It’s August in Quebec and that means it’s time to preserve the amazing bounty of fruit and vegetables we have been lucky to grow and enjoy all summer.   Canning jars and bushel boxes of vegetables can be found in abundance, a hint that you need to start preserving while the produce is at it’s freshest.  One of my big projects at this time of year is to lacto-ferment cucumbers.  There is no beating the flavour of a lacto-fermented cucumber dill pickle.  I find store-bought, vinegar-cured cucumber pickles dull as compared to the robust, salty, crunchy, multi-dimensional flavour of a properly lacto-fermented garlic-dill cucumber pickle.

lacto-fermented garlic-dill cucumbers
lacto-fermented garlic-dill cucumbers

Cucumbers are not the easiest vegetable to ferment.  I have personally had a few dud batches, but the successful ones motivated me to keep trying.  I researched, learned some tricks from fellow fermenters, and have produced some truly tasty garlic-dill pickles.

While they can be temperamental, with the right tips and tricks you can easily master making your own lacto-fermented dill pickles.  Make a big batch and enjoy their amazing flavour, and beneficial live microbes we get from the lacto-fermentation process.

Lacto-fermented cucumbers
Lacto-fermented cucumbers

Tried and Tested Crunchy Lacto-Fermented Cucumber Tips

  1. Use fresh, unblemished “pickling” cucumbers.  “Kirbys” are most commonly used.  They have a thick and bumpy skin, and hold up well in salt brines.  Avoid using Lebanese or English cucumbers (they are too thin-skinned)
  2. Soak the cucumbers in ice water for at least one hour.  It will help them retain their crunch.

    soak cucumbers in ice water
    soak cucumbers in ice water
  3. Trim off the ends to remove any stems or blossoms.  You can slice the cukes or keep them whole.  I ferment my cucumbers whole since it has always yielded me a crunchy pickle and now I’m superstitious!
  4. Add a tannic source.  Bay leaves are the most accessible for me and have given me continued success.  Grape, horseradish and oak leaves are also excellent if you have access to them.  Tea leaves can also be used.
  5. Cucumbers are a short ferment and can be ready in as little as 3 days. I personally like mine to go for at least one week, since I like full flavour and for the brine to permeate the entire cucumber.   By the end of the fermentation process, the cucumbers will have gone from a bright green to a dull olive and the brine will be cloudy.

    2-week old lacto-fermented cucumber
    2-week old lacto-fermented cucumber
  6. Find a cool place for fermentation (ideally 20-22?C/68-72?F).  High temperatures make the lacto-fermenting bacteria more active and can result in mushy cucumbers or “hollow pickle syndrome”.  Slow and steady works best for cucumbers.  I have tried leaving mine to ferment at around 22?C/72?F for 5 days and then transferring them to the fridge for another week or 2.  It worked well, with no mushy pickles!


Fermentation time: 1 -3 weeks


garlic, dillweed, cucumbers
garlic, dill weed, cucumbers
  • pickling cucumbers (“Kirby” is ideal or any thick-skinned cucumber)
  • 3.5 % Brine (35 grams* non-iodized salt + 1 litre filtered water)
  • garlic cloves (to your liking- I usually put 3)
  • dill (fronds or dill weed heads)- as “dilly” as you like it!
  • 2-3 bay leaves, grape or horseradish leaves
  • fermentation container
  • fermentation weight

*5 grams= approximately 1 teaspoon, but it is best to weigh the salt for better accuracy


  1. Soak cucumbers in ice water for at least one hour. Trim cucumber ends of stems or blossoms.
  2. Slice or leave cucumbers whole. Pack tightly into jar, layering dill and garlic.

    cucumbers, dill, garlic and bay leaf
    cucumbers, dill, garlic and bay leaf
  3. Pour in brine, completely covering cucumbers, leaving a 1-1 1/2 ” space to the topcuke-pickles
  4. Add weight, if necessary, and lid jar.
  5. Place out of direct sunlight at room temperature (ideally 20-22 degrees C (68-72 degrees F)).
  6. Sample after 3 days.  For a more sour pickle, let ferment for at least 2 weeks.
  7. Transfer to the refrigerator for storage.

10 Responses

  1. I know NOTHING about macro feementing but wonder if what you’re saying is these pickles can be made and sit aside for 3-7 days then refrigerated for 2 weeks and can not be preserved longer?

    1. Hi Diane- to clarify, refrigerating the pickles following 3-7 days of fermentation helps to crisp them up (instead of a 2-week fermentation at room temperature). Fermented pickles have a long preservation life, and can last up to a year refrigerated.

  2. When you say that the fermentation process can take up to two weeks, does this mean they can be kept out of the refrigerator during this entire time?

    1. Hi Leigh- yes, 2 weeks in the fridge following the period of time (5 days to one week) of fermentation in ambient temperature. If you have a cold room/root cellar, you can use that instead of the fridge. I use our cold room (the temperature is about 15 degrees Celsius in the summer) instead of the fridge because I use large buckets to ferment.

  3. So I grew up on similar pickles that were fermented in the jar using a ball or mason jar where the lid was screwed fairly tight to not let in any oxygen but would still burp till excess air was pushed out enough to seal. These can then be stored in a non-refridgerated environment. Is this similar. and the grape, horseradish or bay leave is used for flavor or for some other reason?

    1. Hi Karen- thanks for the info! Grape, horseradish or bay leaves are used as a source of tannins. Tannins are astringent and help keep the pickles crisp and add a “puckering” mouthfeel to the taste.

  4. Thank you SO much for including grams! I have been through so many blogs trying to find a reliable ratio to make my brine and all of them without fail mentioned tablespoons which are meaningless to me. You have really saved my bacon 🙂

  5. Hi Jody,
    Cucumber Fermented Pickles
    I`m using a kilner jar, during the process of fermentation do you close the lid tightly (clamp it)or lose without clamping it and do you burp the jar and at what frequency.
    How long is the fermentation process?

    1. Hi Joanne- During all lactoferments, the most success is achieved with an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment. The fermentation process actually involves many different types of bacteria that each pave the way for the next type to thrive. In the beginning of the ferment, there is some residual oxygen in the sealed fermentation container. The first wave of bacteria uses up this oxygen, produces CO2 and acids, creating an ideal environment for the next wave of bacteria to take over the process. Pathogenic (harmful) species such as mould and fungus cannot thrive in an anaerobic and acidic environment, so the fermented food is protected (as long as the container remains sealed to prevent any oxygen from entering. So yes, the jars must remain tightly closed, and the kilner jars are self burping and will release any built up CO2 without you having to burp or open them. The fermentation process can take 1-2 weeks depending on the temperature in your home and how sour you want your pickles (longer ferments= more sour)

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