This is my fifth year in a row making the wild-fermented, dill pickles that are also known as kosher sours. The unusual process (at least for our refrigerator-happy era) depends on leaving food at room temperature for a couple weeks so [there are some unusual challenges that have to be met.] This year I fine-tuned the equipment setup and I’d like to share my changes in the hope that you may find them useful.
The detail here is pretty intense and falls into the “nice-to-know-but-not-necessary” category. If you’re new to wild-fermented pickling have a look at my recipe for Wild Dill Pickles, or at the recipes for year-round favourites Pickled Turnips, and Small-batch Spicy Sauerkraut. If you’re looking to refine your dill pickling technique head over to pickle troubleshooting post.
Spring came exceptionally early here in southern Ontario. July was also hotter and drier than usual That means that pickling cucumbers were ready early in the middle of one of our hottest and driest Julys on record. August has turned out to be cooler and wetter so I probably could have waited but worried that the supply would run out and I started my fermenting on July 20.
For whatever reason it’s also been a bad summer for ear wigs and I worried about them getting into the pickles. My two-birds-one-stone solution was putting the pickle crock in an old wash-bin that I then filled with water. This acted as both an ear wig moat and by adding ice packs to the water on very hot days we had an easy method of lowering the temperature in the crock. When the pickles finished fermenting what I found in the bottom of the wash tub (and not in the pickles) convinced me that this setup is worth repeating in future years.
I doubled my pickle purchase to a full bushel and while some went to bread and butter pickles I still had more for the crock than usual. It has a small (repaired) crack and I worried about how much outwards pressure 20+ kilogrammes of pickles and brine would put on it. In his new, Art of Fermentation Sandor Katz offers the solution of using an old leather belt (fit while the belt is wet so that it shrinks tightly) to brace a pickle crock. In a stroke of delicious, gluttonous irony it seems the crock is wider than I am so we had to call one of those ratcheting tie-downs into service.
I’ve never really been bothered by cloudy pickle brine but I know that some fermenters are in a constant battle against it. This year I used not-iodized, unrefined sea salt and as usual the water I use is never-chlorinated (but filtered, UV-treated, and tested safe to drink) lake water. If anything, the brine is cloudier than usual. The only remaining possible culprit is dissolved solids in the water and I’m unwilling to use distilled water so I’ll continue to deal with cloudy brine. As far as I can it has absolutely no negative effects on the taste or refrigerated shelf life of the pickles.
Wild fermentation pickling has become a bit of an obsession here and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these posts. I plan to share some more thoughts and recipes by video in the near future but in the meantime if you have any questions please leave a comment below.