How to Naturally Pickle Vegetables

Lactofermentation is one of the most-ancient forms of food preservation. The resulting pickles are pleasantly tangy.

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How to Pickle at Home

This brine and technique can be used to pickle a wide variety of vegetables, such as radishes, turnips, Brussels sprouts, garlic and, of course, cucumbers; this is the way to make the classic deli-style dill pickle. In this case, we are making spicy dill carrot sticks.

Basic Brine

Make a basic brine by thoroughly dissolving 6 tablespoons kosher or sea salt in 8 cups filtered or distilled water. Do not use table salt, which is iodized and can give pickles an off flavor and color.

Sterilize the Jars

Thoroughly clean and sterilize a wide-mouth quart-size Mason jar. This can be done by filling it with 180 degrees F water for at least 10 minutes. You can also run it through a dishwasher. 

Prep the Vegetables

Scrub your carrots, or peel them if desired. Cut the carrots into lengths that will fit into your jar (for a quart jar, 5 1/2 inches is optimal), and then quarter them. If you do not have a cutting board with measurements on it, measure out the desired lengths and use blue tape or masking tape to create guides. The goal here is twofold: to create even lengths that will pack neatly into the jar, and to create consistently sized pieces that will pickle at the same rate. 

Add Seasonings

Drain the jar, or remove from the dishwasher, and allow to cool to the point where it can be touched. Sprinkle your seasonings in the bottom of the jar. For this recipe, we are using 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, about 10 whole black peppercorns and a small bunch of dill. 

Pack the Jar

Pack the carrots into the jar tightly. Ideally, they should be packed tightly enough that the shoulders of the jar will keep the carrots in the center from floating. Pour the brine into the jar, filling until the carrots are completely submerged. Gently tap the jar on the counter or cutting board to release any trapped air bubbles, and refill with more brine if the surface level drops. If the carrots float, you can keep them submerged by filling a smaller jar with water and resting it on top. You will have more brine than you need for one application; the excess can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for future use.

Cover the Jar

Cover the jar loosely with cheesecloth, and close with a rubber band. Leave out at room temperature. 

Check and Taste

Check your pickles daily. By the third day, you will see bubbles forming, and some scum may form on the surface. Small patches of mold may also appear. These can be simply skimmed away and discarded, with no harm to the pickles. Taste your pickles. With each passing day, they should get tangier and more sour. When they are to your liking, simply close the jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator. The pickles will continue to ferment, but more slowly in the cold environment of the refrigerator. 

Ready to Eat

Enjoy your pickles as a snack, alongside cheeses or cut into salads. The tangy flavor comes from lactic acid created by lactobacilli, which are beneficial bacteria with probiotic properties that are good for digestion and overall health.