Ukrainian Dill Pickles (Fermented Naturally) by Olga Drozd

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Prep time: 1:00 Overall time: 5 days


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5 lb. sm. cucumbers, unwaxed and unwashed
1/2 head garlic
3 sprigs dried dill weed with heads
3 grape leaves or cherry leaves or 1/4 tsp. alum
1 cup coarse salt or kosher salt
3/4 to 1 gal. water
6 peppercorns
1 gallon glass jar or crock


Soak (but do not scrub) cucumbers in very cold water for 5 minutes. Scald a very clean glass jar with boiling water. Place a grape leaf at the bottom and arrange cucumbers vertically in layers, inserting garlic cloves and dill weed here and there. Do not pack tightly.

Add salt to boiling water and stir. Pour brine over cucumbers and add peppercorns. (If not using leaves, add alum for added crispness). Cover with leaves and a plate and place in a cool, dark place to ferment.

After 4 to 5 days, the cucumbers will be semi-cured; some gourmets prefer them that way. After a few more days, fully cured pickles will become a lighter green. Pickles may be placed in smaller jars that are more convenient for storage. Scald 3 or 4 quart jars, pour off and strain pickling juice (discarding garlic and dill weed). Transfer pickles, fill quarts with strained liquid, cover, and refrigerate.


Pickles soured with vinegar and spices differ appreciably from those fermented naturally with salt, garlic, and dill weed. The natural taste is mellow, yet tart. Because fermentation is a process that depends on airborne bacteria. I love pickles this way.

The juice, or kvas, is never thrown out; it is used as a base for soups, borsch, or drunk cold as an eye-opener. Yummy!

I never add alum and they always come out crisp, and I don't have grape leaves.

In the old days, dry rusks of rye bread were put on top to aid the fermentation process and keep the cucumbers from floating up. This is a good idea but not necessary.


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