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Lacto-fermented pickles - sour gherkins

DIY - lacto fermented pickles

Near my parents' home lies the Eferding Basin. In ancient times, a sea must have existed there, known as the Molasse Sea according to Wikipedia. Today, it’s a sea of pickles. For many years, the company Efko has been in charge of this pickle production. They pack cucumbers of all sizes into jars and preserve them with vinegar. This has led to vinegar pickles replacing fermented cucumbers. Occasionally, you might find a jar of fermented cucumbers on the lower shelves of the supermarket. Don’t bother reaching for them—they’re nothing special and are usually pasteurized anyway.

Fermented cucumbers owe their survival to the Slavic cultural area, where they remain important to this day. They were introduced to the United States by Jewish immigrants as "kosher pickles" and even have a Christmas tradition associated with them. In this tradition, a pickle ornament is hidden in the Christmas tree. Since it blends in with the green needles, it’s hard to spot. The first person to find it gets an extra present.

Fermented cucumbers are delicious and relatively easy and quick to make. The biggest challenge is finding the right cucumbers. It’s not the common EU-compliant cucumber that’s suitable for fermentation, but rather the pickling cucumber. You can find these at markets or grow them yourself. They have a matte, bumpy surface, are less watery, and are more compact than their supermarket counterparts, which aren’t suitable for long-term storage.

The following recipe can be scaled up if you have more cucumbers and larger containers. Fermented cucumbers are a classic lacto-ferment, so be sure to also check our guidelines and tips on "vegetable fermentation."


  • 1-liter swing-top jar or Mason jar

  • 1 fermentation weight


  • 1 kg pickling cucumbers

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds

  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds

  • 1/2 tsp paprika powder

  • 3 sprigs dill

  • 3 oak leaves

  • Brine with 2.5% salt (25g salt per liter of water)

Step 1: Prepare the Vegetables

Rinse the cucumbers with cold water and pack them tightly into a fermentation jar. Place the onion wedges, garlic cloves, dill, and leaves between the cucumbers. The goal is to prevent anything from floating when water is added, so make sure the cucumbers, leaves, and onions are tightly packed.

Add the spices (coriander, paprika, and mustard seeds). These can float on top; they won't mold.

Adding tannin-rich leaves such as oak, cherry, or grape helps improve the texture of the cucumbers.

Step 2: Season and Brine

Prepare a brine by using non-iodized salt without anti-caking agents and mix it with tap water to a 2.5% salt concentration. This means 25g of salt per liter of water. Stir well until the salt is completely dissolved.

Pour enough brine over the cucumbers to cover them completely, leaving 3 cm of headspace. Place the fermentation weight on top and seal the jar.

Step 3: Ferment

Let the sealed jar sit for one day to "kick-start" the fermentation process. Place it on a plate and cover it with a cloth to catch any overflow. After one day, move the jar to a cooler place, ideally between 15-18 degrees Celsius. Do not open the jar during this time.

Step 4: Harvest

After one week, your fermented cucumbers are ready. You can enjoy them immediately or store them in the refrigerator for future pickle feasts.

Happy fermenting!



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