As a child, that oversized barrel of dull, green, rubbery floating objects swimming in a tub of liquid ambrosia was always a source of marvel and excitement. The aroma that ascended when the barrel lid was lifted was enough to send me spinning. As it was positioned next to the deli counter, the mere thought of the long walk to the back of the store to get lunch meat brought forth feelings of joy (at the thought of fishing out my own), angst (Would I be allowed to have one?) and the sheer delight that only a kosher dill pickle could bring (Well, that and the Mr. Softee truck, the Italian Ice truck, the freezer in the corner store where the bomb pops lived…you get the point-it was important!).
Fast forward some um-hmm odd years and pickles are not really a thing for me anymore. Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy them occasionally as accompaniment to a nice sandwich or as a necessary ingredient in a bomb macaroni salad, but aside from that, I rarely think of them.
What IS a thing for me, however, is good digestion and gut health! And fermented foods and beverages have been shown to be excellent for both. So in the interest of my childhood nostalgia and in my quest to add more fermented foods to my diet, eating pickles made the old-fashioned way is a no-brainer.
Origins and Health benefits of fermented foods.
Traditional cultures around the globe have relied on fermenting as a way to preserve foods long before the invention of refrigerators and freezers. The lactic acid produced by lactobacilli during the fermentation process acts as a preservative by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria that would otherwise cause the food to go bad. Foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled herring, chutney, fufu, injera, mustard and pickles were, and still are made by a natural fermentation process. Even our most beloved ketchup, in all of its high fructose corn syrup and vinegar splendor, has its roots in fermentation. Industrialization and mass production has introduced the use of vinegar (which is itself a product of fermentation) as a more time/cost efficient taste shortcut, but is a less healthy means of pickling (preserving) food. Big surprise there!
According to Sandor Katz in his book The Art of Fermentation, the benefits of fermented foods as known by traditional cultures and being proven in peer-reviewed scientific studies are:
All of this is accomplished by those microscopic, probiotic lactobacilli bacteria. For those of you who take probiotic supplements this is clutch! Eating more fermented foods would support and maybe decrease your reliance on taking probiotic supplements!
Can you say #HALLELUJAH! because those babies aren’t cheap!
You can save those coins and get your probiotic bacteria with flavor and other heath benefits like fiber, vitamins and minerals.
But Angela, why can’t I just buy pickles from the store?
(Curls lips. Sighs. Bows head.) One more time for the cheap seats.
Vinegar=no fermentation. No fermentation=no lactobacilli. No lactobacilli=no lactobacilli benefits.
Besides, the taste and crispiness of these pickles BY FAR surpassed the ones in the store. As an added bonus, you can make your own custom flavor combinations and make several different shapes out of one batch! Here’s a couple shots of my finished products:
OK! Now it’s your turn!
How To Make Fermented Pickles
- Assemble your ingredients
2. Dissolve salt in water. (I used Himalayan Pink Salt.)
3. Scrub and rinse cucumbers well.
4. Add spices to the jar.
5. Place cucumbers in jar, fixing them to fit as many in as possible without crushing them. Make sure to leave at least an inch of space once water is covering them.
6. Pour in brine water, leaving one inch of space at the top. I used a glass weight to hold the cucumbers beneath the water and an air lock lid to let gas escape without letting air in.
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- 2 lbs of pickling cucumbers, 4-6 inches long
- ½ gallon of purified water
- ¼ cup of pickling salt (add another 2 TBS if using a natural sea salt that is not superfine)
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 1 TBS of pickling spices
- 1 TBS dill seed
- 2 sprigs of dill leaves
- Warm water (do not let boil) and dissolve salt in it, set aside to cool or cool in an ice bath
- Scrub and rinse cucumbers thoroughly, set aside
- Place dill leaves in the bottom of a ½ gallon glass jar
- Add garlic, pickling spices and dill seed
- Add cucumbers, packing them into the jar so there will still be an inch or more of space at the top
- Pour in brine solution and completely cover cucumbers, leaving an inch of air at the top of the jar
- Place a weight over the cucumbers to keep them completely submerged beneath the brine (anything exposed to air will mold)
- Cover and place in a cool, dark place until the pickles taste sour and bubbles have stopped rising (should be approximately 6-7 days)
- Refrigerate or put in cold storage until ready to eat.
- Anything used as a weight to hold down cucumbers should be sterilized first if possible.
-Any scum that develops on top of the brine should be skimmed off periodically. If any pickles are affected, just cut off the molded area. Any part not exposed to air is ok to eat.
-Air lock lids allow gas to escape without allowing air to enter, but are not necessary. If using a regular lid, open the jar periodically to "burp" the jar and let the gas out.