Making Fermented Dill Pickles
We did not make any of Dills last year, but are currently down to our very last bottle so I definitely had to this year! My oldest son is the biggest pickle eater in the house, and now that he is nine I figured it was well time he could chip in with a good deal of the work on these. And thankfully he was eager to do just that.
Make sure that you are buying freshly picked cukes for your dills. These are #1 size, which are the smallest and also the most expensive. Size does not really matter so get whatever size you like. Just make sure the fruit are firm and crisp, and that you clean them well and check each and every one of them for imperfections. Tiny imperfections or soft spots can be cut out, but larger ones mean you should just discard the whole thing. I was really impressed with this half bushel - there were only four discards in the whole thing!
It will take two people 30 to 60 minutes to process a half bushel - my son and I just sat on the front step chatting while we did it. in addition to cleaning each individual fruit, you should also cut a sliver off the blossom end - that is the opposite end to the one that was attached to the vine. The reason for this is that all fruit have enzymes in them which help the fruit decompose - that is afterall the job of the fruit, to carry the seeds (ideally to another location) and then decompose to provide food for the new seeds. In cucumbers, most of those enzymes are concentrated in the blossom end, so you want to cut it off and discard it, because we don't want our fruit decomposing afterall.
As you go along you can add your dill as well as some freshly-picked and cleaned grape leaves. The grape leaves contain more enzymes that help keep your pickles crisp. For a half bushel of cukes you probably want 10 to 15 good sized stalks of dill, trimmed down in the manner I demonstrate in this video.
Once your bucket is almost full it is time to add your brine solution. Leave some headspace so that there is room for a weight and then your lid. The brine is as follows :
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 cup pickling or kosher salt (not table salt - no iodine, please)
- 1/4 cup vinegar
Mix 8 cups at a time and pour it in, and stop when you have just covered the cukes. I also like to dechlorinate my water since chlorine is added as an anti-bactieral / anti-fungal agent to keep stuff from growing in your water, but in fact we want stuff to grow! Fermented dills work by encouraging bacteria to grow - bacteria which live naturally in the surface of the cucumbers.
You can also add garlic to the bucket, which I did not do here. Or you can wait and add it at bottling time.