Despite the ease of buying a crunchy jar of pickles in the store, those delicious spears and slices have a mere sliver of the health benefits in comparison to the homemade variety. This is the perfect guide to making healthy homemade pickles (sliced, speared, or anyway you like them) right in your home. Jarring, or fermenting your own foods is really healthy, but do you know why?
Healthy Homemade Pickles
I don't think I ever really associated anything that was happening in my gut with the health of the rest of my body. My gut was independent of the fevers I used to get, the ear infections I was plagued with or the incessant sore throats throughout my youth. When I was a kid, I got strep throat a million times. Subsequently, I was on antibiotics about the same amount. As incredible of an invention as antibiotics were to the 20th century, there's a tremendous downside. Antibiotics kill all bacteria - bad and good. If you've been on antibiotics in recent years, your doctor has probably told you to eat yogurt or take a probiotic to help build some good, beneficial bacteria again. If only it were that easy! It can take months, if not years, to rebuild all that was lost from one round of antibiotics.
After a round of antibiotics, it takes a lot more than a few yogurts or probiotics to build everything that was good back again. But it's so important to do the work. After all, all of that good bacteria actually helps to keep us healthy, boosting our immune system, improving our mood and ensuring our gut stays in working order.
Benefits of Homemade Pickles
- Probiotic Powerhouse: If you're not a fan of taking a probiotic supplement everyday, have a serving of homemade pickles instead. The process of pickling foods involves fermentation, which gives all pickled foods (not just cucumbers) a nutritious boost of good bacteria.
- Immune System Health: Give your immune system a hand by jacking up the amount of fermented food in your diet. A small serving of homemade pickles helps to protect your body by replenishing good bacteria (the kind that helps fight colds, etc).(1)
- Improved Digestion: Whether you need a little help in the bathroom, or just want to make sure your digestion stays in working order, eat more fermented foods. Good bacteria helps to regulate bowel movements.
- Better Nutrient Absorption: When you improve your digestion, you improve the way nutrients get absorbed - so hurray!
- Happier Disposition: When our gut health improves, so does our mood! Most of our neurotransmitters, the workhorse chemical messengers that help us regulate sleep, mood and so much more, are found in our gut! (2)
Everyone can benefit from getting more good bacteria in their body. One of the most affordable, convenient and delicious ways to do this is by making your own homemade pickles. No cooking is required. All you need is a few very simple ingredients that you probably already have in your home.
Homemade Pickles: What You Need
- Glass jars with a metal lid. I used two 16oz Mason Jars for this guide, but you can use any size you'd like, including recycled nut butter or apple sauce jars (as long as they're glass).
- Stock Pot (optional). You'll need to sterilize your jars, even if they're brand new. I throw mine in a stock pot with an inch of water and steam clean them for 10 minutes. It does the trick. I've read others people put their jars in a dishwasher (no detergent). You can do this, too).
- Salt. It doesn't need to be anything fancy. I use sea salt.
- Water. Use filtered water, if possible. I live in Chicago, so this is a must for me. If you live in a pristine area of the world this may not be necessary, but if you're an urban dweller - filter.
- Cucumbers. I always buy organic. For these pickles, I used organic Persian cucumbers because they're smaller. I alwaysalways wait for them to go on sale. Any regular old cucumber will do, though!
- Herbs & Spices. For this recipe, all I used was some dill and garlic. You can add whatever you'd like. Keep in mind, the herbs and spices reap the benefits of lacto-fermentation, too. Consider adding fresh onion, oregano, bay leaves, etc.
- 4 c water filtered, room temp or cold
- 6 c cucumbers sliced (I like to use Persian)
- 3 tablespoons salt, divided depending on number of jars used
- 1/4 c fresh dill chopped
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- Sterilize two (2) 16-ounce glass or Mason jars. This can be done by adding about an inch of water to a stock pot, adding the glass jars and lids, and steaming them for about 10 minutes.
- While the jars steam, chop your vegetables and herbs.
- Add salt to water and stir until dissolved (about 2 minutes).
- Carefully remove jars and lids from hot water and allow to cool for a couple minutes.
- Add equal parts of your vegetables and herbs to each of the jars, leaving about 1" of space to the top.
- Finally add water to jars, filling until vegetables are covered.
- Close jar and set in a room temperature room, away from direct sunlight, for 3 - 6 days. The longer the jar sits, the longer the fermentation process - and the tangier your vegetables will be!
- Pop the pickles into the fridge or enjoy immediately. These pickles should store refrigerated for several months.
Remember, the longer you let your pickles ferment, the more beneficial bacteria they'll contain. Don't exceed 7 days fermentation, and store in a dry, cool space with no light, such as a closet. Refrigerate after the cucumbers have fermented.