How to Make Pickles: A Primer

Ever wondered how to make pickles? It’s easy. Making homemade pickles has been on my to do list for some time now. I’m a little behind the times; pickling everything has been a trend that’s come and probably gone and I’ve eaten more pickled foods than I have time to list here. From pickled watermelon rind (my favorite) to pickled fiddlehead ferns, chefs have found that a little bit of something pickled adds nice acidity to almost any dish. I decided for my first home pickling project, I should start with traditional pickled cucumbers.

I used a recipe from David Lebovitz as a starting point, omitted the dill and added spices I had on hand like whole sumac to add some local flavor. To make dill pickles, simply add a big bunch of dill to the mix. I also threw in a carrot I had, just for fun. This pickle recipe takes about 5 minutes of hands on time and three days to ferment in a cool, dark place. After that they need to be refrigerated and will keep for about 1 week. If they last that long. But then you have delicious, crispy pickles, perfect for a barbecue or to eat right out of the fridge. You’ll never buy a supermarket bottle again. And here you have it, how to make pickles.

Homemade Pickles

Adapted from David Lebovitz and The NY Times

2 – 2½ cups bottled or filtered water (for a jar that holds 4½ cups liquid, or a little over 1 quart)
2 tablespoons coarse salt
7 small-medium cucumbers
1 carrot (optional)
4-8 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon whole mustard seeds
½ teaspoon whole allspice berries
¼ teaspoon whole cloves
¼ teaspoon whole sumac

In a small pot heat ½ cup of the water with the salt and stir until the salt dissolves. Add the remaining water. Pack the cucumbers vertically into the jar, making sure they’re tightly-packed. Add the garlic, bay leaves, mustard seeds, allspice berries, cloves, and sumac. Pour the salt water brine over so it comes to the top of the jar; the cucumbers should be fully submerged. Cover the jar and store in a cool, dark place (do not refrigerate). After 3 days, taste one. The pickles can ferment from 3 to 6 days. The longer the fermentation, the more sour they’ll become. Once the pickles are to your liking, refrigerate them.

Submitted to Pennywise Platter and Frugal Fridays


  1. I love pickles and have never made my own! This is definitely something I am going to try! I had no idea it would be so fast… I love the fact that you can basically flavor them with any spice you like! Thanks! :-)

    • Katherine

      I know! I was thrilled to discover all of this as well. I forgot to mention also that I kept the cucumbers whole but if you slice them into spears they will pickle even faster; I’d check on them after 1 day in that case.

  2. So easy – who knew? I love pickles, so I’ll be sure try this.

    • Katherine

      Awesome! I feel the same way – when I finished I was like, that was it? Amazing.

  3. Love this!

  4. I love how simple this is! I have always been somewhat intimidated by the pickling process. I can definitly try this out.

    • Katherine

      I am so glad! Let me know how it turns out if/when you do make them. I also enjoyed the simplicity of the process. There is something very satisfying about it.

  5. Hi Katherine! Homemade pickles! It’s such a great timing. Recently my 5 year old son (just turned 5 today!) started to have a strong interest in pickles. He just loves pickles! All the sudden! I’m going to get some ingredients – sumac and allspice berries. Hope I can find…

  6. quezra

    “After that they need to be refrigerated and will keep for about 1 week.”

    So these are QUICK pickles, or refrigerator pickles.

    • Katherine

      They are very similar to quick, or refrigerator pickles. But most quick/refrigerator pickle recipes I know require the fermenting to be done in the fridge. These pickle in a dark, dry place and once they are the level of sour you’d like are transferred to the fridge. Quick pickles usually require you to pour a hot/boiling mixture over, and they can be eaten right then and there are refrigerated. So I don’t know what I’d call these! All I know is they are delicious!

  7. Love lacto-fermented pickles without vinegar…I make them quite frequently and am definitely due to put up a batch!

    • Katherine

      Aha – so that’s what this kind is called! Lacto-fermented. Awesome. Thanks Winnnie :-)

  8. These photos are beautiful! I love pickles and I always forget how really simple they are to make. Love it!

  9. My pickles turned to mush in 2.5 days. they looked okay from the outside but when I touched them they caved in and liquid came out. they were mush. what did I do wrong?

  10. Just tried your recommended recipe. They turned out fantastic! I live in Thailand, so 70-75f is difficult to achieve, but they were in a dark, dry place for 3-4 days and it worked. Didn’t have sumac, but added some good dry dill. Will never buy pickles again. These are the best. Thanks to you and David L.


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