Fermented Pickles

Fermented Pickles. Get the recipes in The Complete Guide to Pickling by Julie Laing.
Fermented Pickles: Fermented Red Onions and Half-Sour Dill Pickles. Photograph by Andrew Purcell.

My love of pickles jumped several levels the moment I tasted my first batch of fermented pickles. I grew up with some delicious pickles: homegrown veg stuffed into jars, covered in vinegar brine, and sealed to enjoy all year. And I share many of those classic family recipes, some with modern twists for safety or flavor, in my new cookbook, The Complete Guide to Pickling. But I must admit: If you want to make truly amazing pickles, ferment them.

I talk a lot about fermentation in my new book. Whether you’re new to fermenting or have already fallen for salt brine, be sure to check out Chapter 1, where I explain the differences between vinegar-preserved and fermented pickles and walk you through my fermentation process, step by step; I also describe some of my favorite fermenting ingredients and tools in that chapter and offer many shortcuts for simply using what you already have in your kitchen. Then flip to Chapter 4 and drool over the recipes for fermented pickles. But don’t stop there. As you become more familiar with the book, you’ll realize that I’ve sprinkled fermented recipes throughout the remaining chapters of the book: Scratch-Made Sriracha, Fermented Rhubarb Pickles, Tepache, and more.

Many people feel nervous about fermenting because of its wild nature. But really, it’s one of the simplest ways to pickle food. Once you know what to expect in terms of time, appearance, and smell, you too will likely become hooked on the texture and flavor of fermented pickles.

Snap beans are a great place to start: they’re ready relatively quickly, require few ingredients and even less prep, and have a distinctive flavor entirely different from vinegar-pickled beans. Even if snap beans are no longer in season in your area, chances are your local market will be bringing some in for the upcoming holiday season. Choose the freshest ones you can find, and get them fermenting straight away for the best results.

Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe, taken straight from The Complete Guide to Pickling, but here are the basics:
You need just 2 fresh ingredients plus some spices and your basic fermenting ingredients: unchlorinated water and salt.
1. Mix the salt brine.
2. Pack your jar or crock.
3. Pour in the brine and wait, checking in to ensure everything’s going smoothly.
4. Taste and, when ready, enjoy.
Fermented pickles may be the best you’ll ever taste. Learn more at TwiceasTasty.com.

Tips & Tricks
  • High concentrations of chlorine, iron, lead, or trace minerals can interfere with the good bacteria that make fermentation happen. If you don’t know what’s in your water, use distilled water when fermenting.
  • I prefer Diamond Crystal kosher salt for pickling. You can substitute other salts, but you’ll need to know how much they weigh per tablespoon. For example, for every tablespoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt (8 grams), you need 1/2 tablespoon of Morton pickling salt or sea salt (which weighs 16 grams per tablespoon).
  • Once your fermentation is going, you may find you need to add more brine to keep the beans submerged. You get a 3.5% brine concentration by dissolving 1-1/2 teaspoons of Diamond Crystal kosher salt in 1/2 cup of unchlorinated water.
  • Crocks, airlocks, weights—these and other tools make fermentation easier and more foolproof, but you can still ferment without them. You’ll find more on these tools in my new book, and I’ll be talking more about some of my favorite styles and brands next month here on the blog.

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