This recipe for fermented garlic dill pickle chips takes only three days and provides better taste and superior health benefits over any pasteurized store-bought pickles. Be sure to use fresh pickling cucumbers in the 5-inch to 8-inch size range as the more common salad cucumbers will not stay as crisp. Organic ingredients are always a plus for a quality final product. Natural sea salt is necessary as the anti-caking ingredients and iodine added to commercial table salt will discolor the pickles and inhibit the fermenting bacteria. Fermented pickles make a great addition to any healthy whole food diet.
1. Make the brine
The basic pickling brine is made from one quart of water and 3 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt. I like to bring the brine just to a boil and stir vigorously. This ensures a saturated brine. Most sea salts will leave some insoluble residue in the bottom of the pan. Bringing to a boil will also eliminate any chlorine residue that may be present in tap water, which in noxious to the fermenting bacteria. Let the brine cool while preparing the rest of the ingredients and try not to add any insoluble material on the bottom.
2. Cut the pickle chips
Cut 10-12 small pickling cucumbers into 1/2-inch thick sliced for the pickle chips. These cucumbers contain less water and will stay crisper during fermentation than the more common and larger-sized salad cucumbers. Discard 1/2-inch of each end, as the ends can contain enzymes that interfere with the fermentation.
Place the cucumber slices into a glass or ceramic container with a large opening. I have successfully used Mason jars for small batches, ceramic casseroles and glass gallon jars. I am currently using a dedicated fermentation crock with a water-seal for the lid and find it much more foolproof(far fewer batches “go bad” because of fungus or bad bacteria).
3. Prepare the other vegetables
I like to use one whole peeled garlic clove per cucumber and one slice of onion per six cucumbers for added depth of flavor and nutrition. Adding thinly sliced carrots tends to mellow the sourness of fermented foods because of their natural sugar content. Add these vegetables to the cucumber slices in the fermentation vessel.
Add two teaspoons of whole black peppercorns, two teaspoons of whole yellow mustard seeds and one tablespoon of whole dill seeds to the vegetables. White or red peppercorns will give a milder flavor, as will brown mustard seeds. Dill weed can be used instead of or in addition to dill seeds. I will sometimes also use some celery seeds or caraway seeds in this recipe. Experiment to find your own favorite flavor combination.
5. Add the cooled brine
Pour the cooled brine over the other ingredients. Add 1/4- to 1/2-cup of fermenting liquid from a previous batch of pickles or sauerkraut, or drain some liquid from kefir(this serves as a jump-starter for the fermentation process. Make sure there is enough liquid to fully cover all of the vegetables. Place a weight on the vegetables to keep them fully submerged.
6. Ferment the pickles
Cover the fermenting vessel loosely or add the lid and fill the water seal of the fermentation crock to prevent contamination. Allow to ferment for three full days at room temperature. Check for flavor and crispness. Longer fermentation will produce pickles that are more sour and less crisp. Any mold or fungus on the surface can simply be skimmed off without harm.
Cutting the cucumbers into spears or using whole cucumbers will require longer fermentation times.
7. Refrigerate the pickles
When the pickles reach the flavor and crispness you like, refrigerate them. The cold will halt the fermentation process without killing the bacteria. The liquid can be used as a starter for the next batch of fermented vegetables.