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Pickle fermenting fail

 
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I tried fermenting pickles for the first time. I did the recipie as written, but my pickles are bad. Like taste bad, and are soft and mushy. Some even look rotten. What did I do? The recipe called for grape leaves, oak or bay leaves, it said all would work. I had bay leaves, so that’s what I used. Could that be it? I had them in an old ceramic crock that was my great grandmothers. I cleaned it thoroughly also. Thank you for any tips or thoughts!
 
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I have not fermented pickles yet. But I think it would be easier for the more knowledgeable people to help you, if you would post the recipe that you tried out.
 
Lisa Flannery
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https://pin.it/uicjb5bguebc33
 
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Lisa Flannery wrote:https://pin.it/uicjb5bguebc33



What the author of the recipe left out of the equation is that some varieties of cucumbers are not suited for pickles.  They will turn to mush nearly every time no matter how much tannins are used.  I see that they also mention using cherry leaves, which I would not recommend.   I use wild grape leaves with great success.

One of my favorite cukes to pickle is "homemade pickles"  a relable old open pollinated variety.  I have also used general lee, a hybrid,  that makes a good crispy pickle, and very prolific.   There are others but these are what I'm most familiar with.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Some of our folks have slooow internet, so I chased down the recipe from this site: https://prodigalpieces.com/how-to-make-fermented-crock-dill-pickles/

You’ll need: (this is for a 1 gallon recipe. I use a 10 gallon crock…I have a family of 7 and we like to eat them all year!)  
ceramic crock or food-grade bucket, cleaned
   plate to fit inside crock or bucket, cleaned
   6T. sea salt (3/8c.)
   3-4 fresh dill flowering heads (you can use dried, 3How to Make Fermented Crock Dill PIckles by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces-4t., but fresh is best)
   handful of oak, grape, or cherry leaves (Yes, leaves.  They make the pickles crisp!)
   2-3 heads of garlic, not cloves, peeled
   a pinch of peppercorns
   3-4lbs. unwaxed cucumbers (small pickle size)
   Large rock or weight, cleaned

Wash the pickles, and remove any blossoms being careful not to bruise them.  If you can’t get fresh ones, just soak the ones you have in some ice-cold water to freshen them up.  Then, place them in the crock along with the dill, leaves, garlic, and peppercorns.
You’ll need: (this is for a 1 gallon recipe. I use a 10 gallon crock…I have a family of 7 and we like to eat them all year!)
Dissolve the sea salt in half a gallon of water and pour it into the crock.
Now, the pickles will float and you want them submerged.  Here’s where the plate comes in.  Turn your plate upside down and push the pickles under the brine, making sure to catch them all.  Place your large (clean) rock on top of the plate to keep the pickles submerged.
How to Make Fermented Crock Dill PIckles by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces
Place a towel over top for a tent to keep the pesky flies and gnats out.
You’ll need to check the pickles daily to see if there is any mold on the surface.  Don’t panic, just skim it off and wash the plate and rock (or weight) and replace them – mold is good.  
Do the same the next day, and so on.  After about a week, grab a pickle and give it a taste.  You can stop the fermenting whenever you like the flavor.  My 10 gallon crock takes around 4 weeks to get it where I like it.  A one gallon crock takes anywhere from 1-4 weeks.
Once you think they’ve pickled to your liking, just store them in a refrigerator for months!  How easy was that?!
 
Lisa Flannery
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Thank you everyone for the input. I’m not going to get discouraged! I will try again with your recommendations. THANK YOU!
 
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Common problems in fermenting.
#1- Something was in contact with the air.
Your old crock has a crack or chip where nasty bacteria resides.
Too much washing in chlorinated water killed off enough of your starter bacteria that something else took over.

I used a very simple recipe of 2 tablespoons sea salt dissolved in 1 quart water(cooled some), garlic, dill plants. Grape leaves because I had them but they aren't critical.
Cukes rinsed in rainwater or at least a sink of hot water, allowed to cool and off gas.
Refrigerate  a few days and they'll get crispy.

The crock, in this case glass, with a well fitting ceramic weight keeps everything submerged.
[URL=http://s828.photobucket.com/user/Indyyeti/media/zelipickleSMALL_zpsvzr7iitp.jpg.html
][/URL]

Weight closeup


After 3 days I pulled a couple of pickles out to test, not quite ready yet. Cloudy brine is normal.  I filled the hole with Mexican mini cukes and green beans.
 
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In addition to the things that have already been mentioned, I have a couple of other possible culprits.

If you didn't remove the blossom end of the cucumbers, they can end up soft.  I remove both ends to be safe.

If you cooked the pickles (used a hot brine, or canned them), they could get soft.

Sometimes cucumbers that are too old get bitter.  This could have impacted the taste.

Good luck on your next attempt!
 
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Roy, do you remember where you purchased your weights from?
 
Roy Hinkley
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Jessie Mellor wrote:Roy, do you remember where you purchased your weights from?



I do. I had them made. Are you interested?
 
Jessie Mellor
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Well, it kinda depends on what the cost would be.
 
Roy Hinkley
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PM sent.
 
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Interesting you say some cucumbers just won't pickle? I have tried & tried to store my cucamelons by pickling and they just go yuk. My most recent try I have them deep in quite a strong brine with a good cap of vine leaves and i can see a gammy mould forming already after 4 days. Any ideas on how I can store these little things?
thanks
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Are your Mexican mini cukes the same thing as sour gherkins, aka mouse melons? I'm growing those for the first time this year. I wondered if they might do well as pickles.
 
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Lisa,

There are some good responses here. I started out doing open fermentation (crock or similar) and had mixed success. Once I switched to a closed fermentation method, similar to homebrewing, my success rate went up drastically and the pickles tasted so much cleaner and better. I've used Pickl-it jars with good success but they are rather expensive. There are other mason jar based systems that are much less expensive, and we've made home-made ones by drilling into mason jar lids and fitting the lid with an airlock.  The main process is to use an airlock in a closed jar of some type. This allows the CO2 from fermentation to escape, and not allow air and all the bacteria and mold spores in. The CO2 also fills the air space above the liquid, which prevents the growth of mold and bacteria that require oxygen. It's a lot less work too since there is no skimming or tending. You just let them sit and bubble away for days/weeks.

My current process is to remove the blossom end of cukes, which contains enzymes that can affect the fermentation process, then add garlic, dill, hot peppers if you like, himalayan sea salt, and non-chlorinated water. I've used fresh grape leaves but didn't notice a huge difference in the final texture. I should probably circle around on that one again now that I have more consistent results.

One thing that I've found for long-term storage (I have a fridge dedicated to pickles of many types) is that when I transfer from the closed system to a mason jar with a regular lid, the scum/mold can grow on the top over time, ruining the pickles. My pickled beets really got hit with a bad mold growth one year and it was sad. Now I add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar to each quart jar before I store them in the fridge. This has kept them clean and crunchy for many months. Obviously I'm not getting enough acid production from the wild lactobacillus to prevent mold growth, even though the pickled vegetables tasted quite sour. My next research in this will be to find a way to increase the final acid content naturally either by adding some type of sugar in the beginning, or adding whey, or using a lactobacillus strain that can survive at a higher acid level (my least favorite choice since it means I would have to buy a lactobacillus strain).

Definitely don't give up on fermenting veggies. It has had it's challenges but I've made some fantastic dill pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, beets, green beans, and mixed vegetable pickles. The sauerkraut using purple cabbage is beautiful and tasty. This is a skill worth learning.
 
Ed Belote
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cesca beamish wrote:Interesting you say some cucumbers just won't pickle? I have tried & tried to store my cucamelons by pickling and they just go yuk. My most recent try I have them deep in quite a strong brine with a good cap of vine leaves and i can see a gammy mould forming already after 4 days. Any ideas on how I can store these little things?
thanks



They will all pickle, per say,  but most are looking for that crispy texture,  and some things will just not give you that.  I suspect the gammy mould you are talking about is kahm yeast.  It should be skimmed off whenever you notice it.  In my experience it does not seem to affect the integrity of the final product, but maybe it does.  I always skim it off at first sight.  It usually doesn't return.

I store all of my ferments in a spare refrigerator,  but I realize most do not have that luxury.   Its hard to find room with one refrigerator.   Maybe smaller, more frequent batches if it is a space problem?

Also, I do both open and closed ferments with no problems 95% of the time.  I use crocks and five gallon buckets with a lid and airlock.
 
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Kahm yeast is a probiotic.  I like it!

If you have a successful pickling and it smells good, you can put a bit of that in the next one as a starter.

That works for me.  I use grape and oak leaves, as they are easy to get.  

Having a friend examine yours in person is a great way to check it.

If it smells bad, it almost surely is.

No salt at the beginning is a great way to ruin it.

John S
PDX OR
 
cesca beamish
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Cucamelons (Melothria scabra) are brilliant. Very useful size and very tasty. They even come up on their own from last year's fallen fruit. This is all in my polytunnel.
I don't have a fridge at all so try to find ways of making crops last longer.
I am perhaps not deligent enough about taking off the flower remains?
I will remove the current vine leaves and put some fresh in. I am far from squeamish but I don't do squishy pickles
 
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