We are STILL getting cucumbers from the garden–2014 is the year of the cucumber. I’ve made the best of it and have been stocking up on sour (brine) pickles. They keep for months in the fridge and are a lot easier to make than any other pickle. Plus they contain good bacteria for a healthy digestive system since they are fermented. If you don’t have your own cukes, perhaps you can still get a deal on locally grown ones at farmers markets. Young small pickling cukes that are not seedy are ideal–they will be firmer pickles. Don’t use big, over-ripe cukes–you will be disappointed in the final product. Also, if your room temperature is above 75 degrees F the pickles may be slimey or moldy and should be discarded so be sure you have a cool place for fermentation.
You will need a big glass jar with a wide mouth. I have a gallon-sized jar with a 5- inch mouth that is perfect but two 1/2 gallon-sized wide-mouth canning jars (available at hardware stores) will work very well too. You will also need a smaller jar that fits inside the mouth of the big jar to act as a weight for keeping the cukes down in the brine. Remove all labels and wash all jars very well before making the pickles. It’s taken me a while but I now have a collection of recycled glass jars that fit very well into my wide-mouth canning jars. Get your system down–you won’t regret it and you’ll be ready for next year’s cucumber crop!
For 1 gallon of pickles:
About 8-10 small cucumbers, washed well
3 sprigs of fresh dill or 2 Tbsp. dried dill weed
6 large cloves garlic
About 2 quarts of brine: 3 Tbsp. sea salt (I like Celtic) per quart of filtered water
Arrange as many of the cucumbers in the glass jar(s) as will fit so that they are packed but not squished together. Also leave a space of at least 3 inches at the top of the jar. I place them in vertically, side-by side and fit 2 layers of them in if the cukes are small enough. Add the dill and garlic by pushing them down in the spaces between the cucumbers. Dissolve (by stirring well) 3 Tbsp. of salt in a quart mason jar almost filled with water. Pour this onto the cukes in the big jar. Mix another quart of brine and add that –usually 2 quarts of brine is enough to completely submerge the cucumbers but if you need more mix it at that ratio. Be sure to leave about 3 inches of space at the top of the jar. Now fill your small glass jar with water, cap it and place it into the big jar–ideally it just fits in and acts as a weight that submerges the cucumbers without spilling brine. If you didn’t leave enough space at the top of the jar you will have trouble with brine overflowing. Place in a 65-75 degree F room out of direct light. Put a plate under the big jar just in case some brine spills over as the fermentation proceeds. Also, cover the top with a dishcloth or cheese cloth to keep dust, etc. out. Check every day to be sure the cukes stay submerged. The pickles should bubble as they ferment and be soured through in 5-7 days (cut one open and see if it is dark green all the way to the center). Remove cloth and the small jar and cap your big jar. Keep in the refrigerator.