Find out how to naturally-ferment any pickle with just a few at-home ingredients! When pickles are said to be naturally fermented it means that there were no processed ingredients, such as vinegar, used in the fermentation process. Cucumbers are mostly made up of water so by pickling them you can create a more flavorful cucumber, a pickle, that is super low-calorie.
Naturally fermented pickles, with their crunch and tanginess, can satisfy any salty or unhealthy craving.
Copycat Bubbies Pickles
You’ll need the following ingredients handy for this recipe:
- 2– 2 1/2 lbs pickling cucumbers– all similar size (5 inches)
- 5 cups filtered water
- 2 tablespoons fine sea salt or Himalayan salt (7 grams)
- 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
- Handful of fresh dill
- 3–4 bay leaves (or a grape leaf or oakleaf) all sources of tannic acid-to help them stay crisp.
You will also need a big jar to be able to place the cucumbers in the mix that will ultimately cause their metamorphosis into beautiful pickles. The jar can be a half-gallon clean jar, preferably a mason jar.
The process of pickling begins with the vegetable being pickled. You want to choose the best, freshest cucumbers for this recipe. As far as which kind of cucumbers, the types of cucumbers that can be used to make naturally fermented pickles are the small and short ones. Typically, these range from four to six inches. Most pickle-makers use Kirby cucumbers, which are small cucumbers with bumpy skin.
For this specific recipe, you will need to have at least two pounds of pickling cucumbers. Whatever your choice may be, make sure to source the best cucumbers you can find. That may be by rifling the grocery aisle at your regular supermarket or checking out your city’s farmer’s market full of rich, local organic produce.
After deciding which cucumber type is the right one for you, pick two pounds of cucumbers that are each about the same shape and size. Make sure the pickles have no soft spots which may indicate internal rotting.
Get a big bowl that can fit the cucumbers and prepare to soak them in an ice bath. After washing your cucumbers, the first thing you want to do is soak them in this bowl of ice water for about 15 minutes. This step is not necessary, but it does ultimately help harden the pickles for fermentation.
Next, gather your special spices. Bubbies Pickles uses simple, fresh ingredients to pickle cucumbers for best results.
If you’re not sure what to use, you can start with these basic spices to give your pickles flavor: fennel seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds, allspice, dill seeds and celery seeds. Aside from these spices, you can also add dill to make fresh “dill” pickles. These are the most popular type of pickle and the most common. If you’ve ever tried whole pickles, spears, chips, or pickle slices from the grocery store, chances are they were most likely dill pickles.
Finally, you’ll need grape leaves to prevent the skins of your cucumbers from softening which would really take away from that famous pickle crunch. To ensure this tasty crunch, add three to four bay leaves or grape leaves to your mix.
All of these ingredients together should get you started on making the perfect brine for pickling. Since you are adding each ingredient to taste, make sure to experiment and try the brine with different batches of cucumbers and see which one is your favorite. It can be a long, tedious process at first but eventually as you make your pickles to taste, you’ll find a brine you love and stick to that in your future pickling endeavors.
Get your large, two-quart jar, and dump all your ingredients in there, including your hand-picked cucumbers. They should all fit in there nicely. Even though there is little room in the jar, make room by gently pushing them together inside the jar.
The final ingredients to throw in the container are salt and water. When you are figuring out the ratio of these two final ingredients, make sure you have about 7 grams of salt per one cup of water. This ratio of salt to water is considered “safe,” meaning it will help ferment pickles through lactic acid fermentation and not allow for more bacteria to form that will make the pickles unsafe for consumption. You can also go a bit saltier than that to 9 or 10 grams of salt per 1 cup of water. Another safe way to measure it is preparing a brine using the ratio of two tablespoons of salt to one quart of water.
Lactic acid fermentation is when salt in water creates a bacteria, called Lactobacillus bacteria that converts sugars into lactic acid, preserving the pickle. This bacteria is also tolerant to high salt concentrations. The salt tolerance gives this bacteria an advantage over other less tolerant species and allows the lactic acid fermenters to begin metabolism, which produces an acid, further inhibiting the growth of other non-desirable bacteria. It’s this acid that ultimately causes the fermentation process used to create pickles.
For the tastiest results, try to use sea salt that has been unprocessed along with pure, filtered water. Bubbies uses kosher salt or pickling salt (aka canning salt). Kosher salt and pickling salt have no additives. The one salt you want to avoid at all costs is table or iodized salt because it can change the color and texture of the cucumbers by causing unwanted bacteria to grow, making the pickles unsafe for consumption.
After everything is in the jar, make sure every ingredient is thoroughly submerged in the water mix. Use a clean towel to cover the top of the jar loosely because as the fermentation process occurs, gases will need to be released. You might even place the jar on top of a surface that can catch accidental spills since the jar is not entirely closed.
Store the jar in a cold, low-light place for about three to seven days. The longer you leave the cucumbers to ferment the more flavor they will acquire, so you might want to check on them every now and then but allow the full fermentation process to happen. The brine should end up looking a bit cloudy. Some batches are naturally cloudier than others, but as long as you followed the salt requirements and the ingredients remained within the brine, no air having touched them, they should all be safe to eat.
Cloudy brine is a good sign that you have a safe, successful, and tasty ferment. In fact, Bubbies is famous for its cloudy brine since it is what makes their pickles so delicious. This brine can also be reused for many delicious things like salad dressing and more according to this article: Tips For Using Bubbies Brine!
Once the fermentation process is complete, you can finally use an airtight lid and place your new pickles in the fridge for a longer shelf life. Feel free to take a bite and test how your homemade, naturally fermented pickles came out! If the flavor is a bit too strong on any one note, you might want to change it up a bit next time.
About Bubbies Fine Foods
John and Kathy Gray purchased Bubbies of San Francisco in the late 1980’s. They quickly established relationships with natural products distributors and retailers throughout the country and began to create a national presence. The combination of consistently superior products coupled with strong relationships among the leading specialty foods distributors allowed Bubbies to evolve into a true national brand and prompted a name change to Bubbies Fine Foods. The increasing popularity of fermented foods has helped Bubbies Kosher Dills and Sauerkraut become the leading products in the respective categories.