Take advantage of the summer harvest to turn cucumbers into delicious, crunchy pickles. Who doesn’t like to add a crunchy, tangy pickle to a burger? But beware! Pickles are also very easy to fail…
How unfortunate to open a jar and discover that the pickles have gone soft!
Even though they are still perfectly edible and tasty, everyone will tell you that it’s the crunchiness of the pickles that counts!
However, it is very easy to make a good crunchy pickles when you know a few tricks.
This article will reveal the secrets to successful pickling, provide you with a recipe for extra crunchy pickles and answer all your questions!
Go directly to the section that interests you!
- Why do pickles become soft?
- 10 tips for crunchy pickles
- Crunchy Checklist
- Crunchy pickles recipe (fermented)
- Frequently asked questions
Pickles in Vinegar or Fermented Pickles?
Many traditional recipes use vinegar and spices to turn cucumbers into pickles. These are marinated pickles, also known as pickled cucumbers or marinades.
In a fermented pickle recipe, no vinegar is added, only salt and water. It is the fermentation that makes the cucumbers tangy and full of healthy bacteria!
For more information, see What are the differences between canning and lacto-fermentation?
Tips for keeping pickles crisp generally apply to both pickled cucumbers and fermented pickles.
Why Do Pickles Become Soft?
As soon as a cucumber is picked, it begins a long process of softening.
This natural process is caused by enzymes in the cucumber. These enzymes break down the structure of the cucumber, making it softer and softer.
By applying our tips and tricks, the softening process is slowed down considerably.
How to Make Pickles Crisp?
There are several tricks to keep pickles crunchy during fermentation or canning. Even if you can’t apply them all, try to do as many as possible.
The first 7 tips apply to all pickle recipes (pickled and fermented). The last 3 tips apply only to fermented pickle recipes.
Here are 10 tips for crisp pickles:
1. Choose Freshly Picked Cucumbers
As soon as the cucumber is picked, it starts to soften. The sooner it is jarred, the better!
We’re not asking you to do your fermentations directly in the garden (even though…), but, if possible, put your cucumbers in jars within 2 to 3 days of picking.
2. Using the Right Cucumber Varieties
Choosing the right variety of cucumbers is important for making crisp pickles. Some varieties, such as English cucumbers, become particularly soft during fermentation.
Choose small, firm cucumbers. Pickling cucumbers, Kirby, and Lebanese cucumbers work well.
3. Cutting off the Ends of Cucumbers
The flowers and stems of cucumbers contain enzymes that quickly soften the pickles.
Before putting them in jars, remove the ends of the cucumbers with a knife.
4. Soak the Cucumbers in Ice Water
During transport and storage, cucumbers can lose some of their moisture. To rehydrate them, soak them for a few hours in ice water.
Place your cucumbers in a large container and cover them with water and ice so that the cucumbers are well submerged. You can also leave them in the fridge.
Cucumbers can be left in an ice water bath from 3 hours to overnight.
5. Use Calcium Chloride
Calcium chloride (CaCl2), sometimes known as «pickle crisp», is a type of salt that helps keep food crunchy. It is used in the food industry to help maintain the texture of canned fruit and vegetables.
Sea salt is sodium chloride. We are talking about calcium chloride!
These are small granules that dilute quickly in water. Calcium chloride is very affordable and is THE trick to crisp pickles since it prevents enzymes from softening the pickle.
It does not replace salt; it is used as a supplement.
Amount: ¼ to ¾ tsp. calcium chloride for a 4 cups jar (1L or 1 quart).
Adjust proportionately for jars of different volumes.
6. Add a Source of Tannins
Tannins act against the softening enzymes and help keep the pickles crisper.
Add grape leaf, black tea, oak leaf, etc., directly to the jars.
7. Use Enough Salt
The more salt, the crunchier the pickles will be. But too much salt will not taste good. The idea is to find a good balance according to your taste.
Quantity: 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of salt per 4 cups jar.
This amount represents 2.5 to 3.5% salt. Adjust proportionally for jars of different volumes. To understand how salt is calculated, see How much salt is needed for brine?
8. Do Not Add Bacteria
Some lacto-fermentation recipes require the addition of sauerkraut juice to guide the fermentation process (this is called “backslopping”). In the case of pickles, this is not recommended.
The bacteria at the beginning and end of fermentation are different. For most recipes, this does not influence the final product. However, in the case of pickles, it softens them faster.
9. Keep the Fermentation Short
The longer the fermentation, the more tender the vegetables become. To limit this effect, ferment for only a few days at room temperature, then refrigerate.
Fermentation of 5 to 8 days is ideal.
10. Let the Pickles Ferment in a Cool Place
Ideally, the fermentation temperature should not be too high.
If you have a cold room or a cool basement, ferment your pickles (and all your lacto-fermentations, for that matter) in it. The ideal temperature is around 62°F (17°C).
Crunchy Pickles Checklist!
There is no need to apply all our tips to get good pickles. It’s up to you to find the formula that suits you best.
Here are 2 examples.
“Not very salty, but very crunchy”
✅ Small, firm cucumbers
✅ 3h steeping in a bowl of cold water
✅ Cucumber ends cut off
✅ 1.5 tbsp. salt (25 g) per 4 cups jar (1L)
✅ ¼ tsp. calcium chloride
✅ 7 days fermentation on the counter
“Long shelf life, au naturel”
✅ Small, firm cucumbers picked in the morning from the garden
✅ 3h steeping in a bowl of cold water
✅ Cucumber ends cut off
✅ One grape leaf per jar
✅ 2 tbsp. salt (30g) per 4 cups jar (1L)
✅ 10 days of fermentation in the cold room
For more details on how to implement, check out How to Make Lacto-Fermentations, and follow the recipe!
Recipe for Crunchy Pickles With Fermented Garlic
- 1 1L glass jar Le Parfait
- 1 ViscoDisc insert large
- 7 freshly harvested pickling cucumbers
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 ½ tbsp salt
- ¼ tsp calcium chloride
- 1 tsp pickling spice or dried dill
- Cut off the ends, stems, and flowers of the cucumbers.
- Place the cucumbers in a water bath with ice cubes. Leave to stand for at least 3 hours.
- Put the salt, calcium chloride, spices, and garlic cloves in the jar.
- Pile the cucumbers vertically.
- Add water until cucumbers are covered.
- Place the insert on top of the cucumbers by folding the sides upwards.
- Close the lid.
- Gently shake the jar to dissolve the salt. Replace insert if necessary.
- Place the closed jar on a plate in case it overflows during fermentation.
- Ferment in a cool room for 7 days.
And there you have it! Now you can enjoy satisfying crunches and snaps!
Enjoy your pickles in your burgers, sandwiches, with raclette or simply with your fingers, straight out of the jar.
Frequently Asked Questions
My pickles are soft, can I firm them up?
If you start with a soft or mushy cucumber, there is no hope of remission: the pickle is doomed to softness.
Why Has the Garlic in My Pickle Jar Turned Blue?
Garlic that changes colour is normal! It is a molecule in the garlic that reacts with the acidity of the fermentation. For more information, see Why Does Fermented Garlic Turn Blue?
Can I Add Boiling Water to Cucumbers to Keep Them Crisp?
Pouring boiling water on cucumbers, or blanching them, destroys the enzymes in the pickles.
This process, however, will also destroy the microorganisms found on the cucumbers. This technique is not recommended for fermentation.
Can I Use Alum to Make Fermented Pickles?
Alum is an additive often used in pickles, but it can affect the acidity of the mixture. We prefer not to use it in lacto-fermentation.
Can I Use Lime to Make Fermented Pickles?
Pickling lime has also long been used to make crunchy pickles. However, after steeping in lime, the cucumbers must be rinsed thoroughly. Calcium chloride (also called Pickle Crisp) is preferred.
What to Do With Soft Pickles?
Are your pickles past the point of no return and have a soft, mushy texture in the mouth?
Once the tears have passed, get a grip! All is not lost.
Pickles can be chopped and mixed with a little sugar to make homemade relish.
The brine can be used to deglaze vegetables, marinate tofu, or to drink as gut shots.
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