Pickling is the age old art of preserving and enhancing food by fermentation in a salty and acidic solution.

There are many kinds of pickling in all parts of the world. Here I am referring to the traditional and natural pickling processes of Eastern Europe where they use lactic acid producing bacteria (mainly Leuconostoc mesenteroides and Lactobacillus plantarum) to do the job. Lactic acid producing bacteria are found everywhere around us and on us, so it is merely a matter of  providing a good environment for them to thrive in. The acidity, salinity, temperature, and the exclusion of oxygen are the factors that determine which microorganisms dominate. The beneficial microorganisms along with the herbs and spices added determine the flavor of the pickle. Pickling also improves the nutritional value by increasing  the amount of B vitamins and other nutrients produced by bacteria.

I will start by introducing the oldest known pickle. The cucumber has been pickled in India for at least 4000 years.


The Cucumber Pickle

Also known as the dill pickle or kosher dill.


Before and after pickling.

This kind of cucumber is small and bitter. After pickling they become slightly salty with a delicious dill, garlic flavor. And they keep for months.


This what you need for pickling:
Garlic cloves
Dill crowns
Mustard seed
Pickling jars

How to do it:
– clean cucumbers, garlic and dill
– prick small holes in the cukes with a knife or fork
– put garlic, dill and mustard seed in jar
– stuff cukes in jar as tight as possible
– mix salt into water figuring 30 grams salt per liter water
– put salt water into jar covering everything
– put on lid, sealing it to keep air out
– label jar with date and type
– place in room temperature for two weeks
– then put in cool place for storage (like cellar)
– ready to eat after about 5 weeks

The temperatures are rather important. Here in Sweden the ambient temperatures are low, so the first period in room temperature is around 20 C, but anything between 15 and 25 C will do, it seems. I keep them in the kitchen in a corner on the floor covered with a towel to keep light out. Light kills bacteria. Then they go down to the basement food storage room where it’s dark and the temperatures vary between 10 to 15 C from winter to summer.


The salt concentration becomes about 1.5%, which keeps microorganisms from growing, but allows the lactic acid producing bacteria to thrive. The lactic acid acts as a preservative, as well as adding a slightly sour punch to the flavor.

Where do these bacteria come from? They are all around us in the environment. In the air, in our food, on our skin etc. We wash the cucumbers to get the dirt off, but even after washing there are enough bacteria left to propagate without competition because of the salty water. The other ingredients also add to the bacteria count. The salt and the lactic acid preserve the cucumbers.

They are ready to eat after 4 to 5 weeks. I have had great tasting pickles that were over two years old, but usually they get eaten up quickly. Perhaps the best thing about lactic acid pickling is the flavor changes that come about.

My favorite use is for the pickle sandwich – sourdough rye bread with tahini and sliced cucumber pickles.



Sauerkraut is a traditional method of preserving cabbage in Eastern Europe and the national dish of Germany.

Time to make sauerkraut.

Here’s what I use:
Caraway seeds
Juniper berries

Cabbage shredder
Preserving jars

Now to the work:
– clean cabbages
– shred them
– weigh up one kilo
– mix in 15 grams sea salt (1.5%)
– put in crock and pound/press with stamper
– continue adding cabbage/salt mixture and stamping till all is softened
– mix in herbs and spices
– put in canning jars
– seal and label
– place in room temperature for 5 to 6 days
– then place in a cool space
– ripe to eat after about 5 weeks


Mixing in salt


Sealed for fermentation

The most popular spice used is caraway seeds. We often make sauerkraut with the addition of only juniper berries, but many jars get different spicings. This batch has a couple of jars with caraway and garlic, and one jar is kimchi, where I mix the basic cabbage salt mash with shredded carrots, white radish, ginger, garlic, and red pepper. Other vegetables, herbs and spices can be added as well.

There are an infinite amount of variations to this recipe.


Pickled carrots

Another favorite is the pickled carrot. It can be made in several different ways – such as sliced, diced or shredded. I prefer the later. It can also be mixed with other vegetables. Here is a simple shredded variety.

The ingredients:
– carrots
– garlic
– mustard seeds
– caraway seeds
– seasalt
– canning jars

Make the pickles:
– clean, peel and shred the carrots
– weigh up carrots in 1 kilo portions
– to each kilo mix in 15 grams sea salt (1.5%)
– add several garlic cloves
– add a pinch of caraway seeds
– a pinch of mustard seeds
– mix all together
– press into canning jars
– close and seal jars
– label them

Now place the jars in a warm corner of the kitchen (18 – 22 degrees centigrade), so that the lactic acid bacteria can begin to grow vigorously for about 10 days. They are then moved to the cool food storage cellar, and after 5 to 6 weeks the carrots have fermented sufficiently and are ready to eat. Peeling is what gives the pickle it’s bright orange color, otherwise  you’ll get a dirty brown.



Kimchi is a Korean version of pickled cabbage. Traditionally it is made with chinese cabbage (whole or in large pieces), other vegetables, ginger and always red pepper. I have developed a different version with a similar taste. When you make a batch of sauerkraut it’s very easy to make a batch of kimchi at the same time.

I’ve tried to make Korean kimchi several times but never been satisfied with the results, until I tried a new idea. When I made a batch of sauerkraut, I took out a portion of the diced and stamped cabbage before the herbs were added, and then mixed in the typical kimchi spices instead. It turned out great.

I won’t post a recipe now, as I am still experimenting with the mix of spices, but suffice it to say, follow the sauerkraut recipe I posted earlier but change the spice mix.

This time I used 3 kilos cabbage, one small daikon radish, one carrot, 6 cloves of garlic, a chunk of ginger, 6 tiny dried strong chili peppers and 48 grams salt. Everything was chopped, ground, mixed, and sealed into canning jars for wild lactic acid fermentation – 6 days in the kitchen then in the food cellar. The kimchi is ready to eat in 5 to 6 weeks. Wait longer, and it will taste even better.


Harsch pickling crock

If you have too many cucumbers, and many more are growing in the garden, you can pickle a very large batch in a Harsch pickling crock.

Just do as usual:
– clean cukes
– punch holes in them
– put dill and garlic in crock
– cukes in
– put in some mustard seeds
– cover with weights
– cover with salt water (30 gram salt per liter water)
– put water in waterlock
– put on lid

As you can see, the lip of the crock is formed as a V to put water in and then the lid. This makes a waterlock – air cannot get in and excess gasses can bubble out.

These are great for making all kinds of pickles, sauerkraut and even miso. They are also large and cumbersome – hard to move around and don’t fit very well in a refrigerator. They also tend to make too much – a lot of pickles to eat, sell or otherwise get rid of.


These are just a few of the many lactic acid fermentation recipes. You can adapt these or find other recipes for just about any vegetable available. Experiment and find your own favorites. You can then use the pickles in so many ways – as a relish, in a chutney or straight as they are.