It is that time of year again… pickle-making time! I’ve made a couple of gallons so far and I thought now is the perfect time to share my favorite six tips for making great lacto-fermented dill pickles.

  1. Do use half gallon jars. Unless you have teeny tiny cucumbers half (or one) gallon jars work really well. I like these ball canning jars.
  2. Do keep your cucumbers whole. I tried making pickle slices last year, but they turned mushy no matter how many grape or oak leaves I stuck in there. The whole cucumbers keep their crunch much better.
  3. Do make your brine ahead of time using boiling water. I make up a huge pitcher of brine using a ratio of 1 1/2 tablespoons unrefined sea salt to one cup water. Be sure to allow the brine to cool completely.
  4. Do use grape or other leaves to keep them crunchy. Grape or oak leaves (or horseradish, I believe) contain tannins that work to keep your cucumbers crunchy. There is nothing worse than a mushy pickle.
  5. Do NOT overfill your jars and "burp" them. Leaving headspace allows the brine to bubble up without exploding the jars. I also like to loosen the lids once or twice a day and allow some of the fermentation gas to escape. I learned this the hard way. We had a funny incident involving an exploding jar in the middle of the night. My husband searched high and low for an intruder, only to find a broken jar on the table and pickle juice dribbling on the floor.
  6. Do use various sized cucumbers. Fitting the cucumbers into the narrow jars can be a challenge if they’re all too big. I found that layering seasonings at the bottom of the jar followed by a layer of larger cucumbers standing straight up followed by another layer of seasonings and then a bunch of smaller cucumbers works well.

You can also purchase jars and air lock equipment from cultures for health to make your pickle-making experience even better.

What about you… Do you have any pickle-making tips to share?