GC#27 – Sour Brine Pickles

Pink Sauekraut, German Potato Salad and Sour Brine Pickles

PICKLE UPDATE!  Tried my pickles after ten days, and they are just about Zabars!  Details at the end of this blog

I attempted the challenging task of making sour brine pickles after having made an excellent kimchi and two batches of delicious sauerkraut. I remembered the taste and the crisp texture I was looking for, because I’d spent the late 50s in New York City with with my wife’s radical Jewish aunt and uncle. The delicious garlic and dill flavored sour pickles from Zabar’s just down the street from their apartment set the standard.

Success of sour brine pickles depends on the proper brine solution, according to Sandor Katz in the book I’ve been following, Wild Fermentation: the flavor, nutrition, and craft of live-culture foods.  Katz says that some old-fashioned recipes call for enough salt to float an egg. That’s enough salt to preserve the pickles for a long time, but they’re too salty to eat without a long desalination process. On my first attempt I followed Katz’s advice and using of 5.4% bride.

Cucumbers, garlic and dill

Ingredients for 1 gallon of sour brine pickles

  • 3 to 4 pounds non-waxed small to medium-size cucumbers
  • 6 tablespoons sea salt
  • 3 to 4 heads fresh dill or 3 to 4 tablespoons of dried dill or seeds.
  • 2 to 3 heads garlic peeled
  • One handful of fresh grape, cherry, or oak leaves.
  • One pinch black peppercorns
  • ½ gallon water

Preparation of sour brine pickles

  • Rinse the cucumbers in cold water discarding any that are bruised or scratched. I soaked mind for a couple of hours in very cold water.
  • Dissolve the sea salt in one half gallon of water to create the brine solution. Make sure the salt is completely dissolved. Place the pealed garlic, the fresh grape leaves, dill and black peppercorns in the bottom of a 1 gallon crock.
  • Place the cucumbers in the crock.
  • Pour the brine over the cucumbers and put a plate over them, then weigh the plate down. If the brine doesn’t cover the weighted plate add more brine mixed at the same ratio of just under 1 tablespoon of salt to each cup of water.
  • Cover the crock with a cloth to keep out dust and flies and store it in a cool place.
  • Check the crock every day and skim off any mold that may have formed on the surface. Taste the pickles after a few days.
  • Enjoy the pickles as they continue to ferment, checking the crock every day.
  • Eventually, after 1 to 4 weeks (depending on the temperature the) the pickles will be fully sour. Continue to enjoy them by moving them into the refrigerator to slow down fermentation.

    Pickle after 1 week fermentation

    A few notes on my pickle making.  I did get a scum after a week, which I lifted off easily and rinsed from the pickles on the top before returning them to the jar for further fermentation.  The pickle water became somewhat cloudy on top.

    After ten days, the pickles were fantastic!  The were only a bit more sour than after a week, but still crisp and the garlic and dill flavors were very strong.  I took about half out and put them in the refrigerator and left the rest for further fermentation.  I am eating pickles like a addict!  I prefer them to sauerkraut.

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is a journalist and filmmaker who is now teaching at Montgomery Community College
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2 Responses to GC#27 – Sour Brine Pickles

  1. It’s good to read about your good experience. My brined dill pickles are on day 9 and I have no scum yet. Is that okay? I did take one out for tasting today and it was salty, but not “dill enough” for my taste. So I dumped in some more dill (hope I didn’t ruin them.”

  2. Galen says:

    Tried my pickles after six days. Amazingly good! Not quite Zabar’s yet but who knows what will become of them in the next several days.

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