Homemade Fermented Pickles and Hot Peppers
Up until recently, pickles were a real big mystery to me. I had NO idea how one could turn a simple bright green, fresh and crisp cucumber into this yellow-brown-greenish salty, crunchy, vinegary delicacy.
I thought for sure that pickle making was just as long and complicated as making olives from scratch. Hey, for all I knew, maybe one even needed some kind of degree in chemistry to successfully make the transformation happen.
How often did I look at those pretty little pickling cucumbers when they were in season, hoping that I could bring a few home with me, but never dared because I thought that for one, they weren’t even edible unless they were pickled and two, since I didn’t hold one of those aforementioned degree in chemistry, there was no way I could successfully make pickles.
So I thought for sure, if I were to get some, that the poor little things would only end up dying a terrible, terrible death all alone and abandoned way in the back of the fridge.
Little did I know that pickle making couldn’t be easier. Well, fermented pickles, anyway. Basically, all you really need is a few fresh as can be pickling cucumbers, a little bit of salt and some bottled or boiled water.
Oh, a large air tight jar. That’s it. You don’t NEED anything else.
Right, there’s a good chance that you’re gonna want to add a few aromatics to that jar, but that won’t really add to the difficulty level and will only take a few more seconds of your time, so that doesn’t count…
What you want to do is simply cut your cucumbers in half (or leave them whole if you prefer), cut the ends off and stuff as many of them as will fit into your jar. Then throw your favorite spices and aromatics right in.
I chose to use garlic, dill (both in the fresh and seed form), hot peppers and pickling spices.
Mix your salt and water until the salt is completely dissolved then pour that right into the jar until the pickles are completely covered. You need a ratio of about 1 tsp of salt per cup of water.
If you wanted to draw more flavor out of your spices, you could also do this is by heating the dill seeds, pickling spice, salt and water until it comes to a simmer then let this brine come back to room temperature before adding it to the jar.
Once the pickles are completely covered with the brine, find something that you can shove in that jar to keep them entirely submerged. It is very important that they remain under the brine for the whole duration of the fermentation process, else they will start developing some mold and your batch will be ruined. So long as they remain under the anaerobic safety of the brine, they’ll be fine.
It’s also important that you leave about 1 inch of head space to allow the brine to bubble up without the jars exploding on you.
Now close the lid but not hermetically. A lot of carbon dioxide will be produced during the fermentation process and that needs to escape somehow. If like me you like to use hinged top glass jars, simply remove the rubber thingy that makes them air tight then close the lid normally. Undo the clip to loosen the lid once in a while to to allow some of the carbon dioxide to escape.
If you’re using Mason type jars, just make sure you screw your covers rather loosely. Again, it might be a good thing to loosen the lids all the way once in a while to let the excess gas escape.
That’s it. It’s that easy. Now all you need to do is leave this jar of cucumbers on the counter for 7 to 10 days, until the fermentation process is done turning your cucumbers into pickles. Yep, the magic happens all by itself. You won’t need to perform any crazy chemistry wizardry, I swear.
Before you know it, your cucumbers will have turned into delicious pickles. Now, I strongly suggest that you refrigerate them for a couple of hours or even overnight before you try them, otherwise, you might find them to be a bit on the mushy side. Mind you, I find that this much holds true even for store-bought pickles. A cold pickle is definitely a crispier pickle! And the fresher the cucumbers you use to start with, the crispier your pickles will be!
Notice how the brine got all cloudy? That is perfectly normal and is caused by the lactic acid bacteria during fermentation. So don’t flip when that happens to you. It will eventually settle after a couple of weeks in the fridge (if you manage to keep your pickles that long) and will become clearer.
Now, if you are a fan of really vinegary pickles, know that fermented pickles do not taste much like vinegar at all. Just like good old fashioned pickles, they are salty, garlic-y, somewhat tangy, crunchy, but not vinegary. So if you want them to have a real vinegary flavor, you can always add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to the jar after they are done fermenting and give them another week to soak in that newly added flavor before you eat them.
If like me you’re into hot peppers, why not whip of a jar of those while you’re at it?
The process is even easier: stuff peppers in jar, cover with brine, close the lid.
Again, just make sure you find something that you can fit in there, a small bowl or lid, to keep the peppers below the water line.
Leave these on the counter right next to your cucumbers and wait for the magic to happen.
And TADA! Beautiful HOT, really, really HOT peppers!
Frankly? I’m never gonna buy these ready made ever again. Making my own is way too much fun and so rewarding. Plus, I know exactly what goes into my jars!
So there you have it, I hope that this post inspired you to try your hand at making pickles at home and that next time you come across beautiful, fresh pickling cucumbers, you’ll be tempted to take a few home with you… I know I will. No way I’ll ever be able to resist them anymore.
Home Made Fermented Pickles
- 6-7 very fresh pickling cucumbers
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 6 bird's eye chili peppers, fresh or dried
- 3-4 sprigs fresh dill
- 2 tbsp dill seeds
- 1 tbsp pickling spice
- 3 cups bottled or boiled water, at room temperature
- 1½ tbsp Himalayan or unrefined salt, kosher or pickling would also work, make sure the salt contains no caking agent
- 1 large, very clean glass jar (2 pint Mason type or hinged-top jar)
- Trim the ends from the cucumbers and cut them in half if desired. You can also leave them whole if you prefer.
- Stuff the cucumbers so they fit snuggly in the jar and add fresh dill, bird's eye peppers, dill seeds and pickling spice
- Mix salt and water in a large measuring cup, stirring until the salt is completely dissolved. Pour over the cucumbers until they are completely submerged. Make sure to leave at least 1 inch of head space to allow the brine to bubble up during fermentation without exploding the jars on you.
- Alternatively, if you wanted to draw more flavor out of your spices, you could also do this is by heating the dill seeds, pickling spice, salt and water over medium heat until it comes to a simmer then let this brine come back to room temperature before adding it to the jar.
- Once the cucumbers are completely covered with the brine, place a small non-reactive object such as a small dipping bowl, shot glass or plastic lid over them to make sure they remain entirely submerged then close the lid although not hermetically. Either screw your cover loosely or remove the rubber band that makes hinged-top jars air-tight before closing it.
- Leave your pickles to ferment on the counter for 7 to 10 days. During that period, you’ll want to crack open your jar every once in a while to let the excess gas escape.
- After 7 to 10 days, transfer your now pickles to the refrigerator where they will keep for several weeks.
- Optionally, if you like your pickles to be a little more on the vinegary side, you can add a little bit of vinegar to the jar once the fermentation process is complete. Let your pickles macerate for a couple more days before eating them.
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50 Comments on “Homemade Fermented Pickles and Hot Peppers”
Homemade fermented pickles and peppers are my weak spot. Seriously, I could kill for a jar of those. But for this one time let’s settle this without bloodshed.
Just name the price and I will pay. 😉
Sorry my friend, I’m afraid if you want some of those pickles, you’re gonna have to get them at the source (aka, here, in this very house!)
However, in order to avoid bloodshed, I am totally willing to throw in some home made sauerkraut and corned beef along with aforementioned pickles. That is my best offer. Take it or leave it?
Oh, and uhm, I’d hurry if I were you. Those pickles are going fast, you know! 😉
Okay, I see, you’re playing hardball..
I’ll double the offer then and I’ll throw in a couple of paleo chocolate chunk cookies. Have we got ourselves a deal?
Oh maaan, now you’re not playing fair! The Paleo Chocolate Chunk Cookies?!!?! Now I would be the one doing the killing for a couple of those. Alright then, you win. Guess we have a deal.
You’re tough man, real though! 😉
It’s one of those things I’ve been wondering about forever…. Like you I thought this would be difficult, but I guess it’s as with chutney. I always had this weirded a making it was hard and it was so utterly simple! Thanks for this. You convinced me to try!
That’s just great, Simone. I hope you enjoy making them as much as I have! Fermenting food is something I’ve just recently discovered and I am having much fun experimenting… hopefully you will too! 🙂
I just made these and after filling my jar with the pickles and making the salt water solution I had about 1/2 cup of salt water left. Is that going to create a problem with them fermenting right if the salt is off? I live in Tx and my house is usually about 77 degrees. Should I add salt to the jar and shake it? or should they be okay?
You should be fine, Diana. As long as you have the proper ratio of salt to water.
I was just wondering if I need to keep them submerged under the brine after they have fermented for week and I have moved them to the refrigerator? Or can I take the weights out? Thanks.
No need to keep them submerged after they have been transferred to the fridge, Lori. The weights can definitely come out!
I make pickles in a similar manner, using a ceramic crock. One trick to keep the pickles crunchier is to add grape leaves at the bottom of the crock – I suggest for your jar, a single fresh grape leaf on the bottom, then pile everything else on top; that should suffice. Also – my latest batch: a friend at work gave me 2 fresh ghost peppers from his garden. I diced one up, and added to a batch (25 small cukes, 1 1/2 gal brine) – and 10 days later – amazing! Delicious! Addictive!
I’d read about that trick before… the problem is with finding grape leaves! I find, however, that my pickles have been ample crunchy even without the grape leaves, so I don’t really see a need to get out of my way to try and find some. If I ever do come across them, however, I’ll make sure to give them a try!
Horse radish leaves work for maintaining the crunch also. I believe it is the tannin in the leaves.
That’s very good to know. Thanks for the tip!
i have access to the fresh grape leaves. do you have any tips for preserving these pickles? i would like to make more than one jar to last me through the winter. i would also like them to be preserved so that i can give them as gifts. thoughts?
I don’t know of any way of keeping these for an extended period. They will keep for a month, maybe, in the fridge. But that’s it. I think the only way you’d be able to create gifts would be to find gherkins and process them 1-2 weeks before you want to ‘gift’ them – and they can’t be shipped easily either (must stay refrigerated). Sorta outta luck. I’m in Minnesota; being early September, I’m just about at the end of this season. I’m going to have to go cold turkey pretty soon. Nasty.
where do you find grape leaves? I have never seen them anywhere?
Most ethnic food stores carry them, Antoinette.
i very much want to make these pickles, but i would like to make a larger quantity while cucumbers are so available. is there any way to preserve them longer? will canning kill everything good in them and make the fermentation pointless? any thoughts? 🙂
They will preserve for a wee while, Erika, but they do have to be kept in the fridge. Canning them will indeed kill the fragile bacteria, rendering the fermentation process pointless indeed.
My solution was to buy a second hand fridge to store my fermented vegetables, sauerkraut and kombucha…
I am new to this – what do you use as the weight? I noticed that I can buy things specific for that but was wondering of any other suggestions.
You can use any clean, non-reactive object that will fit in your opening, Danielle. Personally, I like to use small plastic lids and shooter glasses… Hope this helps!
I made my pickles before I came across your method. I have several questions.
1)I made mine with a different recipe – http://www.food.com/recipe/pickled-lebanese-cucumber-494648 Do you see anything wrong with this method? The only salt I used was to initially dehydrate the pickles for 4-5 hours. I did not add any to the vinegar/water mixture. It mentions 200g salt, but I supposed that was for the pre-canning portion of the recipe as it is not mentioned in brine creation.
2)I had limited jars available. I used a 6x6x6 Rubber Maid Plastic container with lid. I had heard many people use plastic for short-term pickling. Is this okay? Is it air tight enough?
3)What is the risk for botulism with pickles? I’ve heard a lot of debate back and forth on whether you actually need to seal your jars/containers via boiling.
I’m sorry but I really don’t feel I’ve had enough experience with pickling to answer your questions adequately. Might I suggest you get your hands on a copy of Fermented by Jill Ciciarelli. I’m pretty sure it would answer all your questions, and more!
Help! After less than a week, mold began to grow. There is a white film at the bottom. Why? What did I do wrong? Are they done; must I throw them out?
I seriously doubt that this is mold, Jenn. It’s normal for your brine to get cloudy and for a white residue to accumulate at the bottom of your jars. Mold grows at the top and is usually very fuzzy…
Ok, that makes me feel bette about the white in the bottom. I do, however, have a small bit of white on the top as well…I have scraped it off…what do you think about that? If I remove it, is it okay?
Again, if it’s not fuzzy looking, it’s very normal and safe, Jenn and there is no need to remove it. Here’s a very interesting troubleshooting guide that you can refer to for quick answers to your questions: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/fermented-vegetables-troubleshooting-guide (quicker than me, anyway! 😉 )
Is it possible to ferment cauliflower? Pickles are great, but I love pickled cauliflower.
I’ve never tried, but I’m sure it’s feasible! The process would be the same… Now you really had me want to try this. As luck would have it, I just bought a HUGE head of cauliflower. Guess I know what I’ll be doing today! 🙂
I grow my own organic peppers which are 3 1/2 generations old. They have gotten potent every year. My parents love spicy food so I make sure I deliver them for their cooking. I have always been a pickle nut and wanted to try pickling these bomb ass peppers. Your website was really informative and the pictures were a wonderful. I appreciate you helping me out! Should I put chopped garlic while simmering my spice mixture? I feel like putting whole garlic really doesn’t release any of the aromatics that garlic has to offer. Your help would be much appreciated and keep up the awesome work.
Not sure, Jay… Personally, I think that the heat from the simmering water would sort of cook the garlic and tone its flavor down some… but it might be worth a shot, still!
Good luck with the experiment and let me know how it turns out.
My family does not like spicy foods. Would it be possible to NOT use hot peppers when preparing this recipe?
Thank you!! Ill try to make it this week!!
If you add vinegar to the refrigerated pickles , will it kill the probiotics at this stage?
I don’t think it would, Chris, but to be on the safe side, you’d probably better use raw, unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar…
And how is the acid in raw apple cider vinegar different from any other vinegar? For all your ‘jokes’ about chemistry, you could stand to learn some. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Isn’t that a lot of salt? I make gallon jars and only use 2 Tablespoons per gallon.
If you can’t find pickles, use green beans. I love em and we call them Dilly Beans.
I just bought a brining bucket. Wondering if this would work for fermenting pickles? Food grade plastic bucket with a plastic smaller lid that locks down under the bring and another lid that fits the top of the bucket. Please let me know your thoughts asap
Thanks for the helpful post. I’ve never done pickles and this makes it seem easy.
I have done a lot of kraut however and just so you know you don’t have to remove the rubber gasket from the wire clasp/Fido style jars. The seal isn’t perfectly airtight. These jars are perfect for anaerobic fermentation as the lids, with the rubber gasket in place, allow gases to escape but not enter. This means the oxygen at the top of the jar gets pushed out as more co2 is produced. That air pocket at the top of the jar can end up being pure co2 if you don’t burp it. This allows for more forgiveness when it comes to making sure everything is submerged.
Good to know! Thanks much for all that precious insight, Josh. I greatly your taking the time to share it! 🙂
Sonia I love kimchi but I get excruciating pain if I eat it everyday. Why is that?
Sorry Jan, I’m afraid I don’t have the qualifications to help you with that…
Looking to ferment those over ripe big pickles/ cucumber. I will try your method, removing seeds & slicing. I don’t have pickling spice or dill. I will add fresh ginger, peppercorns & whatever spice I can find appropriate.
Wish me luck!