How to make Manhattan-style, Fermented Pickles with Garlic and Dill! An easy step-by-step guide to making the most flavorful, crunchy, tangy pickles full of healthy probiotics, with only 20 minutes of hands-on time! The pickle brine is like a “tonic” -drink a shot of it daily to help build immunity!
What happens when people open their hearts? They get better. ~Haruki Murakami
I’ve been chomping at the bit to share this easy recipe for Fermented Pickles with you! If you are a crunchy pickle lover like me, you are going to be in heaven. Seriously, these are the best!
These Manhattan-style “half-sour” pickles, are crispy, crunchy, flavorful and ohhhhhh so alive! They are not for canning, but rather live happily bubbly lives in your refrigerator.
These pickles are fermented in a salt brine, not in vinegar and get their delicious tanginess from light fermentation rather than vinegar.
Full of healthy, gut-healing, immunity-boosting probiotics these little guys are perfect as a low-calorie snack, or sliced and added to sandwiches or served as a tasty side.
Not only are they delicious, and incredibly EASY to make, they are also incredibly good for us!
And as crazy as this may sound to some, the fizzy brine itself is like a healing tonic to me – I love to drink a shot of it- especially when I feel like my immunity needs a boost! So flavorful and totally energizing.
How to make Fermented Pickles| 45-second video
What type of cucumbers to use in fermenting?
- Pickling Cucumbers are small and short ( 4-6 inches) with thin bumpy skin, crisp texture, small seeds, a blocky shape and color gradient from light to dark. Varieties include Kirby, Calypso, Royal, Pickalot, National Picking, Adam Gherkin, Sassy, Eurika, Jackson, Boston Pickling, Northern Pickling… to name a few.
- You’ll need 2 lbs of “pickling cucumbers”. This recipe makes one large 1/2 gallon jar (or use two quart-sized jars) – a relatively small batch.
- They are most easily found at your local farmers’ market. Ask the farmers if they have “pickling cucumbers” they can help direct you to the right ones.
- Your pickles will only be as good as your cucumbers, so choose wisely!
- Make sure they are roughly all the same size -all about 4-5 inches long with 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch diameters – to fit in the jar nicely and to ferment at the same rate. Handpicked each one. They should be fresh and crisp with no soft spots.
How long does it take to ferment pickles?
- These half-sour crunchy pickles take 3-5 days.
Step 1: Wash the cucumbers, and soak them in an ice bath for 15 minutes to firm and crisp them up.
Step 2: Gather your fresh Garlic and Dill and pickling spices.
Spices to use in Fermented Dill Pickles:
- Use fennel seeds, mustard, peppercorns, coriander seeds, allspice, dill seeds and celery seeds. Feel free to change or embellish! I added a couple of chilies for a little heat.
- Fresh Dill and lots of garlic!!!
- Fermented cucumbers need tannin to help keep their skins from going soft. Traditionally, a few grape leaves are used but bay leaves work well too!
Because these fermented pickles are left whole, you really want the brine to be extra flavorful.
I add a lot of garlic… 10 cloves!
Step 3: Layer the spices, cucumbers, garlic, dill and bay leaves and more cukes, in a large two quart jar (half-gallon). Press everything down.
Step 4: Carefully measure and mix salt and water to create the salt water brine- then pour this brine over the pickles leaving an inch of head room.
How salt works in fermentation:
- In a nutshell, using the right ratio of salt in fermentation encourages the growth of healthy bacteria, while at the same time kills off bad bacteria. You want to be precise when measuring the salt and water in these kinds of recipes.
- Too much salt may kill off ALL of the bacteria -preventing fermentation.
- Too little salt will allow bad bacteria to keep on living. It is a fine balance. 😉
SALT TO WATER RATIO (fermented dill pickles):
- This recipe is a 3 % saltwater brine, which is considered “safe”. It equals 7 grams of salt per one cup of water. This ratio allows one to drink the brine (like a shot) because it is not too salty.
- If you want a stronger brine or longer ferment, feel free to go up to 4.5%. So for example, 3.5% Ratio= 9 grams of salt per 1 cup of water, 4.5% brine =10.8 grams of salt ( 2 tsp salt) per 1 cup of water.
- Use fine, unprocessed salt (sea salt) and unchlorinated, filtered water for best results.
Step 5: Weigh down the cucumbers so they are completely submerged under the liquid, using a fermentation weight, or a small zip lock bag filled with a little water (in a pinch).
Note: If the cucumbers or seeds are not submerged under the brine and become exposed to air- they can develop mold.
Step 7: Cover loosely with a lid or towel ( to prevent bugs or flies from coming in, and to allow gases to escape) place in a bowl or pan to catch any overflow, and place in a cool dark place for 3-7 days, like the basement.
TIP: I’ve found a slower, cooler fermentation works best here.
Step 8: Check after 3 days. Look for signs of life: bubbles/ cloudy water. Tap the jar and see if bubbles rise to the top. Check to see if any brine overflowed into the bowl ( both signs of life). This often takes about 3-5 days depending on temperature. Cloudy brine is a good thing!
Step 9: Place the jar in the fridge to further slow the fermentation with a loose lid.
- The longer you ferment them (unrefrigerated), the tangier they will get. But they will also get softer. I like them crisp, but you may want them tangier and softer. You can taste them at any point after you see bubbles.
- I prefer to refrigerate before tasting. After refrigerating, if you decide you want more tang, you can always pull them out again and ferment for a few days longer.
- If you want to create a “fizzy” brine for drinking, tighten the lid, and burp daily if leaving out. You can tighten the lid in the fridge, but burp weekly. This will create a little pressure and give it some effervescence.
- Yes, you can cut the cucumbers into spears or slices.
Once they are cold, give them a taste. They should be crunchy and flavorful!
The brine is deliciously tangy, salty, and effervescent -so tasty!
Let me know how you like this one in the comments below.
Other fermentation recipes you may like!
- How to make Kimchi!
- Fermented Hot Sauce!
- Curtido & Cultured Salvadoran Slaw
- How to make Sauerkraut (Simple Cultured Cabbage)
- Beet and Cabbage Sauerkraut
- Cucumber Kimchi Pickles
- Turmeric Sauerkraut
How to make Manhattan-style, Fermented Pickles! A simple recipe for making the most flavorful, crunchy, tangy, garlic dill pickles with only 15 minutes of hands-on time. Full of healthy, gut-healing probiotics these little guys are perfect as a low-calorie snack, or sliced and added to sandwiches.
- 2– 2 1/2 lbs pickling cucumbers– all similar size ( 5 inches)
- 5 cups filtered water (non-chlorinated- tap water may have chlorine which can inhibit fermentation)
- 2 tablespoons fine sea salt or Himalayan salt — or basically one heaping teaspoon fine sea salt (7 grams) per one cup of water, for a 3% brine (see notes)
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
- 1 teaspoon each: fennel seeds, coriander seeds, allspice, peppercorns, dill seeds, mustard seeds, celery seeds- and feel free to add more peppercorns!
- 10–12 garlic cloves, sliced (or double for extra garlicky)
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced (optional)
- big handful of fresh dill
- 1–3 fresh red chilies – or dried arbol chilies, or add chili flakes (all optional)
- 3–4 bay leaves (or a grape leaf or oakleaf) all sources of tannic acid-to help them stay crisp.
You’ll need a 1/2 gallon mason jar, crock, or 2 quart-sized jars- clean and sterile.
- Prep Cuc’s: Rinse the cucumbers, remove the flower end of each cucumber and place them in an ice-water bath, to crisp them up (10-20 minutes). Leave them whole.
- Make the brine: Mix salt (2 tablespoons) and 5 cups water until dissolved. Add the turmeric if you like ( adds a fresh flavor).
- Layer: In a large, clean two-quart mason jar, place all the whole spices into the bottom. Pack one layer of cucumbers tightly, standing on end, then add garlic and onions (if using), fresh dill sprigs, chilies, bay leaves. Add another layer of cukes, standing on end.
- Press everything down, leaving an inch of headroom. Pour the salt water brine over top and weigh down the cukes with fermentation weights so they are submerged under the brine, leaving an inch of headroom, in the jar. (Use a fermentation weight, or a small ziplock back with a little water in it ).
- Cover the jar loosely with a lid or with a cloth- basically, you want air to be able to escape.
- Place the jar in a pan or bowl to collect any overflow and leave it in a cool dark place (below 70F) for 3-7 days (a basement, or lower kitchen cupboard). Half sour pickles will take 3-7 days with white insides. Full sour pickles will take 14-21 days ( see notes for stronger saltwater ratio).
- After 3 days, check for signs of life: bubbles, and clouding. Tap the jar, and see if tiny bubbles rise to the top. I usually ferment for 4-5 days. Longer ferments will yield tangier pickles but will get softer as they ferment, and lose their vibrant color. Up to you. You can taste them at any point after you see bubbles, and ferment longer if you like. The brine will get cloudy as it ferments- this is a good sign! Once you see active bubbles, you can at this point place the jar in the fridge, where it will continue to ferment, but much more slowly. Keep the pickles submerged.
- Once chilled, give them taste. They should be crispy and flavorful with a little tang. (At this point, if you want a tangier or softer pickle, you can absolutely pull them back out again and ferment for a few more days longer if you want.)
- If you like fizzy brine, tighten the lid, burping every week or so or try using an airlock. If you don’t want to think about it, give the lid one loose twist, so it’s on there, but gases can escape.
If you need more brine, make sure you use the same ratio- 1 heaping teaspoon sea salt per one cup of water.
If using a grape leaf, place it on the side of the jar, then layer the remaining ingredients.
Feel free to use 2, quart-size jars, dividing cucumbers, spices and brine between the jars.
BRINE: This recipe is a 3% salt water brine, which is considered “safe”. It equals 7 grams of salt per one cup of water. I’ve had really good luck with this ratio – and this ratio allows me to drink the brine (like a shot) this is really healthy – full of good gut-supporting bacteria!
If you want a stronger, saltier brine, feel free to go up to 4.5%. For a full sour pickle (14-21 days) use a 4.5% brine.
- 3% ratio = 7 grams salt per 1 cup of water. (1 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, per 1 cup water)
- 3.5% Ratio= 9 grams of salt per 1 cup of water. (1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, per 1 cup water)
- 4.5% ratio 10.8 grams of salt per cup of water. (2 teaspoons per cup of water)
Cutting the Cucumbers: I recommend for your first batch leaving the cucumbers whole. After your first successful batch, then feel free to experiment.
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