Fermented pickles are definitely superior in taste and health benefit than vinegar-brined cucumbers. Basically, you get a probiotic pickle.
In the past, I’ve always made lacto-fermented pickles using whey (the liquid that separates from curds in milk). Whey inoculates the brine with lactobacilii and makes the ferment go faster. It was always a reliable method for me and pickles were always ready in about 3 days (in the summer months).
Since my little one had a dairy protein sensitivity at birth, I’ve been exploring all the ferments I used to do with whey…with just salt. One down-side is that the fermentation process takes longer for the lactobacilii cultures to build up.
However, the up-sides are many. Using just salt, more of a diverse culture of beneficial bacteria emerge in your ferment (at least, that is the word on the street). As well, I think the taste is better…a cleaner taste, if you will. And, finally…you don’t have to hunt down a pastured dairy farmer and purchase milk…separate the whey and curds…and all that jazz. You just need salt.
Cold, lacto-fermented pickles are a great teething medium for little ones. So, I really wanted to have some on hand for her to chew on.
So, here is my attempt at my usual lacto-fermented pickles, only using a salt brine (and local live oak leaves to help the cucumbers remain crisp). They turned out quite good… But, the live oak leaves were a bit too strong in tannins. I will use grape leaves next time like I have in the past (while living in the South, I used wild muscadine leaves)!
Check out the recipe through this blog. I loosely followed it. I only used garlic, dried dill (fresh is better), juniper berries, and some peppercorns for seasoning.
Also, another thing not mentioned in the link I shared above, is the use of brine from previous ferments to kick-off your new ferment. I put about 1/8-1/4 cup of saurkraut juice in the pickle brine to get things started!