Texas Half Sours
Lacto-fermented Jewish deli pickles with a little Texas heat.
pickle | fermentation | cucumber
, neither heat nor vinegar is used to make these crunchy half sours. In the lacto-fermentation process, microbes break down the carbohydrates in a vegetable, creating lactic acid. This becomes a naturally acidic environment over time. Phoebe Raileanu and Ben Hollander of
based these off of the classic kosher pickles found in a Jewish deli, but added some dried chiles de árbol for a spicy kick.
Make these in the summer, ideally with farmers’ market produce, when cucumbers are in season. Raileanu likes small, firm cucumbers with bumpy skin, like kirby pickling cucumbers.
For this recipe you will need a scale, a
gallon sized mason jar
and, if you like, fermentation weights to keep your ingredients submerged. You can also divide this recipe up and use 4 1-quart jars instead.
garlic cloves, peeled
cup chiles de árbol (about ½ ounce)
kirby cucumbers, or enough to fill your jar(s) (about 2 ¼ pounds), washed very well (especially the stem ends)
Filtered or reverse osmosis spring water
Sanitize the glass jars, lids, and fermentation weights (if using)—do not skip this step! It’s very important to make sure everything you’re using in the fermentation process is clean. Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water then submerge in boiling water and boil, covered, for 15 minutes.
Place the garlic, bay leaves, and
into the mason jar, followed by the pickling cucumbers, packing as many cucumbers into the jar as tightly as you can.
In a large bowl or measuring cup, stir salt into water until it tastes salty like ocean water. 5% salinity is great for this ferment. You can achieve this by weighing out 5 grams of salt per 100 grams of filtered water.
Fill the mason jar with the salt brine and place the weight on top to keep the cucumbers submerged. Twist the lid onto the jar but not too tight.
Leave to ferment at room temperature (about 75F) for 3–7 days during warmer months for half sour pickles. It might take up to 2–3 weeks to ferment to this stage during colder months. Check the brine level every few days during the first week to make sure the cucumbers are still fully submerged. If not, push the cucumbers back under the brine. Open the jar once a week to release the gas. If the brine level drops after 7–10 days of fermentation, don’t worry about adding additional brine as you have created a safe environment for the pickles. To make full sours, allow the pickles to ferment for an additional 1–2 weeks for extra sour flavor.
Once fermented to your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator for storage, where the pickles will last for about 6 months. If they get soft, slimy, or start to smell off, discard them sooner (don’t eat them!) You can also enjoy the pickled garlic for up to 6 months.