In The Kitchen

Epic Fermented Pickle Fail!

This is my second attempt at naturally fermented food.  And my second FAIL.  My first attempt was sauerkraut gosh, that was 2 and a half years ago and I’ve not tried it since.  But somehow all the Youtube videos make it look so easy and fool-proof.

Harrumph I say!

So today was completion day for the fermented pickles and I brought up the crock from the basement… DSCF9196-001and looked under the hood, removing my weigh down bag and plate…DSCF9197-001I skimmed off some scum and took out a pickle…DSCF8772Eww!  Oh my goodness…this thing is a mush turd with a hint of garlic and dill.  Completely gross.  After a few minutes of what to do I decided to pour the whole batch out into the sink and dissect a few…DSCF8768I began to pick them up and some were hard!  Oh maybe I didn’t have an all out disaster as previously thought!  I sorted out the mush from the ones that actually were firm..  DSCF8770The mushy ones are on the right, only about 5… DSCF8773The ones on the left were really quite firm…DSCF8774
Ever the analyzer I proceed to dissect the lot. The fermented mayhem is splayed out before me…DSCF8775
…and I slice and inspect…DSCF8776 DSCF8779 DSCF8780

Okay…it looks alright…  but how does it taste.  I get up the nerve to taste it.


I can’t even describe accurately what the taste was.  Tinny?  Yes, it was a bit salty.  No, it didn’t taste spoiled, no it wasn’t slippery it was just really really awful.  I’m thinking it might have been my spices that were making such a bad taste or too much dill.  I don’t know.  As far as the mushy cukes I think I waited too long to get these cucumbers into a brine.

I’ve been reading about pickle problems and from what the experts (Ball) say fermented pickles need to go from field to crock within 24-48 hours or else they get soft.  Certainly I had a few softies.

Oh well.  Live and learn.  Hopefully my next attempt at the Uncle Kruncker Pickle factory will go more smoothly!

Happy Happy everyone!


2 thoughts on “Epic Fermented Pickle Fail!”

  1. Hi Cathy, I happened on your blog post on a google search where I was looking for photos of fermented pickles, which I make each year. I’ve had some fails too, it happens. I’d have to agree with you – get the cukes right into the brine. I lost a batch that way this year, I just got too busy and left them out too long in a cooler in the kitchen. They lost moisture and maybe started to ferment before brining, result : mush. Trimming the blossom ends is recommended as well, though the grape leaves are supposed to prevent the blossom end rot problem. Be careful about your brine recipe and use the right ingredients in the right proportions. Ambient room temperature can be an issue as well.

    I also learned, the hard way, not to overprocess them once they’re done fermenting. The water bath can destroy all your work if you let it. Check out the USDA recs for low temperature pasteurization on page 6-5 of this publication: ( it’s supposed to be less likely to mash your dills. I did this today for the first time, so we’ll see… .

    If your looking for an alternative to the crock, I recommend trying the garlic dill recipe here: I made them several times and they are absolutely outstanding garlic dills. Don’t add any spices to these, they don’t need any.

    I have to say, I haven’t been buying commercial pickles for a good five or six years now, eating strictly my own homegrown and fermented ones and some farmers market pickles for a treat. Done right and with the luck of the harvest, I get a whole years or more worth of pickles for my family in one harvest from a small backyard garden bed. Consider trying again?

    Good luck,


    1. Hi John, Wow! Thank you Soooo much for all these great tips! This year I bought fresh local pickles that were just picked from the field the day before. They were nice and hard and I kept them cool. So far I’ve made a batch of spicy bread and butter and regular bread and butter. They turned out amazing so I am up for another round of fermented! Yes, I think half the battle is the starting cuke and keeping them cool and using them quickly. I will try again, thanks for the encouragement! Regard, Cathy


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