Ready to learn to pickle? We’ll get you started with our favourite bomb-proof pickling and lacto-fermentation methods – using whatever veggies you’ve got (in your garden OR your fridge).
Learning how to make delicious, nutritious, lacto-fermented pickles is an excellent way to increase your household’s resilience AND make your tummy very happy, both at once. And it’s dead-easy, once you know the basics.
The best bit about pickling? You don’t need and fancy equipment or ingredients – you can get started living your best pickle life with just salt, water, a jar or two, and whatever veg you’ve got in your fridge.
Pickles are a central part of our home kitchen – pickling is an incredible way to store seasonal veg, and also a great way to add extra diversity to your diet and your biome, at any time of year. And no matter where you live, there’s something near you that can be pickled, right now.
So! Here’s our recent online mini-workshop that just happened – and then below that there’s the recipes we show you, plus some of our favourite resources to get you pickling. Please ask any questions you have below, we’re super happy to help!
Here’s the video:
Firstly, thanks so much to all the folks who showed up LIVE for the above workshop – it was so lovely to have you in there with us!
Below are the recipes and some resources for you to get going with…
Basic Vinegar Pickle – Agrodolce
So here’s a very basic and delicious sweet/sour vinegar pickle that couldn’t be much easier. As said in the workshop, this recipe was gathered from our friend Olivier Sofo of Living Earth Farm, over a decade ago. It really is just vegetables, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices. You can definitely do this.
You will need:
- Thinly sliced veg (try zucchini or capsicum)
- 500ml White wine vinegar
- 2 Tblsp salt
- 2 Tblsp sugar
- Spices, a bit of sliced onion, a few cloves of garlic (all optional – whatever you like)
- a clean jar with metal (or glass swingtop) lid
Take your clean jar, and add your spices to the bottom. Then, add your thinly sliced veg, and pack it down. Heat your vinegar to a minimum of 70 degrees c (you don’t need to boil it) and carefully pour over the veg in your jar. Fill to top of jar, and cap tightly. Flip the jar upside down, and leave on the bench until cool.
When cool, flip the jar back upright, label, and store in the cupboard for 2 weeks before eating. Great as a snack with cheese, or on sandwiches, or in salads, or whatever. Enjoy!
Basic Lacto-Fermented Brine Pickle
This super simple recipe is to get you started, and then once you’ve got your head around lacto-fermented brines, the sky is your limit!
Fermenting vegetables in brine is a form of lacto-fermentation – it’s similar to making sauerkraut, but even easier.
For this fermenting process, you are relying on the good yeasts and bacteria present on the skins of fresh, organic veg, and using them to ferment your veggies into probiotic powerhouses – with the aid of a simple mix of fresh water and salt: ie a brine.
Lacto-fermentation refers to the lactic acids that the yeasts and bacteria, which live on your veg + fruit, create when they ferment. These microbes, whose job it is to protect your veg from untimely moulds and pests, are the basis of many vegetable ferments that people have been making for thousands of years.
Because when these microbes are introduced to a brine, they proceed to ferment both the brine and their host vegetables into a safe, ‘pickled’ food, which contains millions more ‘good bugs’ than the vegetable in its raw form.
Plus they taste great. Crunchy salty-sour goodness. Yum.
A note on salt, and water: try and find an unadulterated salt to use for this type of recipe – sea salt is great, rock salt is fine. Check the ingredients and avoid anything with added iodine or anti-caking agents. For the water – use rain or spring water, if you can. Tap water, with its various additives, will work less well. But if that’s all you’ve got, use tap water – don’t let that stop you!
So! Let’s go. This 3% brine recipe can be used for most ‘hard’ veggies – you could try carrots, radishes, daikon, beetroot and so on. The pic above is a 3% brine with garlic scapes and asparagus – this is a seriously versatile recipe! Chop your veg into sticks, slices or however you roll. We’ll use carrots for the recipe below.
You will need:
- Fresh carrots cut into sticks (or slices, if you prefer)
- 2 tablespoons of salt per 1 litre of water (which makes a roughly 3% brine – ie 30g salt to 1000g water)
- Spices that you think would go well with your veg – maybe mustard and celery seeds?
- A few vine leaves, or black currant, oak or horseradish, if you have them
- A clean jar and firm lid to make your pickle in
Chop your carrots into a shape that you like to eat – sticks, slices, sparkly stars – its up to you. Then, add a few spices (optional) to the bottom of your clean jar, and then pack in the carrots. Leave a few cm headroom at the top.
Wedge the carrots in as much as you can, and if you have some of the leaves mentioned above, push them down on top – this will help keep the carrots under the brine.
Now – make up your 3% brine. You might want to halve the salt and water above, if you’re sure you’ll only need 500ml of brine – but more is better, and the extra can always be stored in the fridge, labelled, until you make another pickle in the near future?
Add the salt and water to a bowl, and stir the salt into the water to dissolve. If your salt is in larger chunks, you might want to add a little of that water to the bowl as boiling water, dissolve the salt in that, then add the rest of the water as cold. If your brine is tepid when it goes into the jar, this isn’t a problem.
Now – pour the brine into your jar, and fill to the top. Make sure all the veg are safely underneath the brine, and not floating above it. Lid your jar loosely, and place on a plate on your kitchen bench for the next 4-7 days. The fermentation process will mean that the jar bubbles a little, expelling some of the liquid – this is fine!
Taste the carrots after day 4, and each day thereafter, until they taste good to you – they will become more sour and delicious with each day, but different people like different levels of sour – so learn what works for you.
Once your pickles taste as you like them – put them in the fridge to slow the fermentation process. They will remain taste-stable for…. ages! But do eat them in the next few months.
Looking for the recipe for those 4% ‘half-sour’ Dill pickles?
We use the recipe from Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation book for the 4% half-sour gherkins that we showed you in the video…. happily, the recipe is also online on Sandor’s website here.
For this recipe, I’m going to point you at our blog archive, rather than explain it twice!
The below recipe is the same as explained in the workshop video above – int he workshop I used red cabbage, grated carrot and grated fennel. But as the recipe below explains… you can use prettymuch whatever greens (or veg) you’ve got…
Great books + resources:
Here’s just a few of our (many) fave fermentation + pickle books – please feel free to suggest more below, so we can check out your faves also?
- Wild Fermentation – Sandor Katz – start with this one, also his website is amazing
- The Art of Fermentation – Sandor Katz – the big orange one (the book, not Sandy).
- Ferment for Good – Sharon Flynn – lots more great stuff on her website The Fermentary
- Ferment – Holly Davis – also lots of recipes on her blog
- Fermentworks – Kristen Shockey’s website has so many good things on it, and her books are all great too.
- Summer Kitchens – Olia Hercules – lots of great Ukrainian ferments in this book – also check out her website
- Wildcrafted Fermentation – Pascal Baudar – I love this book, though it might not be the best for absolute beginners – Pascal also shares his ongoing experiments generously on instagram
- And here’s an inspiring little film about a ferment-focussed Community Supported Agriculture…. this could be you and your cabbages one day, dear pickler!
Some extra resources in response to Qs during the live workshop:
- Acidity of different vinegars – as said, its a fuzzy science! A simple pH test kit would help, if you want to be accurate.
- Tropical sources of leaf tannins for crunch – green banana peel looks like a goer?
- Preserving lemons in salt – not something we covered, but oh boy do we love these. Super simple recipe.
And a few Milkwood ferment-ish recipes you may not have seen:
- Making: Apple Scrap Vinegar
- Curing Olives: Basic Brine + Salt Methods
- How to make Wild Fermented Young Country Wine (it’s easy)
- Pickled Fennel Agrodolche: Storing the Season
- Making: Wild Fermented Elderflower Soda
- Apple and Juniper Kraut + Fermented Tomato Salsa
Got any questions? Fave recipes to share? Please let us know below, we’d love to hear. Happy pickling to you.
If you’d like to know about future free workshops like this one, sign up to our fabulous, useful and very friendly newsletter – and we’ll let you know when the next one is happening.
A few more pickling resources…
- Wild Fermentation, The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, by Sandor Katz
- The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz
- Sandor Katz’s Fermentation Journeys, Recipes, Techniques, and Traditions from around the World, by Sandor Katz
We acknowledge that permaculture owes the roots of its theory and practice to traditional and Indigenous knowledges, from all over the world. We all stand on the shoulders of many ancestors – as we learn, and re-learn, these skills and concepts. We pay our deepest respects and give our heartfelt thanks to these knowledge-keepers, both past and present.
I am thinking about pickling cauliflower. I’ve seen it in the shops but not sure which method would be best and maybe some spice suggestions. Thanks. I really enjoyed the workshop yesterday
hey Jenny – thanks for coming! Oooh cucumber… my go-to there would be cumin seeds, but mustard, fennel and peppercorns would be great too? And bayleaf, maybe?
Thanks Kirsten, I tried doing vinegar veg today but I don’t think my vinegar was hot enough (no thermometer!). They have cooled but the lids didn’t suck down as they did when I made chutney… Should I chuck them out? Thanks
Other question, if I am using organic veg, which I always use, shouldn’t I use organic white wine vinegar? Having trouble sourcing it in bottles larger than 250mls…hmmm
I would just use whatever whitewine vinegar you can source 🙂
It also seems that if I want all the gut advantages of pickling I should use the lacto fermented method over vinegar?
Yep the lactoferments are definitely more diverse and useful when it comes to their health benefits, but a good vinegar pickle is a beautiful (and shelf stable) thing too – so… they’re both great :). But we eat a lot more lactoferments.
jenny you can ‘waterbath’ them for 20 mins to create the same preserving effect – put each jar in a sock each (to keep them from cracking when they jiggle, could also use cake-rack under), place in saucepan with hot water up to the jar necks, and simmer for 20 mins – then take out and let cool- that will pastuerise them.
I was given a bunch of Fowler jars with lids that just sit on top and a clamp (similar to those shown in the picutre under the Agrodulce recipe. I think these are normally used for preserving with heat so that lid seals. But I was wondering if they would work for this type of pickling that is not being heat sealed. How tight do the seals need to be once these are done fermenting and are ready to be popped in the fridge. Would these type of jars and lids work?
Oh lucky you – yes didnt show vacolas in the workshop but they are great for lactofermenting (as long as the lids are the stainless steel ones, the other ones will rust v. quickly in contact w the salt)! We use these jar/lid/clip without the rubber rings for the fermenting-on-the-bench stage, then add a ring seal (which you can still buy easily, doesn’t need to be a brand new one either for this purpose) and the clip when we store in the fridge. if that makes sense?
Ah perfect, that makes sense. Loved the workshop by the way!
Hi, I recently tried making pickled red cabbage, I had found a recipe where they suggested to use 100ml white wine vinegar per 500gr cabbage. After attending your course that now feels like it was way too little vinegar. Should I be worried? Can I fix it? (Been in the fridge almost a week.) Thanks.
Heya, hard to comment as I’m not familiar with what recipe/method you used…. if the cabbage is submerged in vinegar and you followed your recipes, it sound like it should be fine? Or… if part of the process of that recipe was waterbathing or canning the pickle to pasteurise it… should also be fine? OR if it’s meant to be just fridge-stable and eaten in a few weeks… also fine? Happy to chat further –
Many thanks for the mini pickling workshop, I really enjoyed it. It was helpful to have some clarity on the shelf/fridge life of the various methods. The best bit? I love crunch, so learning about the magical properties of added tannin in pickles was great news! Black currant and vine leaves are not readily available in my world just now, but Horseradish! I have it! Crunchy bliss and joy coming up 😃
Fabulous. Crunch on!
Hi Kirsten, thank you so much for a fabulous workshop. Really kind of you to offer those resources and share your wealth of experience.
Not sure the question has been asked but how do you pickled garlic please?
Garlic is something we ususally do in honey, actually – this is the kinda recipe we use https://www.growforagecookferment.com/fermented-honey-garlic/ … and then there’s this semi-fermented korean garlic recipe, which is amazing – https://www.thespruceeats.com/korean-pickled-garlic-2118848 – and then there’s straight-up vinegar pickled garlic – https://www.food.com/recipe/pickled-garlic-443846 – and i’m sure you could ferment it in brine too (we always have heaps of garlic cloves in our lactofermented dill pickles) but I havent done it on its own…
Such a fun workshop! I really learned a lot. Cannot wait to make kraut. Question about the tannins- can you add them after you’ve pickled? Say a couple weeks or months? For example if you didn’t have access to them during the immediate process but obtain a few weeks or days post pickle.
hmmm i would think, since the point of the tannins is to preserve the natural crunchiness of the fresh veg, that putting them in at the start would be very much essential (tho a day or two later wouldn’t matter, I’m sure)…. got any green tea leaves?
Hi Kirsten. Thanks for such a wonderful workshop.
Once the seal has been broken and your pickles have been opened – do they still last months in the fridge? Or once they have been opened do you need to eat them reasonably quickly? Thanks
with the vinegar pickles once opened – yes they still last months in the fridge, in our experience? Tho there would be a time limit there somewhere…. i guess a few months would be safe?
Thanks heaps for the video. forgot about the live session, had a bad day at work.
happy to help 🙂
Hiya.. i watched the webinar on pickling the other day and u just had one question.. why do you need to turn the jar upside down to cool the vinegar pickle . ?
Also are the FAQs from the workshop added here anywhere?
Thank you for a great workshop..
the jar upside down thing is to add some heat (and acid) to the lid, which helps guard against moulds etc. At least thats what I’ve been told, and it works well for us 🙂
It’s also a neat way to ensure a really good seal ~ tiny air leaks won’t necessarily show up with just briefly turning the jar upside down and then right way up again 🙂
I love the workshop and have done a few bottles by the vinegar method. I am wondering how long it will take to be ready for eating? Thank you!
hey! well, you can start whenever you like, really – we usually leave the vinegar pickles a few weeks to allow the flavors to infuse? Let us know how they taste 🙂
Hi! Thanks for the pickling workshop, thoroughly enjoyed it. I made some sauerkraut on Tuesday and used the cabbage leaf and carrot ends to keep my veggies submerged. Now the carrots look like they’re going mouldy and there’s a milky looking substance on top of the cabbage leaf. Have I gone wrong? The jars have a seal but certainly aren’t airtight – I haven’t had to burp them, the gasses are escaping.
I’ve tried to pickle some beetroot using the 3% salt method and leaving the jar on the counter, lid loosely on top. The beetroot was submerged in brine throughout. On day 5 I noticed a brownish foam at the top – and some of the beetroot sticks had turned brown and limp. Is that normal? Any idea of what possibly happened? Thanks!!