Hello fellow pickle lovers! This recipe was inspired by the DIY Pickle Station at the Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival over the summer. My husband is from Santa Barbara so we go up there from time-to-time to visit his family.
Santa Barbara is a small town nestled between the beach and the mountains surrounded by grapevines and beautiful seas. Sounds terrible right? I love visiting SB and was super, duper ecstatic when I found out there was a fermentation festival going on the same weekend we were going. Like jumping up and down like the fermenter nerd I am.
The festival was awesome! There was every ferment you could think of. Kombucha, kombucha popsicles, kefir, water kefir, fermented vegetables of every kind, kvass, meats, cheeses and of course pickles. The summer was the first time I ever made pickles and they were O-K. There was too much clove in them so they tasted a little funny. But I was determined to experiment, get it right and create a recipe that was pure pickle heaven. And I did or you wouldn’t be reading this right now.
Making your own pickles is sooooo much better for you then buying ones from the store and it’s easy. Store bought usually have distilled vinegar and are loaded with salt and other additives that are not good for you. If you do buy store bought pickles, I recommend the Bubbies brand or check the list of ingredients. They should only have pickles, water, salt and pickling spices, and the brine should be cloudy. If the brine is clear and if there is anything else in the ingredient list, put it down and check another.
These pickles are rich with nutrients and probiotics, because I used the lacto-fermentation method. Lacto-fermentation is the oldest form of food preservation in the world. It creates an anaerobic environment where only the good Lactobacillus bacteria thrive and where bad bacteria cannot survive. The result is a pickle that is loaded with probiotics and therefore promotes a healthy gut. Eating probiotic foods like this strengthens your immune system, increases vitamin and mineral absorption and helps balance hormones.
AND its very easy. It’s one of the easiest ferments ever. Not kidding.
The Secret Ingredient
One ingredient I wasn’t familiar with at the time was the addition of a grape leaf. Apparently the grape leaf adds tannins to the brine which makes the pickles crunchy. I searched and couldn’t find grape leaves anywhere in San Diego or the interwebs. So, I gave up on the grape leaves and went looking for an alternative. Well I found one and it worked! I know the anticipation must be killing you…. It’s tea leaves! Yes, tea leaves. If you add tea leaves to the brine it will make the pickles crunchy. Crazy huh? The great thing is that tea is easy to find (like in my pantry always) and bonus…they don’t change the flavor of the brine.
How to make crunchy pickles using my secret ingredient. This recipe is super easy, very healthy, crunchy and delicious.
- 2 mason jars (old pickle jars or fermentation crocks work too)
- About 10 small Persian Cucumbers
- 1 tablespoon garlic roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 fresh dill head fronds
- 2 teaspoons loose leaf black tea leaves
- Brine: 2 tablespoons sea salt, 4 cups water, 1 tablespoon Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
- Divide the ingredients up between the two mason jars. Add the cucumbers to the jars and add in the garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, fresh dill and tea leaves.
- Make the brine and pour into the mason jars, covering the pickles completely.
- Weigh the cucumbers down by using a clean rock, a small ramekin or any other thing you can find in your house. I used a plastic lid and then put a glass ramekin on top of that to hold them down. It's super important for them to stay submerged under the brine or they will mold.
- Seal with a lid or cover with a cloth to keep bugs out.
- After 4-5 days, check a cucumber to see if its ready.
- The pickles are ready when they smell like pickle heaven, the brine turns cloudy and the cucumbers turn a yellow/olive green.
Using tea leaves isn’t the only way to get a crunchy pickle. You can use a fresh grape leaf, oak leaves or horseradish leaves too.
If you’re still having trouble getting crunchy pickles, check out my 8 Tips For Crunchy Pickles here.
Pickling & Fermentation Supplies
Some links on this page are affiliate links and they are all for companies that I support and buy from myself. If you decide to purchase any of these products through these links, I will earn a small commission and you will have my sincere thanks for supporting Fermented Food Lab.