Summer is for pickles: cucumber, pepper, carrot, bean, beet.

summer pickles

Summer is pickling time.

From left to right: dill pickles, pickled banana peppers, spicy carrot pickles, dill beans, and that’s beet kvass in the back.

These are all fermented pickles — brine pickles, as my great-grandmother would say.

To make brine pickles, put vegetables and spices in a jar or crock (it works better if you put the spices in first, so they don’t float to the top so much), and pour brine over them until they’re submerged. Keep them submerged (with a jar or a rock or a plate — something nonreactive) while the pickle ferments. Cover the top with a cloth to keep the flies out. Take a peek every day, and skim off any scum or mold that develops.

How long the vegetables take to pickle depends on how strong a brine you use. For medium-small pieces of vegetable, I like about 2–3 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. This is a light brine, and the pickles should be ready in less than a week at summer room temperatures (60 at night; 80 in the daytime, where I live). If you live in a warmer place, or you want the pickles to keep a long time, use more salt.

Spice mixes depend on your taste.

For dill (cucumber) pickles, I like dill, garlic, peppercorns, cinnamon, allspice, hot pepper, bay. I use pretty much the same mix for dill beans.

For the banana peppers, I used onions and bay leaves. (Note that if you want thick-skinned peppers like these to ferment/pickle properly, you need to slice them open so the brine can get inside.)

For the carrots (which are an attempt to emulate the lovely pickled carrots at Tartine in San Francisco), I used a lot of hot pepper, onions, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and thyme.

I don’t add spices to the beet kvass, which is a beet-flavored drink, rather than a pickle, really.

To keep pickles crisp (especially important for cucumbers), add a handful of grape, cherry, oak or other tannic leaves to the mix.


  1. isabella said,

    August 17, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

    you’re back!

  2. Jacqueline said,

    August 18, 2009 @ 8:55 am

    Lovely! How do you get the brine?

  3. Susie said,

    August 18, 2009 @ 11:58 am

    I thought pickles had to be made with vinegar, and processed and sealed like jam. You’re just using salt water and spices? How long do they keep? Do you store them in the fridge?

  4. Dawn said,

    August 26, 2009 @ 9:35 pm

    Oh these look excellent! Thank you – and such lovely photos and articles throughout your blog. I am looking forward to trying the pink ginger tea for one. If I ever get back east I’ll have to look you up. Very inspired!

    As to this above – do you have to use pickling cucumbers? And if I don’t have access to any of the tannic leaves you recommended – what do you think might be commercially available at a health food store?

  5. Mike said,

    September 9, 2009 @ 11:22 am


    I find that Celery Seed is both an excellent flavoring and help with crispiness. Also, whole fermented cucumber pickles stay crispier longer than those you pre-slice (into spears or whatever).

    I’ve had the best results with pickling cucumbers because of their firm skin that seems to hold things together well. I have had ok results with very small slicing cucumbers left whole, but my attempt at lemon cucumbers was a disaster of scraping mushy seeds off the spear (although my friends said they tasted great if you didn’t mind the scraping slimy seeds out part).

    Last tip: Put in about 5 times as many whole garlic cloves as you think prudent, as they are delicious in and of themselves and when I put out a big plate of my homemade pickles, the garlic from the bottom of the jar always goes first.

  6. NW Nature Nut said,

    October 6, 2009 @ 11:28 pm

    Very pretty blog you have here! I used grape leaves in my dill pickles and it did infact keep them crispy. I like those little tricks!

  7. Denny said,

    February 23, 2010 @ 8:47 am

    This dish looks amazing!

  8. Edwina said,

    March 30, 2010 @ 8:37 am

    I have been doing some preserving with vinegar and lactic acid. The lactic acid preservation is simple, cost effective and some quite delicious. I notice on many recipes for lactic acid preservation that the biggest problem seems to be keeping the product below the liquid level – Bottles are used/bags with water etc. I use a product called a ‘canning buddie’ or ‘viscodisc’ – it comes in various sizes – is a plastic insert which fits into the neck of the jar and does the job perfectly and avoids a lot of hassles and is simple to insert. IT is also great to use as a strainer to pour liquid out before removing the product from the jar when serving! check it out on

  9. nancy said,

    August 13, 2010 @ 9:29 am

    I’m a fermentation novice, trying brine pickles (cukes) for the first time this summer. I live in new york city, and haven’t been able to find fresh grape or cherry leaves (and a local forager advised that oak leaves are too high in tannins). Has anyone had experience using fresh peach or nectarine leaves to keep the pickles crunchy? I have some from my local farmers’ market. Thanks!

  10. Andreas Duess said,

    August 14, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

    Jaqueline, for the brine, make a 5% saline solution, meaning 50 grams of salt for every litter of water.

    Susan, this is lactic fermentation, also known as wild fermentation. You’re creating an environment in which lactic acid bacteria flourish, this will kill off bad bacteria and preserve whatever needs preserving. Vegetables pickles this way can last for several years, although we tend to eat ours within months.

  11. anavar said,

    February 15, 2011 @ 4:13 am

    I make my saline solutions a bit saltier, I go up to 7,5 %. I like my veggies salty.

  12. Julie said,

    August 27, 2011 @ 6:50 am

    Wow looks amazing! I have plenty cukes on the vine still so I want to try this. What type of brine/salt do I use? sea salt? kosher salt?

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