Sour pickles

Sour pickles are a mainstay at our summer dinner table.   Naturally fermented, sour pickles are rich in beneficial bacteria and food enzymes, offering a dairy-free source of probiotics. Vinegar pickles lack the beneficial bacteria and many of the heat-sensitive vitamins found in traditional, sour pickles.   You see, real pickles are naturally fermented through lactic acid fermentation – a process that conveys many benefits by encouraging the proliferation of beneficial bacteria.

Just as unrefined sea salt is used to prepare a traditional sauerkraut, unrefined sea salt is likewise used to prepare traditional sour pickles.   While many traditionally fermented vegetables require pounding vegetables long enough for them to release their juices which then combine with unrefined sea salt to create a brine, in preparing sour pickles, you prepare the brine separately and pour it over cucumbers and seasonings.   This brine helps to keep pathogenic bacteria at bay while encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria which metabolize the vegetable’s natural sugars and produce lactic and acetic acids as a by product.   This is why sour pickles, traditionally prepared, salty without the addition of vinegar to the preparation.

I like to season them heavily with garlic and dill while alternating the more subtle flavors by using pickling spice or even dried hot peppers.   The benefit of using garlic in your sour pickle recipe is that not only do you finish the week with true, delicious salty and sour pickles, but you also get to enjoy pickled garlic with all of its flavor coupled with thiamin as well as vitamins C, K and B6.

sour pickles

sour pickles recipe
Recipe type: Ferment
Cuisine: American
  • 1 Gallon Organic, Unwaxed Pickling Cucumbers
  • 2 Big Bunches Organic Dill, (Preferably Flowering Heads)
  • 2 Large Bulbs of Organic Garlic
  • 3-4 Tbsps Pickling Spice , (Allspice, Mustard Seeds, Cloves, Bay Leaf, Black Pepper etc.)
  • 5-6 Tbsp Unrefined Sea Salt
  • 1 Horseradish Leaf , (Stem Removed)


  1. The first step in making sour pickles is to thoroughly soak the pickling cucumbers in chilly water. This is a very necessary step unless you picked your cucumbers that day as it helps to perk them up a bit before the fermeting begans.
  2. Next, you’ll want to makes sure all stems and flowery ends have been removed as either may contribute an off-flavor to the sour pickles. Make sure your pickling cucumbers are throughly scrubbed and clean.
  3. Peel each bulb of garlic and use only the best and freshest cloves of garlic to season the sour pickles.
  4. Add the pickling cucumbers and garlic, dill and pickling spice to the jar or vegetable fermenter in layers, I like to sprinkle a little salt between layers.
  5. Add the horseradish leafe to the jar as well. I find that you needn’t tear it to ensure that the horseradish leaf is evenly distributed throughout the jar; indeed, it can be left more or lose whole. The leaf not only yields a subtle additional flavor to sour pickles, but it also helps them to remain crisp, not mushy, when the lactic acid fermentation is complete.
  6. Prepare a brine of 2 ½ – 3 tablespoons of unrefined sea salt to 1 quart filtered, chlorine-free water and shake it to ensure the salt is fully disolved. Pour the brine over the pickling cucumbers, spices, garlic, dill and horseradish until all of the ingredients are submerged in salt water. It usually takes about 2 quarts of salt water to sufficiently cover the vegetables and spices.
  7. Make sure that the vegetables are completely submerged beneath the salt water which is easy if you’re using a vegetable fermenter. If you’re using mason jars, simply place a smaller, plastic lid or other clean wait in the jar ontop of the vegetables until it weights them down sufficiently.
  8. Allow your ingredients to ferment for at least a five days and more likely seven days and quite possibly ten days. (Fermentation is an inexact art.) Taste them to see if they’ve soured to your liking. Once they’re done, simply place them in the fridge and use wisely and judiciously.

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