Diane’s Dills: A Recipe for Fermented Pickles

Fermented Pickle Recipe

Diane Blust is a VA Cooperative Extension - Master Food Volunteer and permaculture designer, and gardener.  She is also a guest presenter of our "Introduction to Fermentation" webinar, where she talks about the benefits of fermented foods and how to prepare them.  She has developed and tested this recipe over many years of teaching food workshops.  We are grateful that she shares it with us below.

Disclaimer:  Any affiliate links on this post supports the existence of this website.  We believe in community-supported garden education and hope you do too!


This is a recipe for fermented dill pickles: No vinegar. No heat. No canning.

This is a “living” food, full of beneficial bacteria. Don’t eat too many at once until your gut has gotten used to fermented foods!

fermented pickle recipe

What Shape of Cucumbers to Use

The shape of your pickles is up to you: whole, sliced, spears. The one thing you must do is remove about 1/16 inch of the blossom end of the cucumber – there is an enzyme down there that will make your pickles mushy. (I’ve found that whole cukes yield the firmest pickles.)

How to Prepare Your Pickling Jars

The bigger the jar, the more pickles and the higher likelihood you can make whole dills (with just that blossom end trimmed away).  You can still do whole cukes in a quart jar, but they will have to be small cukes and you will only be able to fit a few in.  I use a mix of 2-quart Ball canning jars, some wire closure Italian jars from the Container Store (2 and 3-liter size), and quart Ball jars.

le parfait jars

You don’t want any metal to touch the product and preferably no plastic – but I do have some Tattler reusable canning lids and the reCap Mason Jar lids  that I use (I have run out of my all glass, wire clasp jars).

Wash your jars, lids, caps (whatever) in hot, soapy water, and dry.  You do not have to sterilize containers for fermentation – the acid level is high enough to kill most anything.

fermented pickle recipe

Let these pickles ferment at room temperature, out of sunlight, covered with a kitchen towel for 1 – 2 weeks.  The lids should be loose enough to allow CO2 to escape – some liquid will probably ooze out, so set the jars in a dish or on a cookie sheet/tray to catch any brine that overflows.



  • Cucumbers – pickling cucumbers are the best.  You can find some here.
  • Brine – 3 tablespoons sea salt per every quart of water (if you are on city water, boil the water and allow it to cool in an uncovered pan to rid it of chlorine – cool it to room temperature)  If you have extra brine, you can hold it in the fridge for a week or so in a sealed container.

  • Horseradish, fig, or grape leaves – to keep pickles crisp and submerged under the brine.

  • Fresh dill seed heads or seed, mustard seed, dried ginger (optional – not powdered, but dried chips of ginger), coriander seed, allspice, cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, fresh garlic, dried hot peppers, a chunk of peeled ginger root, etc.

fermented pickle recipe


Thoroughly wash cukes, remove a small slice from the blossom end and cut into desired shapes (if you’re not making whole dills)

For each 2-quart or 2-liter jar:  In the bottom of the jar, place several peeled, slighted bruised garlic cloves, 3 bay leaves, 2 tsp mustard seed, a few dill seed heads or 3 tsp dill seed, about ½ tsp dried ginger (if using), 1 tsp coriander seed, 4 allspice berries, 4 cloves, and 1 tsp peppercorns and one or two dried hot peppers.  Feel free to vary spices according to your preferences – I usually add more garlic and a little more dill seed.  You can omit the hot peppers or anything else, for that matter.

Pack your cukes in the jar – you’ll find it’s easier to lay the jar on its side when packing unless you are doing slices (cut across the cuke).  When the jar is fairly full, stand it upright and pack those pickles in!  You may want to lay slices, small whole cukes, or spears across the top so that they fit under the “shoulders” of the jar and hold everything under the brine.  Fill the jar with a prepared brine.  Top with a horseradish leaf or.  Place the lid on the jar, but do not tighten all the way – you want the CO2 to escape.  You should also burp the jars from time to time just to avoid explosions!  Put the jar in a dish or on a cookie sheet – cover with a kitchen towel to keep light (and bugs) out.

Start checking your pickles after a week.

I usually just dip a clean finger into the brine and taste how sour it is.  If you want it to be sourer, let the fermentation continue.  You can also slice off a bit of a pickle and taste it.  I find spears and slices are usually ready in about a week, whole dills take longer – maybe two weeks.  If your house is warm, fermentation will go faster.   The brine will probably become cloudy; this is fine.  Some batches may be cloudier than others; some cloudiness may disappear when you refrigerate the pickles.

When the pickles are sour enough for you, place the jar in the fridge for long term storage.  The low temps will slow, but not halt completely, the fermentation process.    Enjoy!!!!

Danger Signs

If there is any “slime” in your product, it is bad:  don’t eat it, toss it on the compost pile.

A little bit of powdery white mold is fine – just remove it with a spoon.

If your pickles are completely submerged below the brine and the leaf, you shouldn’t have mold.  Again, any slime, colored mold, strings of mold going into your jar means you have a spoiled batch and you’ll have to toss it.

Dig Deeper

Consider learning more about food fermentation by watching the Introduction to Fermentation webinar workshop with Diane Blust.

Watch the Workshop

Share this post with other growers!

Share on FacebookTweetShare on Google+Pin itShare on LinkedInSend email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *