Half-Sour Pickles: Fermentation Baby Steps

Half Sour PicklesI learned the art of fermenting pickles last year and quite frankly couldn’t stop.  Watching a crisp little Gherkin transform into a tangy crunchy pickle by simply submerging it in salt water for a few weeks, well, it seemed like nothing short of a miracle.  With each batch I made, I kept thinking, that was just dumb luck.  So I’d experiment, making another batch, and behold, more pickles. Like a baby testing the effects of gravity by dropping her bottle on the floor again and again, it never ceased to surprise and delight me.

Once I had mastered it, I took the show on the road sharing the joy of old-fashioned pickling with the world.  It might have been the most well attended class that I have ever taught, and the questions, so many questions.  It seems people not only have a hunger for pickles, but the DIY know-how to make them at home.

Well, I’m here to say, that you too can ferment pickles at home—the kind of pickles that would make any Polish grandma proud.  And it couldn’t be simpler.  If you have never fermented before, the half-sour is a good stepping-stone fermented pickle—it takes only a week to make, it requires very few ingredients, and any quart jar with a lid will do.

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Half-Sour Fermented Pickles
Recipe type: Pickle
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 1 quart
Half sours use a brine with a much lower salt concentration--a fresher taste in exchange for a shorter shelf life
  • 12 oz. pickling cucumbers, blossom-end removed
  • ¼ t peppercorns, crushed
  • ½ t pickling spice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig dill
  • 4 ½ t pickling salt
  • 1 T white wine vinegar
  • 3 cups water
  1. Dissolve salt into the water.
  2. Pack all ingredients and spices into a sanitized jar and pour brine over the ingredients. Cucumbers must be submerged to ferment, so pack them tightly using a quart jar with a narrow mouth or stuff a pint-sized freezer bag filled with remaining brine into the mouth of the jar to keep cucumbers submerged.
  3. Check the jar daily and clean any scum off the top, rinsing the bag if necessary. This is just yeast.
  4. In 3 days, there should be fermentation bubbles. Once the bubbles have stopped forming in 7 or 8 days, place the jar in the fridge.
  5. Pickles will keep in the fridge for about 3 weeks.
Every cucumber has 2 ends--the stem-end on one side and the blossom-end on the other side. The blossom-end is where the flower transformed into a fruit. Shave off the blossom-end of each cuke before pickling. This will keep it firm as the blossom-end contains enzymes which soften the cucumber over time.

This Half Sour Pickles recipe was inspired the pickling guru Linda Ziedrich in her book The Joy of Pickling. for more information and recipes on pickling and fermentation see the following links:

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11 thoughts on “Half-Sour Pickles: Fermentation Baby Steps

  1. Awesome! You just answered my questions about making crisp pickles. Can’t wait to try this recipe! Love your blog Lisa!

  2. I loved these when I made them in your pickling class at the Milwaukee Public Market. But when you taught us we added cayenne peppers (I think that’s what they were). That was a great kick! I didn’t know crispy and zesty pickles were so easy to make! Thanks Lisa!

  3. I grew some pickling cucumbers in my garden. Unfortunately, some got rather large before I harvested them. Can I cut up the cukes when using this recipe?

  4. Good question. You can pickle them, though the larger the cuke the more seedy and more watery and thus less crunchy. If you don’t care about crunch so much, pickle them whole, as is. You could also try soaking them in an ice water bath for 12 to 24 hours before pickling them. This helps them maintain their crunch. Another approach to keep them crunchy–remove the seeds. Good luck.

  5. I I want to use the canning method for half sour pickles so they can be stored with out fear of poisoning is that possible ? HELP!

    • Half sours are one of those fleeting joys of summer–you must enjoy them now as they are not safe to can. Half sour means half the acid. The acid is what preserves the pickles and allows long term canning. Sorry.

  6. Mine are fermenting in jars with the lids still on. Is that okay? It’s been about 5 days and the brine looks a little milky. Curious if that will stay of if it needs to be changed or tossed.

    • Cloudy is fine. That is the good bacteria. If it looks like a pickle, smells like a pickle and tastes like a pickle, it is probably a pickle and you are fine.

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