Crispy, Fermented Dill Pickles

jar of fermenting pickles with bubbles on top
Fermenting, natural, pickle barrel style sour dill pickles

Have on hand, scrubbed and cleaned: Pickling cucumbers to fill 3 or 4 wide-mouth quart jars
6 tbsp pickling salt
1/2 gal (2 quarts) water
Spices per quart jar:
1 T dill seed or 1-2 fresh dill heads
1-2 cloves garlic
1 T mustard seeds (maybe also a teaspoon of pickling spices)
½ tsp hot pepper flakes (optional) or I small, red fresh hot pepper (also optional)
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1-3 grape or bay leaves (the tannins help make pickles crispy)

You will need: 3-4 wide-mouth quart jars or (optional) wire-bale jars, (or use half-gallon size jars) and plastic, non-corrosive lids (available in canning section).

Wash the pickling cucumbers and trim off the blossom ends. The blossoms have enzymes which can cause the cucumbers to soften as they’re pickling. Be sure to scrub this end well to remove all traces of the blossom, or use a sharp knife to take a very thin slice off that end.

Some varieties are spiny, remove them by rubbing with a soft brush or terry cloth. If the cukes aren’t just-picked from your garden, soaking them in ice water will help retain their crunch. Soak them for at least an hour in ice water while you prepare your jars.

Heat ½ gallon of water, add salt and stir to dissolve. Let cool to room temp.

In your jars, place 1 grape leaf on bottom, arrange cucumbers to fit (below the neck), then add spices. Pour in the brine (up to the neck). Top with another grape leaf or two (to keep pickles below brine). Loosely tighten lid just enough that when pressure builds up it can seep out.

Pickles will be done in anywhere from several days to two weeks. Bigger batches in larger containers take longer. Refrigerate when they are done, best eaten in the first month.