Easy Lacto-Fermented Dill Pickles

August 16, 2011

in Appetizers & Misc., DIY & Crafts, Fermentation, Preserving, Recipes, Russian & Azerbaijani

I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I am to bring you this Russian classic – lacto-fermented dill pickles – known to Russians as maloslnye ogurzi. Unlike the more familiar vinegary dill pickles, the acid in these is produced by the activity of beneficial lactobacilli, which occurs when you expose vegetables to a large amount of salt in an oxygen-free environment.

A close relative of sauerkraut and kimchi, these cukes are both delicious and a breeze to make, with the only downside being their inability to be kept for a long time. Not that it’s an issue – at our house, they disappear faster than I can ferment a new batch. The upside is of course the fact that the beneficial bacteria in these are alive, making them a healthful accompaniment to many meals.

lacto-fermented dill pickles

If you have never tried these, expect the flavor to be somewhat different from what you might be used to. Not at all vinegary, these are mostly sour and salty, with perhaps a slight touch of bitterness that is not at all unpleasant.

Meanwhile, the method itself is absolutely elementary (making it my favorite during this busy time of year):


Prepare your produce and pack it into crock/jars:

    • These can be made either in a ceramic crock, like my 2-gallon crock above, or a mason jar (or several).
    • I like to choose really small cucumbers for pickling as they are usually the crunchiest.
    • The pickles will be their crispiest when pickled the day they have been picked.
    • Wash your cukes thoroughly using a vegetable brush. Take special care to clean between all the little bumps as dirt could lead to spoilage.
    • Wash your crock in hot, soapy water and rinse well.
    • Trim off both ends to facilitate the fermentation and to remove the blossom end, which contains the enzymes that promote softening.
    • Pack your cukes tightly into a crock or a mason jar, along with whole garlic cloves, lots and lots of whole peppercorns, and whole dill stalks, stems and all. I like to have some dill on the bottom and some on top. Another very traditional addition would be oak or black currant leaves, both of which promote crispness and add a wonderful aroma. Note that all of the above ingredients should be thoroughly washed as well.

On adding whey: While Sally Fallon recommends adding whey to your lacto-fermented pickles, it is entirely unnecessary for the fermentation to take place, nor is it traditional.

Prepare the brine (makes enough for 4 quart jars):

  • 4.5 tablespoons of pickling salt (which contains no additives that could interfere with the fermentation)
  • 2 quarts of water (if you live in town and don’t have a well, filtered or distilled water is your best bet)

Add salt to the water, bring to a boil, and boil until the salt has dissolved.


Pour the boiling brine over the contents of your crock or jar(s).


If using a crock, weigh the contents down with a plate to assure that everything is submerged, hence creating the anaerobic environment conducive to the growth of lactobacilli.

If using a jar, you can weigh the contents down with some oak leaves (my husbands’ method), or just by packing everything so tight that nothing can float to the top.


  • Do not seal your jars. Place a clean, moistened cloth over your jar or crock instead, securing with a rubber band or a piece of twine.
  • Leave your jars on the counter at room temperature (it doesn’t matter whether or not the jars are next to a window) for 3 days.
  • In 3 days, remove the cloth, taste your pickles, and if you like the taste, screw on a lid and transfer them into the fridge. If you feel that your pickles could use some more acidity, however, feel free to leave them on the counter for another day or until the desired flavor has been achieved.


  • Note that the brine will turn milky/cloudy (above) and may develop white foam on top, the bottom, or the contents. It may also appear slightly slimy, and will grow increasingly so after you’ve transferred your jars to the fridge. These are a normal part of the fermentation and need not be a reason for concern.
  • Once refrigerated, the pickles will last for a couple of weeks, but their acidity level will increase with time as they continue to ferment slowly in the fridge (hence the increasingly cloudy brine). Because of their short life, don’t make more than your family can consume within that time frame.



1 Genie August 18, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Ooh, I wish I had read this yesterday before I gave my huge crock full of pickled cucumbers in a cloudy brine the heave-ho! I couldn’t quite bring myself to taste them (though I confess they didn’t smell bad). It was the slimy consistency of the brine that worried me, it was just too viscous in my opinion… Does this ring any bells with you?
What a gorgeous blog you have, by the way. Thank you for taking the time to document and share your bounty and wisdom.

2 Sofya August 19, 2011 at 5:28 am

Hi Genie – it would be hard for me to tell without seeing, although I wouldn’t describe my brine as viscous (thick) or slimy, per se. The other thing is that I never ferment mine at room temperature for more than 3-4 days, so if you did it for much longer, and if maybe it was too hot where the cukes were, maybe this could happen. Perhaps you did the right thing after all. You can always try again in a little jar just to see how things go.

3 Sofya August 19, 2011 at 11:17 am

You know Genie, actually, now that I checked it, it is a little slimy, you could describe it as that, and there is almost always the scum on the cukes (this is something that you can skim off daily as it ferments if you want to). I can see how if it was too hot or too long, the brine could get to the stage that you describe. Use your best judgment.

4 Josh August 7, 2013 at 1:52 pm


The cloudiness and slime of the brine is only due to your creating a living environment of bacteria. Since the bacteria live in your brine, they impart their own qualities to the fluid.
Typically with pickles the brine is not as thick because it is not done for a long enough time, but I have done Kimchi before that I was still eating 6 months after I had started the culture. That brine was very thick.

If there is not a bad smell, pull out a pickle and cut it to see how crunchy it is. If you let the fermentation go too long at higher temperatures (especially without using something like Grape Leaf or making sure the bud end of the cucumber is fully removed) then the pickles can get pretty soft.

The slime (not the frothy scum) is going to be your highest concentration of the healthy bacteria that make lacto-fermented veggies so good for us, but if it makes you uncomfortable you can wash it off and you will still get the benefits from the pickle itself!

5 Diana@Spain in Iowa August 26, 2011 at 6:55 am

What a gorgeous post Sofya. I need to get caught up on your blog. I didn’t realize you had so many new posts… and they all look great!

6 Sarah March 18, 2012 at 8:37 pm

I’m wondering why you boil the water with the salt first? I thought the whole point of lacto-fermenting is that you don’t use heat, which kills the enzymes? I’m new at this and am trying to find clarity!

7 Sofya March 18, 2012 at 9:19 pm

To fully dissolve it. They sour perfectly regardless. I also don’t think the ensymes are involved anyhow – lactofermentation has to do with the fermentation of sugars in the vegetables. There are traditional Russian recipes (and this is a classic Russian recipe) that call for the cooling of the brine first but this works as well. I don’t do these for the sake of raw foods/Sally Fallon/etc but for the convenience and flavor alone so I don’t really care if something is killed in the process or not.

8 Mike July 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm

@ Sarah: I love your photo ;) here is a few reasons for boiling city tap water, the calcareous minerals and or additives such as chlorine which can retard or stop fermentation an improper mineral balance which can create strange colors or effects on adjucnts (blue garlic,chartruse dill,pink sauerkruat- lol) and so on. It also gives me in the midwest and someone on the east or west coast a near exact same starting point per say. Even well water should be boiled if its a hard well water and to kill off any harmful bacteria’s. Boiling the water till the salt is dissolved evenly distributes the molecules of the salted brine which will not settle out as it would if you just mix and stirred..

@Sofia great stuff thanks for sharing

9 Sofya July 15, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Thanks, Mike, an excellent explanation!! I always boil mine.

10 G August 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm

We must differentiate between boiling water and pouring said water over the cucumbers. The former may be beneficial for the reasons mentioned above but the later is not advisable. Cucumbers should be cleaned, but if you pour boiling water on them, the heat may soften them and what’s worse – it will kill the naturally occurring bacteria which are the basis for lacto-fermentation. This makes it less likely that the right kind of bacteria will grow and more likely that you’ll get the undesirable types (for example, the bacteria which causes botulism tolerates higher temps than lactobacilli) If you must pour boiling water on the cucumbers, my guess is, you’d be better off adding a starter i.e. some juice from a prior ferment after the liquid cools down a bit.

11 Sofya August 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm

In my experience, just-boiled water works GREAT. The cucumbers actually get crisper with time, as the fermentation progresses. You do not need any starter from the previous ferment whatsoever.

12 Josh August 7, 2013 at 1:58 pm

I initially thought the same thing, but I am going to guess that the water does not maintain high enough temperature long enough to kill off the bacteria. (In fact, the first few hours when the brine is warmer than the room temperature the bacteria may be in overdrive ~ I was surprised with the turnaround, but the heat may explain that as well)

@Sonya I appreciate the article. It has re-motivated me to kick in some new lacto-fermentation projects!

13 Kitchen Ninja May 27, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Hi Sofya — I’m wondering if the cloth needs to be re-dampened at all over the course of the first three days? THANKS!!!
Kitchen Ninja recently posted..CSA Share Ninja Rescue: kale, asparagus, fennel and radishMy Profile

14 Sofya May 27, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Shouldn’t make a difference, I don’t remember doing that…

15 Matt June 20, 2012 at 7:14 am

I have a huge batch of Cucumbers in a 4 gal crock fermenting. I was hoping that they would keep for awhile. If left in the crock will they spoil? will the taste get too weird to eat? What happens to the cucumbers if put into the refrigerator will they last longer? I was under the impression that this is the way our ancestors kept produce edible for months.
Maybe I need a much smaller crock or find people who want to share this bounty. I make Sauerkraut the same way and it last for a couple of months; or until I eat it all !
This is my first batch of fermented cucumbers, so any information will be useful.
Thanks, Love your Blog

16 Sofya June 20, 2012 at 10:17 am

Hey Matt, that is a lot. If you leave them in the crock, they will probably not kill you if you store them in the same place you store your kraut, but they will continue to grow slimier and more sour. I would transfer the whole thing in the fridge to keep longer, but I have never kept them for more than a couple of weeks. Since I’ve never left them out myself, I am not comfortable speaking about food safety here.

17 Matt June 25, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Ok I will start calling friends and giving away jars of fermented pickles.

18 Charlene July 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Can you ferment pickles in a plastic container?

19 Sofya July 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I wouldn’t as the entire process rides on the production of lactic acid, and that might cause some plastic chemicals to leach into the brine. Now I don’t know this for the fact, but my instinct is to say no.

20 Mike July 15, 2012 at 12:23 pm

@ Charlene You can in fact use food grade plastic to ferment pickles I have found these at at Lowes for 3 bucks each.. Let me point a couple things out though Food grade plastic 5 gallon buckets are almost always white with the lil triangle on the bottom with a #2 in it this only states what recycled materials went into the plastics to make the bucket, never use a 3,6,7 numbered bucket and I have only used the #2′s from lowes. I make alot of fermented items kruat,pickles,whiskey’s and beer I personally use my ceramic crocks mostly because of the volume I make,, but my freinds use these buckets to get a batch made of what I make for me, for them. Kruat goes the longest atleast a month or more so it would impact the most and thus far I really cant see or taste a difference between my crocked and the bucket kraut. I know not every one has access or own fermentation crocks or the funds to purchase them for a 1 time thing, mine have been handed down thru generations with a few of them seeing the prohibition days lol Hope this helps

21 Lori July 29, 2012 at 10:09 am

I am brining dill pickles in the Lowes food grade 5 gallon bucket and am not sure how much pickling salt to use. I believe my first go around (didn’t turn out do to a really dry season and the cukes looked good to start but had no moisture in them and the first day I went to skim them my thumb went right through one) that I ended up using about 2 -2/12 gallon of water to pour over and I’m not sure I had the correct amount of salt! I hate to waste another big batch of dukes and could really use some guidance. I am making kosher dills and have added to the bucket garlic, pepper corns, mustard seeds, and bunches of fresh dill frawns in layers and a few bay leaves. I have even gone to the trouble of drilling a hole in the bucket and using an air lock so that I know fermentation is actually occuring. I can plug the hole and just skim daily and assume if I see bubble when I tap the side of the bucket that fermentation is happening but I sure could use a little guidance here as I don’t want to ruin another batch. I do have a cool plce to store , no basement as I live in an apartment but it is cool enough I believe and I am storing them in a dark location. Well that’s all the info I have, any help would be greatly appreciated!!

22 Sofya July 29, 2012 at 10:30 am

Lori, you don’t need an airlock. You don’t need to keep them in the basement unless house is hot. But you need a particular amount of salt. If you use the salt to water brine ratio I give in this post, you’ll do great. Then just make enough brine to cover this amount. In FOUR days they are good to eat but you can let them ferment longer. Just read the post carefully and follow the recipe, and you’ll be fine. Some slime is also perfectly OK in my experience.

23 Beth July 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I was wondering if it was necessary to leave the pickles whole. Most of my family prefers to eat pickles that are a bit smaller than a whole cucumber anyway, but the cucumbers our plant has been giving us are huge and there’s no way they would fit into a jar whole. Thanks!

24 Sofya July 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Hi Beth,

When I’m faced with large cucumbers, I cut them into wedges – like 4 per cuke. They will be a little less crisp this way, but on big deal, in my opinion. As a general rule, I pick cukes when they are tiny cuke babies, and we plant specifically pickling cukes for this (like kirby, etc). This means picking every other day, in my experience, when they really start coming in.

Note also that I stopped trimming the ends.

25 Lori July 29, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Thanks for the info Sofya!! I do plan on giving some of these pickles away to family members as gifts along with blackberry jam, peach preserves, lemon curd and something with apples when apple season rolls along and anything else y’all may want to suggest. My family are always so hard to buy for so I thought what could be better than good home made items I know they wouldnt make themselve but would really enjoy. I am a first time canner and am really enjoying the fact that I am carrying on a family and for that matter historical tradition by preserving good local farmed food items. I do have a couple more questions though. When the pickles have finished do I just strain the liquid and bring it to a boil and use it to can and preserve the pickles so that they will last a while? My research says I may need to de salt the cukes before canning too. Wasnt sure about that either. Thanks again for your help! Just signed up today when I saw something on the web about lacto pickles but I cant wait to go back and look through your previous postings!!! Thanks again and LOVE your blog title!!!

26 Sofya July 29, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Hi again, Lori – I myself have never canned lacto-fermented pickles, so I am not a good person to answer that question. Sorry! Myself, when I decide they are ready, I just put the whole thing into a jar and cover with the brine and stick in the fridge until gone (which happens quickly). I have canned normal vinegary pickles though, the recipe is on this site as well.

27 Dave August 2, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Day 3 of fermentation. I used your suggestions for brining for sliced pickled beets. Way too salty. With bigger cucumbers I bet it’d be great, but with the thin slices of beets…. the brine worked its way all through the slices and HOLY SALTINESS!! I can’t believe I didn’t forese that. I can, however smell the lactobacilli working and off gassing so everything else is fine. They are currently inedible so I’m giving them a cold water bath and that’ll draw the salt out. (or if they are still too salty I’m going to make a big batch of borscht.

Any ideas about how low a salt concentration is needed to prevent critters from growing?

28 Sofya August 2, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I can’t answer that question adequately, sorry! Sorry about your beets. This amount is perfect for small pickles, that’s all I know.

29 Dave August 2, 2012 at 4:44 pm

no need to apologize. I wasn’t blaming you. HAW by no means. Happy ending: I soaked them in water for ten minutes and they are delicious. I’ll do a bit of digging and find out the salinity requirements and pass them along to you. cheers.

30 Sofya August 2, 2012 at 4:46 pm

yay, good to know re salinity reduction technique!

31 Dave August 3, 2012 at 8:04 am

Sandor Katz seems to be an authority on the subject. He say: no salt needed, but salt is desirable. Salt, though it does slow down fermentation, makes it easier because it provides an environment exclusive to lactobasilli. Also, because it hardens the pectins in the vegetables it keeps them crunchy. Salt-less ferments tend to be mushy, says Katz. But the only thing needed, really, is anaerobic conditions. So? Salt to taste. He gives a starting point of 3 TBS to 5 lbs of vegetables.

Source: http://www.wildfermentation.com/vegetable-fermentation-further-simplified-2/

32 Sofya August 3, 2012 at 9:47 am

Aha! That’s why my lactopicles get crunchier overtime!

33 G August 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Sandor says “In the case of vegetables left whole (cabbage heads, cucumbers, green tomatoes, string beans, okra, zucchini, eggplant, peppers—try anything), the vegetables should be submerged in brine.”

34 Julia August 10, 2012 at 8:22 am

Hi – I’m going to try these this morning but I pulled out my dill last week! :( I know, not smart. Approx how much did you use and can I sub dried dill? Thanks!

35 Sofya August 10, 2012 at 8:28 am

Yes, but you need dill seed, not leaf. How much pickles you got? I say use a tablespoon of dill seed to a gallon crock. Not important how much.

36 Stephen August 12, 2012 at 8:32 pm

So I said to my wife Cheryl ” What is in the glass jar in the basement and she say “Lacto-fermented green beans”. GREAT ! was my reponse. Whats next I asked, I mean the sourkrout tunred out fine and she says ” Lacto-fermented pickles”. “JUST GREAT” I says back. And so after church we stoped by a farm stand out here in Eastern Pennslyvania and” pick out a peck of pickling cucumbers” Stopped at a store to get the salt, as we had the rest of the ingredents on hand we use a crock pot as a” crock ” and now in three days we will see what we got. Thanks for your recpie and pictures.

37 Sofya August 12, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Cool! If don’t like the taste in three days just wait a couple more.

38 NataliaNMKingston August 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Sooo thrilled to find this recipe, just discussed the vinegar vs malossol gherkins with my Scottish husband yesterday. I was born in Baku to the Russian parents but I’ve been living in the UK for years. Will def. try to impress him. Cheers

39 Spannischen August 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm

nice, nice cooking blog. i come here linked from some angloamerican “supposed-homemade cookin blog”, and its curiously full of trademark hard-coloured-boxed and unhealthy products.

(like you mandatory need NUTELLA & M&M´S and UNCLE PERRIN´S good old chemical peanut liquor and MONSANTO corn syrup and special standard normal EXXON wheat prepared flour to do a simple homemade cake)…

and get to your nice photos of eastern-europe gardengrown vegetables and artistic recipes… now i i understand why u.s.a. is “pioneer” in Consuum Society, but not in satisfaction level of the average citizen.

pickles and lacto-fermentation give you the natural cure for your stomach, “bio” products only fake and create addictive substitutes. nice if you talk some day about the root “Eleuterococo” and the Kefir, health-bringer items which i think are well used in your country.

good feeling, long live SLOW FOOD and sorry not knowing Russian languaje and speak in this speakeasy engrish. Saludos desde España, y buen provecho

40 Spannischen August 29, 2012 at 4:26 pm

ive asked my wife´s grandfather, who was a naturist doctor, about lacto fermentation and he says in the old mediterranean culture (greco-latin) it was used for makin bread grow, some milk added to the “first grow” water+flour ball which was left in a warm place to make the natural “bakin powder”

41 Jughead November 27, 2012 at 5:50 am

My pickles are never ready in 3 days, more like 10-14 days. I have several oak trees so I have an abundance of leaves and find 2-3 per jar keep the pickles keep crisp. But pickles are hard to screw up.

42 Sofya November 27, 2012 at 11:53 pm

That depends on your definition of ready of course.

43 Mark January 20, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I worked in Russia for a year and a half a number of years ago. The locals (we were way out in the country, the nearest villages contained perhaps a couple hundred to no more than a couple thousand people) had wonderful pickles, the like of which I had never had. NO vinegar! And my grandmom was a famous canner, so I’ve had a little more than average experience for an American. But I loved the brined pickles – and have been looking around for recipes. Just found this post today! Wonderful! If its good enough for all the babushkas, its good enough for me! :D

But, I have one question. You mention that your pickles must be consumed quickly – but we had access to these wonderful huge jars of pickles almost all winter! How do they do that? Do they wash and repack in a fresh mild brine to stop the fermentation?

44 Sofya January 20, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Gosh, I am not sure… I don’t think I am equipped to answer this question. I am also not sure these are 100% the same pickles, but surely close. I am sure there’s more info on the web.

45 Darrell November 5, 2013 at 4:19 pm

If you look at this website you will get an approved recipe for fermented pickles and how to water bath can them when they are sour enough for you. Tested and approved by the USDA.
This is a hybrid technique where you add some vinegar to the brine to make sure that botulism can’t get started before the beneficial bacteria make enough acid to keep the bad bugs in check.
They cure in weeks, not days, and keep in the fridge for months
The canned pickles will be pantry shelf stable for at least a year.

46 elsaid March 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm

i found this site really intresting and so valuable for those interested in healthy foods i hope ill be a friend of that nice site and thanks for the efforts of every particepant.

47 Dennis July 21, 2013 at 2:16 pm

my first batch of pickles and sure hope I didn’t screw up, I made 18 gallons out of 80 pounds of cukes, I used 1/2 cup of salt per quart of water, the brine was real salty for a couple of days then it turned to a tangy, the brine didn’t turn cloudy for a week, then the small bubbles started, it said it would take 2 to 6 weeks to make with this recipe. I was told that the higher salinity would keep the bad bacteria away and that the good bacteria thrive on it. I am hoping that I can keep them at room temperature for several months, I did cut off the blossom end and used grape leaves to keep the pickles crisp. right now the pickles are salty but I am hoping that after they are cured that the good bacteria used up a bunch of that salt. My wife needs probiotics and I thought this would be a good supply.

48 Sofya July 21, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Shouldn’t be that long… I bet you’ll be able to eat them within days.

49 Amy T. July 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Your blog is the first I’ve found that I’ve made 2 recipes from in 2 days (these pickles and non-alc margaritas). Both fabulous recipes! You are right- these are a cinch to make. I put the ing’s together in about 10 minutes and left it for three days on the counter. This is now my go-to pickling method- thanks for sharing! One question: when I put the mason jar in the fridge, can I cover it with a lid and band, or does the ongoing fermentation make that an explosion risk?

50 Sofya July 22, 2013 at 1:35 pm

A lid should be perfectly fine. It won’t be fermenting very fast in the fridge – not enough to cause an explosion – in my experience, anyway. Good question, though!

51 Anna July 28, 2013 at 9:58 am

I use 6 tablespoons of salt per half gallon of water, fill up a 5 gallon crock with cucumbers and peppers, garlic and dill, and let it ferment in the cool basement…takes about four weeks for them to be done. The brine, at first very salty, transforms over the four weeks and there’s no saltiness left. Then, they’re transferred to jars for the fridge and we eat them all year. We are just finishing off the last of peppers from last September. Last year we also included carrots.

If you are lucky enough to have root cellar I imagine you could leave the crock there throughout the winter and just pull your pickles from there. That’s what we need, plans for a root cellar!

52 Massimo August 6, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Thank you very much for the tip!

53 LiLiana Wilson August 6, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Those are what my granny used to call “Sour Pickles” rather than “dill” pickles. They are truly wonderful!

54 lauren August 6, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Dumb question…Alive oak leaves? Not from the ground?

55 Sofya August 6, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Yep, green ones, from a tree.

56 Mick Emery August 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm

I did about 10 gallons of these, last year.
The fermenting, I’m told, stops, once they’re refrigerated.
We’ve been eating them for a year.

57 Lorien September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am

Question! Are these the kind where they basically fizz when you bite into them? Almost as if they had been slightly carbonated? I’ve been looking for that sort for years, my great aunt used to make them and she never passed on the recipe…

58 Sofya September 27, 2013 at 9:19 pm

I think so!

Previous post:

Next post: