Fermented Garlic Pickles

Fun fact: I only recently learned that I can ferment my own pickles. I thought that my mom’s method of making pickles with vinegar was the only way of doing it! Wow, was I wrong. I recently picked up a copy of the book Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Jeremy Shockey. (Stop by your local bookstore and pick it up or order it today – it’s a terrific resource!) This is their recipe for garlic pickle slices – and be warned: this recipe is FOR GARLIC LOVERS ONLY. That said, they are crazy delicious and so good for you, chock full of probiotics.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cucumbers* cut into 1/3-1/2″ thick slices
  • 1 medium onion cut into chunks
  • 2 heads of garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and halved
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (yellow or black)
  • 1/2 gallon cucumber brine (6 tablespoons unrefined sea salt in 1/2 gallon unchlorinated water)
  • a few grape leaves

Preparation:

  1. In a large stainless steel bowl, toss the cucumbers, onions, and garlic with the spices.
  2. Put the vegetables + spices in a half-gallon jar or crock.
  3. Add enough brine to cover the vegetables. (Store additional brine in the fridge in case you need to top off the jar during fermentation!)
  4. Tuck a few grape leaves in the top to keep the vegetables under the brine.
  5. Top with a pickle pipe (totally worth the investment) and screw on the outer ring. If you don’t have a pickle pipe, top with a sealed, water-filled jar that fits inside the mouth of the half-gallon jar, or top with a water-filled ziplock baggie as a combination weight and follower. Be sure to keep the vegetables under the brine level during fermentation.
  6. Set aside on a baking sheet in a cool place to ferment. The ideal fermentation temperature is 60-65 degrees. Make sure the jar is out of direct sunlight.
  7. Check the slices daily to make sure they are submerged, pressing down as needed. Scoop out any scum that develops on the surface. The water will become cloudy – that is normal and exactly what you want as the mixture ferments.
  8. Begin tasting your pickles on day 4. You’ll know it’s ready when it tastes like pickles – it should be mild and half-sour by day 4, and the flavor will develop to fully sour. They are ready when you like the flavor. Total fermentation time should be 4-7 days.
  9. Store in smaller jars in the fridge for up to 6 months. (Mine are generally gone within a few days – so good luck getting them to last!)
  10. Enjoy!

*Note: You can use any type of cucumbers for this recipe. If you were making whole pickles, you’d want a specific variety to get the firmness/crispness you want in a whole pickle, but that’s not necessary for this recipe. I’ve made it with garden variety cucumbers available year round in the grocery store, no problem.