My memories from summer time in Lithuania is that there’d always be a 3 litre jar on the kitchen floor filled with cucumbers/gherkins, and herbs in a process of fermentation. If there was a summer time celebration you could expect to have a plate with soured cucumbers to go with other snacks or crudités.
For me making soured cucumbers isn’t so much about preservation, but more about creating new flavours. I’m absolutely impartial to 3-4 days fermented cucumbers. Nice and crunchy, and still mostly green in colour. Some people like them quite sour and so they ferment them for longer. For me it’s the perfect balance between the flavour of the original unfermented cucumber and the one that’s sour and fermented. That usually takes around 2-4 days.
The nice thing about fermenting as opposed to pickling in vinegar, there is just salt, water and herbs. You submerge cucumbers into a water and salt brine and wait for good fermenting bacteria to do its work. It is an anaerobic process, so you need to make sure that everything is submerged into the brine.
As with most fermentation you need to watch out for the bubbles at the top of the jar. Once it starts bubbling, fermenting is taking place, and you can start tasting your gherkins.
In summer months it may take about 3-4 days for a quick fermentation. You can keep it on the counter for up to two of weeks or so. After that you can move the jar into the fridge to slow down and prolong the process. In that way cucumbers will last longer.
- At least 2-3 Litre jar or a crock (of any size)
- Any amount of small cucumbers (or gherkins if you’re in UK) that can fit whole into a jar
- Horseradish leaves
- Blackcurrant leaves
- Cherry leaves
- Oak tree leaves
- Handful of garlic cloves
- Salt (2tbsp of salt per 1 litre of water)
The type of cucumbers that are used for fermentation should be small. In the UK they are sometimes refered to as gherkins. You need them to be small as it’s easier to fit them whole into a jar.
You can use all of the leaves and herbs listed above, or just some of them. Cucumbers will ferment with just salt and water, but all the extra bits will add more flavours.
For a 3 litre jar you would need around 2 litres of water and 4-5 tbsp of salt. Bring water to a boil, turn the heat off and mix in salt till it’s dissolved. This is your brine. Let it cool down to room temperature.
Wash cucumbers. Layer the bottom of the jar or crock with some leaves and garlic, then add some cucumbers, then another layer of leaves and garlic, and then cucumbers till the jar is full. Pour the salty brine into the jar till to the top. Put a big leaf (such as horseradish) on top to push it all down so that it is submerged under the brine. Put the lid on. Leave it on the counter for 2-3 days till you see bubbles coming. Then you can start tasting and see if you like the flavour or would like it more sour.
I usually ferment cucumbers on the counter for up to 1 week. Then I put a jar in a fridge, or drain the cucumbers and put them in the box in the fridge. The fermented brine, herbs and garlics are brilliant for making stews or soups. Enjoy!