Make Your Own Bubbies Pickles

By , November 15, 2009

Have you ever had Bubbies? It’s the brand against which all other pickles are judged, at least in our house! My hubby is a huge fan. And if you like garlic, you’ll probably appreciate Bubbies, too. They’re not made with vinegar, but rather are made the old-fashioned way, though lacto-fermentation in brine.

So for my very first attempt at homemade pickles, I turned the Bubbies jar upside down, identified which spices were in there, selected what looked like a good lacto-fermented pickle recipe, and hoped for the best as I sacrificed a couple of humongous garden cucumbers for the Great Pickle Experiment.

The results were shocking…in that I was shocked I had made something so tasty and convincing on the very first try. I certainly had expected the worst. In fact, I thought Hubby was being sarcastic when he tried the first one and told me they were awesome. He couldn’t stop talking about them! I was skeptical until I tried one, too. YO! Later, I did a taste test of my pickles compared to Bubbies; I actually liked mine even better! In the photo above, I used my large garden cucumbers, but to get the true Bubbies experience, go for the really small cukes; I find these at the farmer’s market, or at ethnic grocery stores. Go for organic if you can (which would be an upgrade from Bubbies, since theirs aren’t organic). Of course the really big cucumbers are fine to use, but because of their size, their insides won’t be quite as firm and crunchy as a smaller cucumber would be, and their skin will be a little tougher.

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Lindsey’s Bubbies Pickle Recipe:

1 gallon glass jar or ceramic crock

1/2 a gallon of warm water (tap water is fine)

A handful of fresh, clean grape leaves, oak leaves, or cherry leaves (optional — they supply tannins to keep the pickles crunchy) (UPDATE: raspberry & blackberry leaves work too, but have a stronger flavor than grape leaves)

3-4 lbs of cucumbers (small to medium is ideal, but if all you have is large, cut them into spears)

5-6 Tbsp non-iodized sea salt. I use Redmond RealSalt brand unrefined sea salt. (I usually prefer 6 Tbsp. Using 5 Tbsp of salt will yield a less salty pickle that my hubby prefers, however you may have to contend with more white film, or “kahm yeast,” on the surface of the brine during fermentation. More about kahm yeast in the instructions.)

2 – 3 heads of garlic, separated into cloves, peeled, & roughly chopped

3 Tbsp whole dill seed

2 Tbsp whole coriander seed

1 tsp whole mustard seed (brown or yellow, doesn’t matter)

1 tsp whole peppercorns

1 tsp fennel seed

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

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Ingredients for Homemade Bubbie's Pickles

Ingredients for Homemade Bubbies Pickles. My homegrown garlic was a little small, so I used 4 heads.

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Directions:

Rinse the cucumbers, making sure the blossoms are removed. Soak them in very cold water for a couple hours (if they’re not straight off the vine).

In a separate clean jar (not the one you’ll be using for the pickles), dissolve the salt into the 1/2 gallon of warm water. Set aside — this brine will be one of the last things you’ll add.

Into the clean, gallon jar/crock you’ll be using for the pickles, drop in the garlic, dill, coriander, mustard, peppercorns, fennel, and red pepper flakes.

Then, put the cucumbers into the jar. If you’ve sliced large cucumbers into spears, pack the spears vertically into the jar.

Pour the salt water solution (a.k.a. the brine) over the cucumbers.

Now, place the cleaned grape/oak/cherry/raspberry/blackberry leaves into the jar. My jar has a somewhat narrow mouth, so the grape leaves form a nice plug at the top of the jar so the cucumbers (which will rise to the top after you pack them in) don’t go above the brine.

You want your cucumbers (and leaves) to be completely submerged in the brine at all times. If they’re sticking up above the brine, they’ll get moldy. If your jar has a wide mouth, you may need to use a couple of plates to keep everything submerged. Another idea is to nest a smaller glass jar into the opening of the larger jar to keep everything down. Or, use a scrubbed & sterilized rock.

Using nested jars to keep everything submerged.

Another idea: use a rock to keep everything submerged.

If the brine still doesn’t cover the cucumbers, make more brine solution using: 1 scant Tbsp sea salt to one cup of water. Cover your jar with its lid (loosely), or with a cloth to keep bugs & dust out. If you see a thin film of white scum growing on the surface of the water, just skim it off as often as you can, but don’t worry if you can’t get it all. This is “kahm yeast;” it won’t harm anything, but do try to keep up with it otherwise it can affect the flavor of your pickles.

Sometimes, during pickle making, some of your garlic cloves will turn blue. This is not a problem. The Colorado Extension Service website says this about blue garlic:

Blue, purple or blue-green garlic may result from immature garlic or garlic that is not fully dry, from copper pans, or from a high amount of copper in the water. Garlic contains anthocyanin, a water-soluble pigment that under acid conditions may turn blue or purple. A blue-green color also may develop in pickles made with stored red-skinned garlic. Except for blue-green color resulting from an abnormally high copper-sulfate concentration, such color changes do not indicate the presence of harmful substances.

Your pickles will be ready after 1-4 weeks — depending on the temperature in your house. Our pickles are usually ready after 10 days on the counter in our warm apartment (average of 80-85°F) in late summer. Every couple days, do a taste test of your pickles. They’re ready when they taste done to you! Once they taste done, transfer the jar into the fridge to slow fermentation. Once they’ve fermented and are in the fridge, you can remove the grape/oak/cherry/raspberry/blackberry leaves and you don’t need to worry as much about the pickles being completely submerged in the brine.

Enjoy! These will last months and months in your fridge. I once kept a batch around for 9 months and it was still good.

And the brine is good stuff too; I like to drink it straight. It’s full of beneficial bacteria and good for your digestion! Since it’s salty, it would be especially good after a workout.

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178 Responses to “Make Your Own Bubbies Pickles”

  1. Lindsey says:

    Hi Rick,
    Actually what I said was: “They’re ready when they taste done to you! Once they taste done, transfer the jar into the fridge to slow fermentation.”

    Your pickles are done when they taste done to you; it’s a matter of personal preference. Once they taste good enough to start eating, they are “done.”
    Refridgeration slows fermentation down quite considerably, but does not stop it altogether. But to more pointedly address your concern, they’re done before you put them in the fridge. Get them to how you want them BEFORE refridgerating. Then once you’ve got them just how you like them, put them in the fridge where they’ll be kept from fermenting much further.

  2. fran says:

    this is the third time for me making these, lst time i used large commercial cukes, and they turned out ok, then i did baby asparagus, they tasted like black olives very good, now im using fresh baby cukes and cant wait to see how they turn out, i wait at least 10 days to try them, thanks for your help

  3. Richard says:

    One thought. A jar of Bubbies pickles will be lucky to last a week with just me eating on those delectable morsels. If your recipe makes pickles that last NINE MONTHS, they CAN’T be that good !!!! … Just sayin’

  4. Susan says:

    Just checked my pickles today—they were amazing! Thank you so much for posting this so many years ago. I can’t seem to find Bubbies anymore and these were just as good, if not better. One problem. I only put in 10 cucumbers (I made 1/2 gallon) because I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out and now they’re almost gone and it’s only day 1! Guess I’ll be making a few more batches. :-)

  5. Richard says:

    After they are done / ready for eating, how can I put them in quart jars to be stored in a pantry ?? Is that at all possible ???

    Thanks,

    Richard

  6. Richard says:

    Hi Lindsey,

    I hav made GALLONS of these delicious “better than Bubbie’s” pickles and now I want to transfer them to quart jars for storage in the pantry. How do I do this without “canning” them ??? I feel that the canning process will destroy all living things and defeat the purpose of fermenting. Is there a way to get the dill pickles I’ve made here “pantry ready” without canning ???

    Thanks in advance,

    Richard

  7. Renee says:

    Hi Lindsey,
    Thank you for this recipe. We are HUGE Bubbies fans also, so this will be nice to make our own with organic cukes. We can’t wait!

  8. Renee says:

    I used ground fennel instead of seeds. I used half the amount called for in your recipe. Do you think using ground in lieu of seeds will affect fermentation? Thank you.

  9. Lindsey says:

    Renee –
    The only thing I can think of to watch out for is if the ground fennel has floated to the top, it may invite extra mold or kahm yeast formation. So I’d just be extra vigilant about checking for that and skimming that off if it forms (and you’d also then be skimming off the ground seasoning), but if it has all just sunk to the bottom then I’d say there wouldn’t be a reason that I can think of that it would be altering fermentation.
    Hope they turn out well for you.

  10. Lindsey says:

    Hi Richard,
    Nope, I do believe the only way to preserve at room temp would be to can them (which, as you say, would be killing all the good bugs since canning them will cook them). Though if you wanted to get crazy and try something on a small batch for the sake of science, the only thing I can think of off hand would be to salt the brine REALLY heavily to really slow down fermentation and act as a preservative. Maybe then it would be more shelf-stable. Then when you’re ready to eat the pickles (if they still smell okay), pick a few out of the brine and soak them in pure water for “a while” to desalinate them. Again, I have no clue. I’m just pulling this out of the air. Never tried it before.

    Also, for what it’s worth, for some unconventional, traditional French methods of preservation, check out this book: http://www.amazon.com/Preserving-Food-without-Freezing-Canning/dp/1933392592. I didn’t find anything super helpful in it, as much of it is anecdotal, it does go above and beyond many conventional canning books and challenges much accepted wisdom about food preservation.

    Have fun,
    Lindsey

  11. Lindsey says:

    Hi Richard,
    See reply to other comment.
    Thx!

  12. Renee says:

    Thank you Lindsey for your response. I will try and let you know how they turn out.

  13. Katie says:

    I’ve been making this recipe (with slight seasoning modifications to our preference) for over 3 years, now. I make 1-2 gallons at a time and CANNOT keep them in the house long enough!!!! This year I planted 9 cucumber plants just to try and keep up. I felt I needed to get on here and comment, finally. These are SOOOOO good. Thank you a million for posting this recipe way back when!!

  14. Katie says:

    I just wanted to add to my last comment — my husband is Polish and if you know anything about the Poles, they love pickles and are very picky about them being very good. He and all our Polish friends love these.

  15. Samantha says:

    Hi there! Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe. I’m obsessed! I grew up eating Bubbie’s and these are seriously identical and it’s so much more fun making them at home. My first batch (and my first shot at pickling in general) turned out amazing. I’m wondering if I can reuse the juice? Or should I start over with new spices and ingredients once I finish off this batch? I’m assuming it’s not recommended to put fresh cucumbers in older juice, but maybe it’s okay so wanted to ask.

    Thanks!

  16. Zedda says:

    An idea for Richard (commented above). I made sourkraut a couple years back and it self sealed. I don’t remember where I got the recipe (Pinterest most likely) but as best I can recall the fermenting process pushed the air out of the jar causing a vacuum and sealing the jar. I’ve no idea if it would work in this case? I’m planning to try this recipe, Lindsey. Looks delicious, and oh, all those fantastic probiotics! That makes me happy! ;)

  17. Richard says:

    Can I use a FOOD GRADE, 6.5 gallon PLASTIC bucket ( with lid and airlock ) to make Bubbies style of brine pickles or does it HAVE TO BE a glass or ceramic container ?????

    Thanks,

    Richard

  18. Bernard in Ohio says:

    Richard —

    There’s a good reason not to put up your pickles in a 6.5 bucket, glass or plastic.

    The very first time I made these pickles, when I reached into the jar after 7 days, my fingers sank right into a pickle. It had turned to mush. According to my (unscientific) research, I hadn’t done anything wrong. Seems that there’s a few bacteria and mold spores out there that will rot your pickles instead of fermenting them.

    Unless you have access to a laboratory or can otherwise really control the environment, smaller jars may be the way to go. Certainly the big containers are way too risky for me. If one jar goes bad, at least I still have the others. If one giant bucket goes… I would be sad.

    (BTW, since that first disaster, I have made this recipe about five times with consistent good results — in half gallon jars.)

  19. Diane says:

    Is this recipe also good for pickling other foods? I’d like to try to make some pickled asparagus.

  20. Lindsey says:

    Diane,
    Yeah, go right ahead with pickling other foods with this recipe. Asparagus, if it’s tender enough, sounds awesome.

  21. Lindsey says:

    Hi Samantha,
    I think maybe the only reason not to reuse the juice would be not enough salt left to properly pickle the new cukes? Perhaps try topping up the salt a bit? I could be way off here, and perhaps it doesn’t matter. We’ve tossed hardboiled eggs into the leftover brine, with adding anything new, to make pickled eggs and that worked well. Guess the only way is to try a few cukes in some old brine and see.
    I’m so thrilled you’ve had good success with the recipe! YAY!!!

  22. Lindsey says:

    Katie,
    This is awesome feedback! I loved reading these comments — thank you!!

  23. Jean says:

    This is the first time I have ever made pickles. They are so salty I cannot eat them. Is there anything I can do to change that, other than start over and use less salt? They have been in the brine only 6 days.

  24. Anita says:

    I have used this recipe 4 times now with AMAZING results. No question, if done right, they are as good if not better than the store brand. And a lot more fun to boot. I recently branched out to cauliflower, carrots and greenbeans with excellent results. To give it some heat, I added 2 diced habanero peppers…wow My office staff have been giving me “orders” for their own jars lol. Thank you Thank you for posting this amazing recipe!!!

  25. […] it's back to buying picking cukes at WF. Naturally fermented foods are so good for gut health! http://www.herbangardener.com/2009/1…bbies-pickles/ __________________ Losing weight is hard. Maintenance is hard. Being fat is hard. Pick your […]

  26. Ken says:

    The brine from finished pickles has all the bacteria that fermented the batch, but if I understand it properly the process of fermentation employs a succession of several species of lactobacillus, each adapted to a progressively more acidic environment. If you start with brine from mature pickles the succession will be different, as the brine has already reached its full acidity.
    Now whether this matters in practice, I don’t know, but if you make fresh brine and add some of the mature brine to it, you should have exactly the bacteria that you had in the first batch but they will be able to develop in their normal succession, as the brine becomes more and more acidic. That way you might have a good chance of making exactly the same pickles again and again.

  27. Lindsey says:

    Ken,
    This is really intriguing!! I’m glad you posted this comment; thank you.

  28. Lindsey says:

    Jean,
    A couple ideas: Leave them a while longer in the current brine; they’ll often miraculously mellow. Other than that, dump some of the brine and replace with water once they’re done pickling in an effort to leach out some of the salt.
    Good luck with this batch Jean! I hope they mellow out for you.

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