We just had one amazing pickle-packing party at my house where we learned how to make our own lacto-fermented dill pickles at home using my husband’s grandmother, Bubu, dill pickle recipe. Bubu is 91 years old and while her solo pickle-making days have come to an end, she has happily passed the dill pickle recipe and dill pickle making torch to our family. Might I add that she has taught us well too! We promise to continue to make pickles each year in her honor. Here is Bubu – the proudest pickle maker of them all! We like to say she’s kind of a “big dill.”
I am truly honored to have the opportunity to learn how to pickled cucumbers from a long-time expert pickle maker, particularly at this important moment in my life. Plus, I’m honored that Bubu has shared her dill pickle recipe and dill pickle packing skills with me (and now all of you too!).
As you may know, I’ve been studying integrative nutrition. In class, we talk so much about the importance of adding lacto-fermented foods to our diets. Fermented foods can be an amazing tool in healing your gut and restoring your gut health – especially for those of us with celiac disease or leaky gut. Lacto-fermentation is a process where good bacteria feeds on the natural sugars and starches in foods to create enzymes, vitamins and beneficial bacteria (like a probiotic). The lacto-fermentation process breaks down food – often referred to as the “pre-digestion” stage. When food is pre-digested, it’s easier for your body to digest the food. Plus, lacto-fermentation introduces beneficial or good bacteria into your gut – essential for healing and aiding in overall good digestion and good health.
July and August are prime pickle-making months. Pickling pickles (mini cucumbers) are in season, and so is fragrant dill weed seasoning. We purchased 48 mason jars and decided to pickle as many jars as we could so we could share our pickles with friends, family and my clients all year long.
The pickling process began at the Farmer’s Market in Cherry Creek, where we purchased over 30 lbs of 2-3 inch in length pickles. I know, we purchased a lot! Upon Bubu’s suggestion, we pre-ordered the cucumbers from Palizzi Farm in Brighton, CO. Palizzi had a stand at the Cherry Creek Farmer’s Market.
I recommend you start by making 12 jars yourself, whereas you’ll only need about 10-12 lbs of pickles to do that. You’ll also need to pick up some dill weed (preferably dill with the seeds intact). Most growers of pickling pickles have dill weed readily available (Palizzi Farms did). Also pick up dried red chili peppers*, garlic cloves (two cloves per jar), Kosher salt, distilled vinegar, and of course 32 oz wide-mouth mason jars* – they come in a pack of 12 jars.
The process starts by soaking the pickles in a cold water bath. This will help them get clean and keep them cold.
Next, you’ll want to scrub each one individually to remove dirt. While scrubbing, we also sorted the small pickles from the larger-sized pickles. You’ll want to use the larger ones on the bottom, and the smaller ones to fill in crevices and on the top.
Now it’s time to wash the dried red peppers, remove cloves of garlic from the skin, and rinse your dill weed.
Once everything is washed and ready, it’s time to assemble. Have your jars lined up to make the process go quickly and smoothly.
In each jar, add 1 Tbsp. of Kosher salt, 1 garlic clove, 1 red pepper, and a small bunch of dill weed. This is your brine.
Next add the pickles, packing them tightly in each jar and filling in holes with small, thin and curved pickles. About mid-way through packing each jar, add a second clove of garlic and another small bunch of dill.Once each jar is well packed, fill each jar with water to cover the pickles while leaving a small half inch of air pocket at the top (the pickles need room to breath and release gas or lactic acid). Last, add a scant teaspoon of vinegar to each jar. Bubu says the vinegar helps keep the pickles crisp longer – but vinegar is completely optional.
Here’s what it looks like packed and ready to go:
In a large pot, boil water. Place the lids in the boiling water for 15 seconds, then place one on each jar. Using protective gloves or a rubber can opener, seal each jar as tight as possible. Store jars on a baking sheet that can capture any moisture that leaks out (otherwise you may have a mess on your hands). Before bed, flip the jars over to allow the juices to flow to the top, then turn them right-side-up in the morning. Store pickles on your countertop for 3-4 days, then transfer to your basement or a cold, dark space in your house. Check on them every day and tighten lids as needed. Gases will try to escape and the lids may pop a little as the pickles ferment. The brine will become cloudy over time and the pickles will lose some of their rich green color – which is good! That means the fermentation process is working.
There you have it – an awesome dill pickle making tutorial and dill pickle recipe.
And the best part… your dill pickles will be ready to eat in about three weeks, and will continue to ferment as long as you leave them in the sealed jars. Bubu says the pickles are best served in the 3-6 month period, but still taste good at 9 months. After a year they may lose some of their crispness, but they’ll still be edible, so she says not to worry. Once you open a jar, store it in its brine in the fridge for best results.
Last but not least, here is the dill pickle-packing crew posing with about half of the pickle jars we packed. Bubu has officially passed the pickle-making torch and dill pickle recipe onto three generations in one fell swoop! (Picture includes my husband, son and daughter, as well as my sister-in-law, my two nieces, my mother-in-law and Bubu and Papa. Not pictured is my husband’s aunt Marilyn who took the photo – thanks Marilyn!).
An important note about pickling and fermenting:
If you purchase store-bought pickles, please note that they are typically made with preservatives and use high heat preservation methods too. The high heat kills both the bad and beneficial bacteria. Therefore, store-bought pickles are not fermented – they are just pickled. The exception is when you purchase pickles at a health food store that are properly refrigerated – those are likely pickled and fermented. Purchasing properly fermented pickles is expensive – so it’s best to pickle and ferment your own pickles at home when pickles are in full bloom. We can’t wait to enjoy these Bubu’s “big” dill pickle recipe – these dills will be ready just in time for Rosh Hashanah!
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