Ferment Friday, no. 2:
Dill Half-Sours

July 13, 2012 · 9 comments

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Ok, I promise. The next post I do will not be fermented in any way, shape, or form.

Cross my heart and hope to die.

But you guys. I made these pickles last week, and they rocked my world. The thing that’s significant about that? I’ve never been a big pickle-eater — and maybe my rocky history with pickles has to do with the fact that I only ever had vinegar pickles from a jar that began its life on a grocery store shelf, rather than from a deli on the lower east side of New York City. Because that’s apparently what these taste like.

It’s no secret that I love dill — I’ve put it in just about everything short of ice cream (wheels currently turning subconsciously). So I use it in its two strongest forms — dried seed and fresh seed head — in these pickles. They’re called half-sours because of the lower-strength brine compared to a full-sour pickle. I want sour, but not the kind of sour that makes your entire face pucker up.

{Just after packing into the jar}


And the rest of the stuff added to my jar? It’s mostly to ensure a crunchy pickle — and all at the suggestions found under pickle-making in that ultimate tome of home-fermenting, Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation. The tea leaves add tannins, which help the pickle hold its crunch (the same effect can be achieved by using oak or grape leaves) — but they don’t flavor the brine at all. A few carrot slices are also there to support crunch, and the garlic is purely for flavor.

{Pickles are done}


Many pickle recipes have you cut off the blossom ends of the pickles, as residue left behind can thwart fermentation. But Katz recommends simply scraping off any residue, and that’s what I did with success — I just prefer the look of a whole pickle. The soaking step at the beginning is also said to encourage crunch (can you tell I have a crunch fetish?) — I admittedly haven’t compared soaking to non-soaking, but feel free to omit that step if you’re feeling rebellious (and let me know how it goes).

A crunchy, dilly, sour pickle. I can predict a supply that will not keep up with my demand.

Dill Half-Sours

If you don't have a tea bag, you can use an oak leaf or grape leaf with the same results. Pickles can often have a fine or flaky white residue in the jar and on the vegetables after a few days of fermentation -- this is normal, and does not effect the flavor or safety of the pickle. Any fuzzy white growth in vegetables exposed to air is likely mold, and should not be eaten (you know mold when you see it).


  • 1 - 1 1/2 pounds pickling cucumbers, enough to pack a quart jar
  • 1 small carrot, scrubbed and cut into sticks
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 tsp dill seed
  • 1 flowering dill head, or several sprigs fresh dill weed
  • 1 tea bag (black tea) (see note)
  • sea salt and filtered water
  • 1 clean wide-mouth quart jar
  • 1 small ziploc bag


  1. Rinse cucumbers, and place them in a large bowl of ice water. Soak for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Use a small spoon to scrape off any plant residue from the ends of the cucumbers, primarily the blossom end.
  3. In the bottom of the quart jar, add the dill seed, tea bag, and garlic. Pack the cucumbers into the jar, interspersing dill heads and carrot sticks. This can take some creative arranging to get as many cukes in as possible (leave 1 1/2 inches head space).
  4. Prepare the brine: dissolve 1 Tbsp sea salt into 2 cups warm filtered water. Pour the brine over the cucumbers, filling the jar until all vegetables are submerged (keep 1 1/2 inches head space).
  5. Pour any remaining brine into the ziploc bag. Seal the bag, and press it into the top of the jar, allowing the weight of the leftover brine to push the cucumbers below the surface. Try to make sure the bag fills the entire opening of the jar to provide protection from the air (see photo).
  6. If possible, place jar in a sunny spot (this helps reduce growth of competitive bacteria). Place a a towel or plate underneath to catch any over-bubbly brine. Let ferment for 3-7 days, until a desired sourness is reached. The pickles should be slightly translucent and olive in color when sliced. Remove the ziploc bag, cover the jar tightly, and transfer to the refrigerator. These keep for a really long time.

Linked up to the Seasonal Recipe Roundup: Cucumbers at GNOWFGLINS.

Crunchy Dill Half-Sours on Punk Domestics
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