Friendly Bacteria

Gear up to get brave in your kitchen! It's time to grow more than herbs on your windowsills!

I found a recipe for lacto-fermented cucumbers (i.e. pickles) in Nourishing Traditions and thought I would give it a try. The appeal of preserving your vegetables this way is that you don't cook out any of the plant enzymes, preserving the benefits of the raw cucumber, but creating an environment where the cucumber can last much much longer. (There are anecdotal stories of lacto-fermented sauerkraut lasting two years at cool temperatures.)

Our pickles haven't lasted that long... only because we're eating them too fast! (Although for me, they are a bit too strong to be 'snacking' pickles. Perfect for potato salads, sandwiches, or the like.)

Here's what I did:

4 pickling cucumbers, washed thoroughly and sliced
1 T Sea Salt
1 T whole mustard
1-2 T dill, dried

Put it all in a quart jar. I just used a *clean* jar that originally held spaghetti sauce from the grocery store. I just saved the lid and jar and washed them really well. Once you have placed your ingredients in the jar, fill it the rest of the way up with water. Make sure the cukes are submerged, but you want a little head room (air at the top), too.

Then... here is the scary part... let it sit on your counter for three days. Or in a cupboard. Somewhere safe, that stays in the 70's (F).

Yeah. Lacto-fermentation means you are growing your own bacteria, lactobacillus to be exact. Probiotics! In your own kitchen!

My water turned all brown and murky. And I said to my husband, "Paul, that cannot be friendly bacteria. That is mean, angry bacteria!" But the trick to knowing if you successfully grew the correct bacteria is the smell. If your cucumbers are hijacked by unhealthy microorganisms, you will be repelled at the first whiff. So, after three days, I took off the lid, braced myself, and was pleasantly surprised that it smelled very appealing.


If you want a stronger taste leave them on your counter longer. When they taste just right, put them in the fridge for storage. That will slow the fermentation process. Our jar has lasted two months so far.

Try it. You'll like it!


  1. I've been waiting for the results of such experiments in your kitchen! Do you put the lid on when you store it on the counter to ferment?

  2. Yes, I do put the lid on. It was airtight, but not 'sealed' in the conventional canning sense. Although, when I took the lid off after fermenting the veggies, it popped like sealed cans do. Kind of fun. Gear up, because my next experiment is going to be Almond Milk Kefir.

  3. I love my pickles. They taste kind of . . . carbonated. It's a little weird, but I like it.

    The summer squash, however, is definitely an acquired taste. The bottle with fenugreek was WAY better than the bottle with garlic, ginger, and pepper.

    Next up: dilled green beans.