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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250 Responses to “Make Your Own Bubbies Pickles”

  1. Brooke says:

    Found your recipe from a google search for “Bubbies pickle recipe”. I just started my first batch today. From reading all the comments, I’m getting really excited! I can hardly wait to try them. I used cucumbers that grew from heirloom seeds. Thank you very much for this recipe.

  2. Michelle says:

    Oh my!! You are absolutely right about how good these are!! I made your recipe for the first time and they’ve been fermenting for about 8 days so far, and even now they are delightful!!!! Thank you so much for posting your recipe!!!!

  3. Paige says:

    Hi thanks for the recipe! I had left mine for about a week and noticed my leaves had popped up above the brine and had mold growing on them! Not just yeast, but some true blue mold, among other colours. Boo so sad. Does this mean the batch is toast and I have to throw them out?
    The mold didn’t touch the pickles and I could scrape it off and resubmerge new leaves.
    Thanks!

  4. Tina says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I’ve never had Bubbie’s Pickles before, they aren’t available in any stores near me, but I know for sure I’ll never go back to conventional store bought ever again. These were like crunchy, dill, pop rocks in my mouth! Such a treat. Loved them.

  5. Lindsey says:

    Hi Paige,
    I hate when this happens! Likely the pickles down below are fine; in this case what I would do is actually get new leaves if possible. If not, just toss the leaves and continue fermenting without them. (If you were to rinse and re-introduce them likely they’d just sprout the mold once again.)
    Good luck to you!!!

  6. Lindsey says:

    Liz,
    Well, I always have used the grape leaves. I think if I were to use oak, I’d go for ones I pick directly off the tree. Brown ones probably would work — geez, I’m talking thru my hat here, but that would be something I’d try. Green would probably be preferable but brown seems like it could work if it’s the wrong time of year. I would rinse them under running water, regardless of what you use.

  7. Lindsey says:

    Hi Chris,
    Hmm, if they’re fresh cukes processed in vinegar, there wouldn’t be lactobacillus probiotics that would occur if you made them using my Bubbies recipe (or any other lactofermented recipe). So you’re right, there wouldn’t be beneficials but vinegar is another way to preserve, certainly. Have fun!!

  8. Donna Hi says:

    Can I use tea leaves for tannin (I do not have access to fresh leaves noted in recipe.)

  9. Lindsey says:

    Donna,
    I’ve never tried tea leaves so it’s up to you whether you’d like to experiment. You can also just make the pickles without the leaves.
    Good luck,
    Lindsey

  10. Steve Bruce says:

    Thanks Your Bubbies Pickle’s were Great. I made a half Gallen jar/and a gallen crock pot. They lasted about two weeks because the Heat up here in Portland was in the ninty’s all summer. But they still worked. Next time try instead of red pepper flacks,try two Jalipenos cut up in slices and put them in. It works well also. Thanks

  11. Matstery says:

    These pickles were excellent! How in the world did you allow a jar to sit for 9-months?!

  12. Patty says:

    Thank you for this recipe!! They are fantastic! WOW!! I did U-Pick and did them up right away, fermenting at just under 70*F with grape leaves in the jar and I used 1-2 tepin chiles. The pickles crunch so loud! I didn’t remove the blossom end because the weather was good (no drought) & I used them sooo fresh. Next year I’m making 6 gallons or more because they’re almost gone already and I’m kinda sad to eat all the other recipes I tried. I am also labeling them “Lindsey Pickles” :D

  13. Brian G says:

    Thanks for the recipe! Is it critical to use non-iodized salt?

  14. Carol says:

    Where do you find me the fresh leaves for crispness? I have been trying to figure this out forever.

    Awesome recipe. So excited to try it

  15. Lindsey says:

    Hi Carol, that’s where a bit of urban foraging comes in :) If not, the leaves are optional so you can leave them out.

  16. Lindsey says:

    Hi Brian, Very good question.
    Iodized salt is a gray area as is using chlorinated water. Iodine has antimicrobial properties, and chlorine of course is used to kill microbes in water. However! I have used chlorinated water successfully in almost all of my ferments — ALTHOUGH, if your water is really heavily chlorinated, like it smells like a pool (our tap water was pretty good and didn’t totally smell like a pool), you can either boil the water to evaporate off the chlorine, or use other water. As for iodine, I bet your ferments will be OK if you use it but I’m not positive. Only one way to find out :). It “may” inhibit fermentation so I’d try to get the non-iodized salt that also doesn’t have any anti-caking agents. Just pure noniodized, unrefined sea salt is what I use personally for cooking, eating, and fermenting.
    Good luck and do report back if you used iodized, and what your results were.

  17. Lindsey says:

    Patty! Awesome, I do love when this recipe works and folks can make their own awesome pickles. The way you’ve labeled them also makes me Very Proud!!! :-D :-D
    Cheers, glad it worked so well.
    Lindsey

  18. Steve says:

    I still making your GREAT Bubbie Pickles. How come you don’t have to add any Dill. Also How can I get any cucumbers now, instead of waiting during next summer? Steve

  19. Lindsey says:

    Hi Steve, so glad to hear of your continued successes with this recipe!! Dill seed is in the recipe, that’s why no dill leaves or flowers. As for a source of pickling cucumbers off-season, try an ethnic market, especially Greek or Middle-Eastern markets.

  20. Terry says:

    Hi Lindsey,
    Thank you so much for the recipe. I’ve been making fermented pickles for quite awhile, but this is my favorite recipe so far.
    Something I find that works well in the top of the jar is a clean bag filled with brine just in case it leaks. It’s easy to customize to the size and shape you need.
    Terry

  21. Christy Finley says:

    Can I reuse the brine, and if so how?

  22. Lindsey says:

    Christy, I don’t have a ton of experience reusing the brine. It would be something to try, certainly. Usually I just drink it straight once the pickles are gone. Try putting some hardboiled eggs in the old brine in the fridge and let sit for a while if you like. Try some fresh cukes. I always started w/ new brine as I was unsure if the old brine’s salt content would be sufficient. But if you try it out, do report back here. Have fun! No doubt tossing in some fresh veggies into the old brine, and letting it sit in the fridge, would yield something tasty!

  23. Lindsey says:

    Terry I love this idea! That’s perfect for this recipe. Thank you for sharing!!!!! Will definitely do this in the future.
    So glad you like the pickle recipe.
    Thanks again,
    Lindsey

  24. Alex says:

    Hi Lindsey,
    Do I have to use fresh grape leaves or can I substitute pickled grape leaves?
    Really want to try your recipe.

  25. michele says:

    Can you use Lemon tree leaves….or fig tree leaves? I have both of those?

  26. Lindsey says:

    Michele, I’m not sure; I’m sorry. The leaves should be high in tannins; maybe Google knows if either of these are? Also, the leaves are optional anyway… you could just go without.

  27. Lindsey says:

    Alex, I’m sorry but I’m not sure. Try pickled grape leaves, sure, or you can just not add the leaves, since they’re optional.

  28. Michele says:

    I used fig leaves from my tree and they turned out great!

  29. Michele says:

    My pickles did get hollowed out though. They taste great but are hollow. Is there a way to avoid this? They were fairly large pickling cucumbers.

  30. Lisa says:

    Re: grape leaves. I can usually find them growing wild by the side od the road, wherever overgrown brush and vines are growing

  31. Carlos says:

    As far as the salt, have you tried Himalayan salt instead of sea salt?

  32. Miranda says:

    I’ve been making fermented pickles for a couple seasons now. The recipe I use calls for bay leaves in place of grape, also I use more mustard seed (4 The) and peppercorns (2&1/2Tbs), and no fennel. They are amazing. I look forward to trying your recipe.

  33. Tanner says:

    Hi there! I don’t have grape leaves and can’t find them anywhere! I was reading the label on bubbies pickle jar and it says one of the ingredients is calcium chloride. Have you ever experimented adding this for crispness of pickles? If so, what part of the pickling process would you add this? If I added at the beginning with all the other spices would it effect the fermenting process ?

  34. Steve says:

    Hi Lindsey I want to try making your pickles again. I’ve been doing it a couple of times, GREAT. I want to try a 4 or 5 gal crock. It will take 4 weeks. Do I have to put them into many jars, then put into a fridge. My old style would make another batch of juice, then put them into jars, then heat them up, to be able to seal the jars. Would it work, and could I leave them on the shelf, until I’m ready to put them into the fridg once again. Does it work or is it put into the fridge right away. Please let me know. Thanks Steve

  35. Jo Ann Butts says:

    I have never canned pickles without using vinegar and sugar but I want to try these pickles they sound awesome. Thank you for sharing.

  36. LeslieM says:

    Chlorine will simply evaporate out of water at room temperature–no need to boil. That’s why a backyard swimming pool needs to have chlorine added daily even if no one is using it. It doesn’t take long, but I don’t know a time frame. Maybe 24 hours? I’m definitely trying this–Bubbies are the best, I buy them by the case from my Co-op! I made fermented Japanese turnips (aka salad turnips, sweet turnips, or all-white turnips), fermented radishes, and carrots last week and used the liquid from the last Bubbies jar I finished as a “starter” for my brew. They are delicious!! Since I have more Bubbies in the fridge, I’ll probably seed these pickles with the Bubbies liquid to start them, too. Can’t hurt, right?

  37. Ethalfrida says:

    Trying to make pickles has been quite a journey for me! First, I do not like chemicals so finding something that would make my next batch of pickles crunchy led me in many directions. In my fermenation group someone introduced us to the grape leaf method. Well, my grapevine was cut down because I couldn’t keep up with pickng the grapes; our local farmers’s markets had none either. Then, someone mentioned oak leaves and I thought I had an endless supply down the street from my house but they all turned out to be Sweet Gum trees. In the meantime, my beautiful cukes were languishing in the vegetable tray waiting for my next move. Two days ago I was again among the trees on a morning run when I espied an acorn! Yep, No, yep! No way! So I came home and googled and matched the picture with what I taken from the tree and, yes, it was a Holm Oak, one the produces edible acorns of the highest quality. I am all set to start but started reading your posts and comments. Wouldn’t you know it? Someone mentioned fig leaves and I have a hundred year old fig tree in my backyard that produces the most magnigicent fruit!

  38. Steve says:

    Hi Lindsey did you get any responce. Thanks Steve

  39. Lindsey says:

    Carlos, Himalayan salt will work fine.

  40. Lindsey says:

    Tanner, a great idea regarding the calcium chloride. I have not tried it, and am not sure when I’d add it. If you try it, will you report back?

  41. Lindsey says:

    Steve I’m so sorry I missed this comment. Golly I’ve not tried heat-processing (canning) the pickles, so I don’t know the answer to this one. Can them using a pressure canner and see how it goes, I say. And if you do try it, will you report back?

  42. Lindsey says:

    Leslie,
    Great idea to use Bubbies liquid as a starter. You’ll be well on your way! Have fun.

  43. Lindsey says:

    Ethanfrida,
    Love the punchline at the end of this story!!! HAH! Whichever leaf you use, good luck to you. Hope they turn out great.

  44. Lindsey says:

    Steve, I’m so sorry I missed your previous comment!
    I have not tried canning, but if I were to try it, I’d go with the pressure canner method. Give it a try, and hopefully the pickles won’t be mush in a jar. Only one way to find out though. Go for it, “for science” – and report back here if you do!
    Best of luck to you.
    :)

  45. Cris says:

    Hi Lindsey,

    I’m at day 9 of fermenting and I don’t think these pickles will last much longer:-) We’ve taste-tested them several times and they are delicious!!!

    I do have a question though, I have another batch of cucumbers ready in the garden and wonder if I can reuse the grape leaves from this batch or do I need to get more leaves?

    Thank you so much for this recipe – it IS awesome!

  46. Lindsey says:

    Chris,
    Great that the recipe is working out! Preferably I would go with new grape leaves if you can get them. If you have nothing else, it’s fine to reuse the old ones.
    Thanks for your comment!

  47. ethalfrida says:

    Lindsey, this is the best pickle recipe ever. It is even better than the original.

  48. Cathy says:

    If you can them, does that kill the good bacteria you are trying to produce by fermenting????

  49. Lindsey says:

    Ethalfrida,
    The ultimate compliment!!! Thank you so much; I appreciate the feedback :)
    In our house, yes we agree that this recipe is better than original Bubbies!

  50. Lindsey says:

    Cathy,
    Yes. Canning means heat processing; heat processing properly will boil the contents of your jar, which would kill the good bacteria you’re trying to produce while fermenting. To keep good bacteria intact, just keep them in the fridge; they’ll last a year, maybe longer.

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