By Vida Gustafson

Contributing Writer

Probiotic-rich foods have had their moment in the food-trend spotlight, and while we’re all familiar with the myriad of health benefits associated with adding them to our diets, I’d like to point out that they are also just plain good eating.

Case in point, the superior crunch and zest of a traditionally fermented pickle as opposed to their vinegar brine counterpart. Pickles are an easy place to start in learning to preserve your own foods through natural fermentation, a gateway to sauerkraut and kombucha — if you’re in to that kinda thing.

Known also as Kosher dills, full sours or deli-style pickles, these are pickled (fermented) in an anaerobic salt brine that prevents the formation of bad bacteria while allowing beneficial lactobacillus to thrive. The natural fermentation process gives an almost carbonated zing to the cucumbers. 

This is a great way to preserve the last few cucumbers from the garden (or your friendly neighbor’s garden) and will liven up any sandwich or cheese plate.


2 qt filtered water 

6 tbsp kosher salt

12-14 small Kirby cucumbers (if using larger cucumbers, slice into discs or spears)

2 Grape leaves

3-5 cloves of garlic

1 tsp mustard seed

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp coriander seed

A bunch of fresh dill

If you cannot find grape leaves, two or three bay leaves, raspberry leaves or an equivalent amount of black tea leaves will suffice. The tannins in the leaves help to keep the pickle crispy.

Special equipment

Canning jars (this recipe makes 2 small or one large jar)


Clean and trim your cucumbers. Any blossom or bud left is said to make the pickles mushy. Clean and sterilize your canning jars. I run mine through the dishwasher on the sanitize cycle.

Dissolve the salt in the clean filtered water. Make sure the water is chlorine free. I’ve had success using distilled water instead of tap water. 

Pack your grape leaves, garlic, dill and spices into the jar, topping off with the pickles. Pour over your salt brine, ensuring that everything is submerged. If the cucumbers will not stay submerged, you can put a small dish over the top, inserted under the lid, to keep them under the brine.

Once the lids are in place, the pickles are ready to do their work. Leave them in a cool, dark area for at least two weeks. Check on them every two days, opening the lid slightly to allow any gasses to escape. The brine will become cloudy, and that’s exactly what you want! Your pickles will be ready to eat or move to the refrigerator after two weeks.