I recently read a blog speculating that Kosher Dill Pickles were made in the kitchens of Jewish women. Oy!
“Kosher,” in this case, doesn’t refer to Jewish dietary laws – “kashrut” – or to a specific group of people, but instead, indicates the use of kosher salt used to make the fermentation brine for “pickling”. “Kosher pickles” also means the inclusion of raw garlic cloves in the pickling brine. No garlic cloves? No kosher!
“Scientifically, a pickle is any perishable ingredient that has been preserved in a brine. Our ancestors – no matter what part of the globe they hailed from – pickled to preserve fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. They pickled to save money. They pickled, together with family and friends, to assure safety and make the most out of their foods….” New York Food Museum
When families throughout time worked together “pickling”, they used anaerobic fermentation and not the new-fangled high-heat modern canning methods, mistaken as being an “old-fashioned” food-preservation method. Unlike vats of boiling water and blistering-hot glass jars, anaerobic fermentation is child-friendly, great for teaching little-hands life-long healthy-food practices.
I’d much rather create fermented foods with my children, than struggle through the aisles of a grocery store with them in tow, trying to discern which boxed or canned food is less toxic than the others. Whittlling away the clutter of our modern-age has simplified our life – brought the “real living” back into our family on many levels.
This is a Foundational Recipe Useful for Creating Other Brine-Preserved Vegetables
This recipe creates a zesty, crispy pickle loved by all, as well as teaching basic lacto-fermentation skills, easily applied to a creating other vegetable-based fermented foods. Pickled broccoli, green beans, red peppers, pearl onions, garlic scape, and garlic cloves are just a few of the many we’ve created.
Start by making one, or all of the fermented-pickle variations in Section #2. Learning to adjust your spices and salt levels will give you confidence to use the same technique for pickling other vegetables. This is the ultimate, “Play with your food!”
Let’s get started!
I’ve laid out 6 quick-decision steps, which are followed by a step-by-step recipe. At the very end is a recipe for one of my favorite pickling-spice recipes which I use for so much more than Kosher Dill Pickles. I even use it to make our favorite Greek-style beef stew, Stifatho, as well as seasoning Pickl-It corned beef. But for right now, back to pickles!
If you are a pickling-pro and anxious to get going – “just give me the recipe, please” – you may either scroll down or leap on over to the short-version.
|There’s Only One Nutrient-Dense Pickle Choice|
We moderns have been heavily influenced by the new kid on the block – factory-food. More times than not, we innocently copy them embalming our food in distilled vinegar, or fooling ourselves into thinking 24-hour refrigerator pickles are the same as traditionally-cured.
If your goal is provide the best possible nutrition to your family, there is only one appropriate method for creating nutrient-dense, easily-digestible, natural probiotic-rich food = real food.
- Fermentation: You’re correct if you guessed this was the “nutrient-dense”, probiotic-version! Classified as a “living, raw food” lacto-fermented (cultured, brine, cured, fermented, and occasionally called “processed”, etc.) lasts up to two years if refrigerated or stored in a refrigerator-cold root cellar in an oxygen-free container.
- Fresh pack/quick process: This is the bottled, commercial processed pickle utilizing distilled vinegar and pasteurization, resulting in dead nutrients; shelf life: 18-months
- Refrigerated or “fresh” pickles: These are typically eaten the same day, or within a week, requiring a combination of refrigeration and acidification using vinegar or alcohol to kill the bacteria that could cause spoilage (also kills good bacteria); shortest lifespan of all the pickles, typically about 1-2 weeks. This is a “side-salad” method and has nothing to do with long-term food-preservation.
|Fermented Dill Pickles are Universally the #1 Favorite|
The most popular pickled cucumber throughout the centuries has been the lacto-fermented (anaerobic) dill pickle, which originated in China. Porous clay jars were packed with pickling cukes, brine and dill, then tightly-sealed and stacked in cold caves or buried in deep-earth fermentation pits, providing the lactic-acid bacteria with cool, evenly-regulated temperatures.
There are three basic “Fermented Dill Pickles” from which to choose. Make one or one Pickl-It of each!
- Genuine Dills – Original Chinese pickle to which dill was added during the last stage of fermentation; dill is antimicrobial and may interfere with early fermentation stages; their flavor is more concentrated and sour than other pickles; refrigerate for long-term storage;
- Kosher Dills – Identical to “Genuine Dills”, with addition of garlic added at the last stage of fermentation; garlic is antimicrobial and may interfere with fermentation in the early stages; refrigerate for long-term storage
- Sour/Half-Sour: Fermented for 2-4 days, half-sours do not contain dill, garlic, spices or herbs as their full-flavor is meant to be intense pickled cucumber; half-sours are refrigerated before they’re fully fermented; refrigeration slows down the microbial process, creating a stronger sour flavor. Typically, these use a lower-salt, 3.6% lower-salt brine.
|Pick-A-Salt and Pick-A-Brine|
Our ancestors had two choices for their brine. Those who were land-locked used rock salt. Those living along coastal waters were an ocean-walk away from instant ocean-water brine.
There are some Japanese lacto-fermented foods which still utilize ocean-brine, but because of coastal pollution, they’re forced to harvest deep-ocean water.
I’ve experimented over the years with many salts including kosher, Celtic Gray Sea Salt, Real Salt from Redmond, Utah, as well as a number of local hand-harvested New England brands which are additive-free.
I prefer Himalayan Pink Salt which has a rich, complex flavor, 30+ more minerals than other salts, and is a deep-earth salt, not exposed to coastal pollution which is a growing problem in many regions.
Pickl-It tends to need less salt because of the ability for lactic-acid bacteria to quickly create carbon dioxide which pushes the oxygen out, reducing the ability for oxygen-hungry mold and yeast to develop. The 3.6% lower-salt brine is a good choice for all three types of dill pickles.
If, on the rare occasion (we have never had it happen in the Pickl-It), mold should develop (cucumber pickles are notorious for mold spores) you can always adjust your brine, adding more salt at any stage of the fermentation.
|Adding Other Spices & Herbs To Your Brine|
Crunchy and zesty is our goal when fermenting pickling-cukes. We’ll discuss “crunchy” in a bit. Right now, we’ll focus on “zesty”.
It’s fun to play with WHOLE spices and WHOLE herbs in the Pickl-It. We have encountered a huge reduction in mold issues which we attribute to the anaerobic environment created by the Pickl-It positive-seal. Whole spices are known to carry mold spores. When you create a healthy fermenting environment, blocking out oxygen which feeds mold spores, the spores are neutralized in the brine.
Please, do not use powdered spices or ground herbs, as they cloud up the brine, turn to sludge on the bottom, and do not taste or work as well as whole products.
We love, love, love garlic cloves, dill and more dill, but there are also some other spices and herbs we couldn’t do without, including:
- whole yellow mustard – traditional and foundational to all good pickles!
- black, pink, white (or a combination) peppercorns
- bay leaves
- cardamom seed (removed from pod)
- whole cloves
- whole dried red hot peppers
- whole allspice berry
- whole, 3-inch cinnamon sticks.
I make my own spice blend which is more economical, and easily tailored for our taste preferences. My spice blend recipe is at the bottom of this blog entry.
|IMPORTANT: Use Only Pickling Cukes|
I’ve generously, repetitiously used the term “pickling cukes” throughout this blog, wanting to drive home the point that no other cucumber will do.
For creating a traditional, long-store cucumber pickle with the best results, use ONLY “pickling cukes”, such as Kirby, make real pickles. Kirby cucumbers are short, squat, prickly, thick-skinned, dense-flesh – very different from English cucumbers which are thin-skinned, watery, break down too easily into mush and are just too large.
|Crispy is as Important as Zesty!|
“If a soggy, mushy, sweet pickle is served to you under the guise of being a kosher pickle, you should immediately complain, because while it may be pickled, it most certainly does not deserve to be called a kosher pickle.”
Two things help with creating crispy pickling cukes:
- Pickl-It anaerobic environment which doesn’t feed yeast-loving oxygen that create mushy pickles
- Adding tannin-rich grape leaves, white oak leaves, raspberry or horseradish leaves – all of which are traditional technique!
Kosher Dill Pickles Made Easy!
Container size: 3-liter Pickl-It (or use two 1 1/2-liter Pickl-It or three 1-liter Pickl-It containers)
Brine: 6 T high-quality sea salt, stirred-to-dissolve in 8-cups filtered, non-chlorine, non-fluoridated water (simple brine recipes
- 3-4 pounds small, unwaxed Kirby-style pickling cukes, preferably no wider than 1 1/2-inche; try to select ones that are uniform in size
- 2 heads garlic, peeled
- 4-5 heads flowering dill
- 1-cup blanched pearl onions (cut “X” in root end with sharp knife, blanch for 1-minute; rinse under cold water, “pop” onion through “X” removing from outer skin)
- 2-T organic pickling spice blend (purchased or home-made, recipe follows)
- 5-6 medium organic grape leaves
- Remove lid from the Pickl-It container for easier filling
- Insert airlock into Pickl-It lid; set aside
- Make sure all traces of the cucumber blossoms are removed; scrub all debris, sand from pickling cukes
- Pack and alternate pickling cukes, pearl onions (if you’re using them!) and whole-spices into the Pickl-It; rows and layers work best, rather than just randomly dumping them into the jar; this reduces oxygen space and is more efficient.
- Note: Add garlic cloves and dill heads on the day the Pickl-It cukes are moved to the fridge. And yes, keep the airlock on for at least 3 months!
- Do not load the cukes any higher than the jar “shoulder”
- Place Pickl-It Dunk’R on top the pickling cukes, holding them under the brine. Hint for using carrot strips under Dunk’R to hold pickles down.
- Install Pickl-It lid on Pickl-It jar
- Fill airlock with 1 1/2 T water
- Place Pickl-It in dark corner of counter, its sides covered with a towel
- After 24-hours, you should notice small carbon dioxide bubbles throughout the brine – this is normal, a sign of good, healthy fermentation. A “froth” or “foam” accumulates on the brine. Ignore it. Unlike other methods of “fermentation” that allow oxygen into the jar, Pickl-It locks the oxygen out. The “foam” or “scum” in the Pickl-It isn’t loaded with mold or oxygen-fed yeast. It is simply the result of a good batch of CO2 – carbon dioxide – which shows you’ve got a great batch of pickles.
- If your room temperature is between 68-74F, leave the Pickl-It container on the counter for 5-7 days, then add garlic and dill.
- Move the Pickl-It to the refrigerator for 20-days.
- Remove one pickle and slice in half. If there is a uniform green color throughout the pickle’s interior, without white spots or streaks, your Kosher Dill Pickles are ready to eat!
- If you have white spots or white streaks, return the re-latched Pickl-It to the refrigerator for another 7-days. Check progress again, and continue to repeat until there is even coloration. Enjoy!
Pickl-It Pickling Spice Blend
- 1 cup mustard seeds
- 3/4 cup coriander
- 1/2 cup whole allspice
- 1/2 cup black or mixed peppercorns
- 1/2 cup 3-inch cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 cup dill seeds
- 1/2 cup mace
- 1/4 cup cardamom seeds
- 1/4 cup whole cloves
- 10 bay leaves
- 6 (dried) hot peppers
- 4 1-inch pieces dried ginger (optional)
- Stir all ingredients in a glass jar, preferably wire-bail
- Store up to 12-months – or longer. We’ve had batches remain crispy and flavorful for 18-months. But we make and store all our ferments in the Pickl-It. Moving Pickl-It food into a mason jar, or into a plain wire-bail jar, greatly reduces their life and probiotic value due to oxygen exposure.
| Nutritional Benefits of Dill
Botanical Description of Dill
New York Food Museum
Long-version Kosher Dill Pickle recipe
Open Crocks are a Crock – Reviews why modern open-bowl, open-crock lacto-fermentation techniques are not traditional.
Recreating Grandma’s Kosher Dill Pickles
Simple Brine Recipe
Pickl-It versus Harsch Crock – Pickl-It wins by a landslide!
|by Kathleen in Recipes | Permalink|
Did you know...
N.Y. Mets rookie pitcher Nolan Ryan uses pickle brine to toughen a tender middle finger on his pitching hand; his fast ball is described as faster than Bob Feller’s; predicted to be the next Sandy Koufax
—1968 Life Magazine
I was intrigued by the whey-method although I kept thinking, "This really can't work. It sounds like a bad idea." I had my undergrad class check out whey-ferment vs no-whey, using the German crocks. Wow. I should have listened to my original thinking. Bad idea! Don't use whey! Not only is it low-count, but the flavor is awful and the texture even worse! Love your Pickl-It! Great tool for teaching!
—Gary, University Microbiology Professor