of veggies. My pickles (cucs) come out super sour. How may I make them less sour while letting them ferment for 2 weeks? Also, i use coriander seeds, should the weight be the same? Is kosher salt acceptable? So to be clear, the 4% is based upon the weight of the veggies as well as the water? I’ve been using 5% previously but only weighed out the water. Also, it is 85 degrees here so they ferment quickly! My pickles come out not very crispy, I use bay leaves for tannins, any other ideas?. Thanks for your post and expertise.
Sincerely,
Justin

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Kaitlynn Fenley April 6, 2021 - 2:37 pm

I don’t suggest trying to make them less sour. the pH of fermented pickles is a safety standard, and raising the pH can cause issues.
Mostly all types of NaCl work well in vegetable fermentation, so kosher salt is fine. Yes, 4% total salt concentration is based on the weight of cucumbers and water… This is because the weight of most vegetables is about 98% water. For crispier pickles, you can try cooling down the temperature in the fermentation environment, and start with cold cucumbers. Warmer temperatures, such as 85 degrees, can increase pickle softening. Also, make sure you are using the right kind of cucumber and slicing the cucumbers in a way that encourages a good texture (tips for this can be found at the beginning of the blog post).

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Marien Grace August 28, 2021 - 8:35 pm

I’m wondering if other tea leaves could be used to help ameliorate the sogginess, e.g. regular green tea or black tea leaves, or even something like Earl Grey (interesting flavor). Thoughts?

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Kaitlynn Fenley September 9, 2021 - 2:21 pm

Yes! Any type of green, black, oolong or white tea leaves can be used. You can try flavored teas, but how fermentation impacts those flavors will be variable, so you’ll have to experiment. I personally wouldn’t use earl grey since it contains oil of bergamot. Citrus oil flavors can be quite soapy and astringent after fermentation (same goes for incorporating citrus peels into fermentation).

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Julie June 9, 2022 - 2:09 pm

Kaitlynn, I am on day 8 of fermenting cucumber spears from my garden- using this exact recipe. I am using a fermentation lid that allows the oxygen to release from the jar. Is it accurate that I need to wait until days 12-14 to taste my fermented cucumber spears while using this lid vs using a regular, plastic mason jar lid? Every time I try to ferment, I get nervous at this point bc I worry I am going to facilitate mold growth. The 7-8 day mark always makes me nervous! The 16 oz jars are sitting off to the side in the proper temp, out of sunlight. Should I open the jars for any reason if I have the plastic lids with the rubber center that release the oxygen? There is so much extra liquid in my jars right now. I assume this is normal and that I will be able to drink this brine after fermentation is completed to benefit from the probiotic bacteria (like I do your pickle juice brine)?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley June 9, 2022 - 2:44 pm

Hey there,

Using a special lid doesn’t change the timeline. I still recommend 14 days of fermentation for pickles. I hope you are using a fermentation weight to keep all the cucumbers submerged in the brine. That is the important part, special lid or not.

I’m not sure if I know what kind of lid you are describing, there are so many kinds these days. If you are using one of those silicone lids with the nipple on the top, I suggest switching to a clean regular solid mason jar lid now. If its some sort of solid plastic lid with a little orange airlock thing in the middle, and all your pickles are clearly submerged in the brine, just leave it alone.

It’s good that there is a lot of brine. The brine is delicious! You can absolutely drink it for probiotic benefits.

Reply
Julie June 9, 2022 - 9:16 pm

Thank you, Kaitlynn. Yes, I am using a glass fermentation weight in both 16 oz jars. Also, the lid is an “easy fermenter lid” (the set actually came with an oxygen extractor, but i haven’t used the extractor at this point. Should I use the extractor if I have not opened the jars at all? I understood that the only reason to use it is if I open the jar and then reseal it- to remove the oxygen). The lid itself is a hard, black plastic lid with an orange airlock valve in the center. It has a little dial with numbers on it to help track the fermentation days. The cucumbers are fully submerged below the weights- however, there is liquid and some of the spices floating on top of the weight. So, the weights are about a 1/2 inch below the top level of the liquid and the cucumber spears are below the weight… does that make sense? With this specific set up, can I just leave the cucumbers fermenting through 14 days without opening the lids/burping, etc.? And, then at 14 days, I should taste the brine and cucumbers, correct? Then, store in the fridge? Thank you so much!

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley June 10, 2022 - 9:33 am

Thank you for this detailed explanation! I know the kind of lid you’re talking about now. I’d just leave it alone until 14 days, no need to open it. Yes, at 14 days, remove the weight, taste test, then put them in the fridge.

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Kristin June 25, 2022 - 8:22 am

what if i used a 32 ounce jar on accident but did not double the recipe?

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Kaitlynn Fenley July 4, 2022 - 9:41 am

You will just have a lot of space in the jar, it should be fine.

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Bre G July 14, 2022 - 10:44 am

I have had perfect crunchy pickles every time using this recipe! I really appreciate all of the time and knowledge that go into this whole blog. I know that my end result will be not only delicious but also safe to eat and beneficial for my gut biome!!
I highly recommend doubling the batch because you will want more once they’re done

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Emma W July 22, 2022 - 10:50 am

Best pickle recipe! So yummy, saves money, AND better for you!!! This recipe answered all and everyone of my questions – made it so manageable. Easy to make – most of the ingredients you will have on hand. LOVE cultured guru!!

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Jay July 25, 2022 - 3:06 pm

What result can I expect from using fresh rather than dry bay leaves for this pickle recipe?

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Kaitlynn Fenley July 25, 2022 - 4:30 pm

Your results should be the same, you might just have more tannins and bay flavor in the mix.

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Bailey July 31, 2022 - 9:40 pm

Thank you for this detailed recipe and all the careful explainers! I got some pickling cucumbers today and would like to try fermenting them. Will this recipe work for whole pickles, perhaps with extended fermentation time? Or is it important to cut them into pieces?

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Kaitlynn Fenley August 1, 2022 - 9:32 am

whole pickles work! Generally, the smaller the cucumber the better it ferments whole.

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C August 10, 2022 - 11:49 am

Hello, I’m on day 8, and little furry islands of white mold have appeared. Definitely doesn’t look like pellicle. What do you think went wrong, and do I throw it out now? Thank you…

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Kaitlynn Fenley August 10, 2022 - 1:18 pm

You jar might not have been cleaned well enough, or maybe you have some floating spices, or maybe you tried to use one of those silicone lids?

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Christina August 10, 2022 - 3:19 pm

Hmm I used a weck tulip jar with a glass weight (both had been just run through the dishwasher), but I’ll just give it another go, just got some fresh pickles from the farm! Maybe I will boil the glassware instead of taking shortcuts 😄 thanks!

Reply

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