Dill pickles, ogórki kiszone, half sours, ogórki małosolneDill pickles, ogórki kiszone, half sours, ogórki małosolne - it's got to be one of my favorite foods. A sour, sour pickle on a slice of rye bread with a little butter, a half sour straight out of the jar as a midday snack or a bowel of sour pickle soup on a cold day - it just makes me feel good.

You can buy some decent sour pickles at the store these days - Bubbie's Pure Kosher Dills and Ba-Tampte's Garlic Dill Pickles are my favorites. They seem to be getting more and more expensive and they still don't compair to what I remember from Poland.

We used to get our pickles and sauerkraut from the store of old Nowakowska on Bracka street in Warsaw. It was a dingy little hole in the wall produce store presided over by a nasty, mean and bitter old woman. She would sell them straight out of old oak barrels, dripping wet, placed into a brown paper bag with a nasty comment or, on a good day, just a grumble. If you wanted plastic you had to bring your own. The taste was worth the insults. That was still under "socialist" rule. Today in the big and shiny supermarkets and in local grocery stores you can still get pickles and sauerkraut from a barrel. I don't think they are as good as from old lady Nowakowska but that may be just my memory playing tricks.

You can pickle cucumbers by using vinegar but real dill pickles are preserved and soured by the process of lacto-fermentation. It's an easy process and by making them at home you will be able to indulge in all the different stages of dill pickle deliciousness. You can practice the art of patience by making sure you let a few reach the supper pickled and sour stage.

real dill pickles are preserved and soured by the process of lacto-fermentation.3 pounds of small (pickling) cucumbers, a jar (3 quarts), 2 bunches of dill weed, some onion, TBSP of dill seeds, 1 TSP each of mustard, caraway and coriander seeds, 1 TBSP of sea or rock salt for every liter (4 cups) of water, 5 cloves of garlic, 1 carrot.

You will need:

  • 3 pounds of small (pickling) cucumbers. I haven't seen these at my local supermarket but farmer's markets, Asian and Middle Eastern markets carry them. I get mine at Altayebat Market in Orange County.
  • 2 bunches of fresh dill weed. I guess you could use dry but I have never tried that.
  • 1 TBSP of dill seeds. Some times I grow my own dill weed in the backyard. I wait till the flowers go to seed and than just use the whole plant, leaves, seeds and stalks for my pickling.
  • 1 TSP each of mustard, caraway and coriander seeds. Of the three I think the caraway seeds are the most important.
  • 1 heaping TBSP of sea or rock salt for every liter (about 4 cups) of water. If you don't use sea or rock salt you may have to use some pickling lime to keep your pickles crisp.
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Medium sized carrot (optional)
  • some onion (optional)
  • and a jar to fit it all in. For my 3 ponds of cucumbers I use a 3 quart ceramic jar with a tight sealing lid. If you use a clear glass jar you will have to find a place for your pickling away from the light.
  • almost forgot because they are not in the picture - 3 fresh or dry bay leaves.
Start by filling the jar in layers. all-filled half-sours
Start by filling the jar in layers. Fill the jar in layers and pour in the salted, warm water. After just a few days you can enjoy a half sour pickle.

Wash the pickles and check for cuts, bruises and especially for any form of decay - like soft spots under the skin. One bad cucumber can spoil the whole batch. Peel the carrot and garlic and measure out all the other ingredients. Boil a pot of water, more than enough to fill your jar and add the salt. Mix till all the salt is dissolved and let it start cooling.

Layer your ingredients in the jar. I usually start with a layer of dill weed and seeds on the bottom. After all the ingredients are in fill the jar with the warm salt water. There is a debate among picklers about the water temperature. Some say hot water penetrates quicker but others say cold water is traditional. Because I don't have the patience to wait till the water is cold and I don't like the fact that hot water might partially cook the pickles - I use warm water with excellent results.

The water should cover all the ingredients by about a 1 cm (0.25 inch). You don't want anything sticking up above the water. Because of the shape of the jar I use I can wedge the cucumbers in so that they keep all the other stuff down. You can also use a rock or a small plate to keep things below the waterline. Things that stick out have a tendency to go moldy and rot - you don't want that. Even if it doesn't spoil the pickles it just won't look or smell yummy at all.

Don't seal the jar tightly. You want to have a flow of gasses so that the natural process of lacto-fermentation can take hold. A special, symbiotic, combination of bacteria and yeast will slowly transform your ordinary cucumbers into delicious dill pickles. If you are worried about stuff getting in just cover the jar with some cheese cloth. The process is gradual and just after 3 to 4 days you will have half sours. After 4 weeks they will be very sour pickles indeed. If you want to slow down the process and keep a particular grade of sourness longer, just transfer the pickles to a seal-able jar, fill it with the brine and stick it in the refrigerator. It will keep for many weeks.

Now I have to figure out how to bake the rye bread we used to get from the corner bakery just a few doors up from old Nowakowska.

2weeks Don't worry is you get mold - it's just a surface thing. After 4 weeks - that's it a full sour pickle.
Pickles after 2 weeks. You can see a change of color & they are much more sour. If you like them this way just pack them in a jar with the liquid and put them in your fridge to retard the process. Don't worry if you get mold - it's just a surface thing and, in most cases, won't affect the pickles. Just keep scooping and skimming it off. After 4 weeks - that's it a full sour pickle.

From just plain old cucumbers to glorious full sour pickles - the wonders of lacto-fermentation! Remember that this is a temperature sensitive process. The warmer it is the faster you will get from cucumber to sour pickle. It has been a relativity cool Autumn here in Long Beach so my process is a little slower than I expected. Back in Poland, I remember, if a village had a lake near by they would pickle their pickles and sauerkraut in oak barrels and than roll them to the bottom of the lake. There the temperature was always steady and the same.

I was happy with this batch but the next one I will make in the 7.5 liter, Harsch Fermenting Crock Pot I got for my last birthday.

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