5 Ingredients or Fewer

Lacto-Fermented Pickles with Garlic Scapes

June 10, 2010
3 Ratings
  • Serves 1 quart
Author Notes

If you aren’t familiar with it, lacto-fermentation is the act of creating a lactic-acid rich environment that enables the natural preservation of certain foods. Lacto-fermentation also makes these foods more nutritious (it increases their vitamin content) and more digestible (it fosters the growth of natural probiotics). Lacto-fermenting is also referred to as “culturing” foods. Vegetables are easily lacto-fermented/cultured by mixing them with a salt water solution and allowing them to sit in an air-tight container (a glass mason jar works well) at room temperature for several days before moving them to the refrigerator. I like simple dill pickles without additional spices, but you could add a few teaspoons of picking spices, if you like. You could also add 1 Tb. of mustard seeds (the recipe that inspired this one, from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, actually calls for this). - WinnieAb —WinnieAb

Test Kitchen Notes

I've made many pickles over the years, all in search of the elusive half-sour pickle from Brauer's Deli, a memory of my childhood. My search is over -- I declare these to be the perfect deli pickle. Crunchy, briny, fresh tasting, and garlicky with a terrific herbal note from the dill. The process couldn't have been easier. And the bonus? I got to use my antique canning jars! Next time, I might add a small chile pepper to the mix. - MrsWheelbarrow
—The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 4-5 kirby or other type of pickling cucumbers
  • 5 garlic scapes
  • 3 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • very clean 1 qt. wide-mouth mason jar with screw-top lid (run through the dishwasher before using to ensure it is sterilized)
  1. Wash the cucumbers. Snip off the very ends and slice them lengthwise. Cut off the tops and bottoms of the garlic scapes and then cut them into pieces several inches long.
  2. Place cucumbers and garlic scapes into a 1 qt. wide-mouth mason jar. Mix salt and water in a small bowl and pour into the jar. Add additional water so that the vegetables are completely covered and the liquid is about 1 inch below the top of the jar. Screw the top on the jar tightly and allow to sit at room temperature for three days.
  3. After this time, go ahead and open the jar. The liquid should be pretty fizzy, which means the lacto-fermentation was successful. If there is any type of “off smell”, discard and start again (I’m mentioning this as a caution, but also want to mention that I have been lacto-fermenting for years, and I have never had anything go wrong).
  4. Go ahead and taste a pickle. The cucumbers should have a nice garlicky tang from the scapes, and they should be pleasantly “dilly”. You can eat the pickled garlic scapes too, of course, but they are strong.
  5. Once opened, move your jar to the refrigerator for storage. Lacto-fermentation will continue in the colder temperature, but at a much slower rate, and the garlic scapes should mellow a bit over time.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Edward Barton
    Edward Barton
  • louisez
  • Alexis Kropp-Kwon
    Alexis Kropp-Kwon
  • trampledbygeese
  • Sagegreen
I grew up in a restaurant family (my parents owned the now closed Quilted Giraffe in NYC) and I've always loved to cook. My interest in the connection between food and health led me to pursue a graduate degree in naturopathic medicine. I don't practice medicine anymore; I have a blog called Healthy Green Kitchen that I started in May of 2009 and I wrote a book called One Simple Change that will be published in January, 2014. I live in upstate New York with my family and many pets.

48 Reviews

cpc May 16, 2020
I’ve had these on my counter for three days. They’re extremely salty and a bit cloudy. The pickles aren’t very crisp at all. Should I toss and start over with half the salt. As they are, they’re too salty to eat.
Better T. May 16, 2020
Three days is not that long...and the water will get cloudy. Make sure you don’t use tap water, and use a high quality salt. The brine does need a certain percentage of salt...I usually use approximately 1 tablespoon per quart, and make sure it’s dissolved. I like to add garlic cloves, peppercorns, mustard seeds etc. Make sure everything is super clean, watch the room temperature- the warmer it is, the quicker the ferment. After the necessary days (depending on the veg.) put the jar in the frig, then taste after another week or so.
cpc May 17, 2020
So is the extreme saltiness going to go away if I leave them out for a few more days? The recipe specifically said 3 days.
A F. September 3, 2018
I'm trying these for the first time. I was a little confused about water quantity but now I get it. Glad I read comments where someone mentioned "no tap water". I used spring water, hope that will do. Someone else mentioned a teaspoon of salt per pound. I squeezed as many spears of cuke in to the quart as was not too tight, maybe 1.25 pound or 1.5 and used the 2 Tablespoons called for in the recipe. That would be quite a difference in salt quantity between makers. I sterilized the jars but of course none of the ingredients are sterile and no hot water bath called for. Guess that much salt will take care of the rest. Fingers crossed...
Better T. March 11, 2017
@EdwardB. It all depends on the amount of pickles you intend to ferment. Cucumbers ( pickles) tend to ferment rather quickly, compared to say, sauerkraut or carrots. Like 3-7 days, depending on the temperature. A good way to determine that is when the brine becomes cloudy- put them in the frig. So high salinity would not be beneficial, It's definitely a balance- too low, the vegetables can rot, and prevent the beneficial microorganisms from developing, too much salt will stop lactic acid bacteria, inhibiting fermentation. Your taste buds are your best guide. Overall, cucumbers do need a higher salt concentration than krauts. The sweet spot tends to be around 3%. 3/4cup/per gallon of pickles. Make sure it's good quality salt, and no tap water.
Cucumbers pickle quickly because the juice naturally contains elements that encourage lacto-fermentation.
Edward B. March 10, 2017
I'm hoping you can answer a question (actually 2 questions): Regarding pickles cucumbers, does using lower salt brine such as 3% vs 5% and aging longer at higher salt brine make a difference to final outcome? For example, using 3% and fermenting 2 weeks vs using 5% and fermenting 4 weeks end up with the same result or different result? The second question, kind or related: fermentation done once the CO2 bubbles stop rising? Is there any benefit to aging in brine longer than that or is it done changing once the fermentation has stopped?
Better T. October 2, 2013
Made these a week ago with little cukes from the farmers market, and substituted whole garlic cloves. I also added fresh dill, and some mustard seed, and threw in a couple grapes leaves since I have them. Let the jar sit in the basement for 3-4 days, then threw them in the frig. They are absolutely superb! I'm also going to lacto-ferment some sauerkraut and salsa! This is the best time of year with all the fresh veggies available!
Allan September 6, 2013
Did my first batch of pickles with garlic and have to ask you - even though everything tastes and smells great, some of the garlic at the bottom of the jar is blue and the brine is cloudy like milk mixed with water.... Is this normal?
trampledbygeese September 6, 2013
Did you use cloves or scapes? If you used cloves, could it be that they were not seasoned (aka, aged/dried/cured after harvest) fully or that they were young garlic? I have this happen more often with home grown garlic than with the store bought, but that's because I usually take it right from the soil to the kitchen without seasoning (drying) it properly.

It could be the the kind of garlic, or it could be the age of garlic, or it could be the kind of salt you used, or it could be the amount of water or kind of nutrients in the soil, or it could be that it was exposed to light at the wrong time during pickling, or it could just be for no discernible reason whatsoever. Sometimes garlic just turns blue. It looks weird, but I've never had any issues from eating blue/green garlic.
louisez August 23, 2013
great recipe! how long do they keep once refrigerated?
Alexis K. July 5, 2013
Thanks for the advice. We used organic sea salt, but perhaps we didn't let them sit long enough. We'll try again.
Alexis K. July 5, 2013
I'm wondering if I did something wrong. These were very salty. I followed the recipie exactly.
trampledbygeese July 5, 2013
They start salty then get sour as they ferment. Although I've had a few salty batches lately. What I've started doing is weighing the prepared veg, then using 1 tsp of salt per pound of veg. This is working much better for me, however, in warm weather I need to add 1/4 tsp more salt. Another possibility is if you use salt with iodine or other additives, this would inhibit the fermentation.
trampledbygeese July 5, 2013
addendum, that's 1/4 tsp extra salt per pound of veg in hot weather.
trampledbygeese June 20, 2013
Just put these up tonight. Going to try the first batch in a crock instead of a jar like I do my sauerkraut, making certain there is enough liquid to keep the veg submerged and weight everything down. It already smells amazing.
jmhjams July 21, 2012
I love this technique and made these last week (I originally found the recipe on your Healthy Green Kitchen blog, which I love!) The pickles are now in my fridge (I used garlic bec. there were no longer scapes at my farmer's market). However, the liquid is definitely cloudy, especially toward the bottom of the jar. Is this really okay? I see someone else asked this question. They taste good, and have a little zing to them. Just checking that cloudy is really fine. This doesn't happen when I do other methods of pickling.
Sarahindia July 11, 2012
Day 2--lid of jar is convex! Is that normal/OK? They're not going to explode on me, are they?
WinnieAb July 11, 2012
If there's not enough headspace in the jar, and the lactofermentation is very active, there might be too much pressure building up. I'd loosen the cap to let some air escape, and maybe take one of the cucumber slices out, so the jar is not so full.
WinnieAb July 11, 2012
I'd loosen the cap and remove one of the cucumber slices so the jar is not so full. If there is not enough headspace and the lactofermentation is very active, I'd be a little concerned.
Sagegreen May 15, 2011
Great process!
innoabrd January 23, 2011
Yum, this was just mentioned in a foodpickle thread. I love half-sours!

A few questions:

1) How long past the three-day mark can I leave them, unopened, at room temp before they need to be refrigerated?
2) What happens if you don't slice the cucs? I can't get kirbys here, and the only ones small enough for a jar are these skinny 'israeli' cucs. Was thinking that since they're skinny I wouldn't want to slice, but didn't know if the unbroken skin would inhibit the process?

marynn September 18, 2010
Oops--forgot to add that I used garlic cloves once the scapes were gone. Guess what else pickles up mighty tasty?
WinnieAb September 19, 2010
Thanks so so much for your sweet comments. I am really happy that you enjoyed them so much!
marynn September 18, 2010
OK, made the first batch the end of June, the second--one week later. The third? Well, you all get it. Just back from the probably last fresh Kirby cuke available Farmers' Market here in Minneapolis and the pickle jars are back sterilizing in the dishwasher. Wow, have we ever enjoyed this!

I had a stray jar or two escape detection at the back of the fridge. One month's rest adds such piquancy and sort of smooths that early pickle, slightly-effervescent zing right out.

Truly special. Thank you, WinnieAb(solutely amazing!).
AntoniaJames September 18, 2010
I just made my fourth batch today. Couldn't agree with you more. Scapes were no longer available here by the time the recipe was first posted, so I've also been using garlic. We are crazy about these, too!! ;o)
aargersi July 8, 2010
Just tasted my first batch - success! The liquid turned just a little cloudy but the smell and taste A-OK, did anyone else have this experience?
AntoniaJames July 8, 2010
Yes, that's exactly what happened with mine. But they taste great!! I'm looking forward to making a few quarts this weekend. Have instructed the younger generation in no uncertain terms that we need to make the current batch last until the next ones are done . . . . they certainly are delicious!! Will be adding a few chilis to one or two quarts for my eldest, who specifically asked (hopefully) when sampling one last night, if I could make some that were spicy. Am thrilled to have this recipe/method. Thanks again, WinnieAb! ;o)
aargersi July 8, 2010
Oh good! OK this is great because my Mom can't have vinegar pickles so now she has pickles BACK in her life! Chilis are an excellent idea ... MORE PICKLES!!! Need to buy more jars ...
WinnieAb July 8, 2010
Yes, cloudy is normal and chilis sounds like a really great idea! I can't even tell you how many mason jars I keep around- I buy boxes of them all the time!
AntoniaJames July 7, 2010
I started a jar of these about ten days ago, and today they are absolutely sensational! I haven't been able to get garlic scapes since we last saw them in the markets here about a month ago, so I used a clove of garlic, coarsely chopped and a few chives, chopped into 4 inch lengths. (That was all I had.) I hope to make a lot more pickles this summer, using this method. I'm not a huge fan of dill, or dill pickles, but I plan to buy a bunch, as well as more pickling cucumbers, when I go to the market later this week. Thank you for posting this terrific recipe!! ;o)
WinnieAb July 8, 2010
So glad you liked them so much. I have kirby cukes ready in my garden now so I'm excited to make some more myself!
Michelle M. June 25, 2010
yes please!
WinnieAb June 24, 2010
Thank you so much for testing this recipe Cathy. I love your comments, and adding a chile pepper sounds like a great idea!