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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261 Responses to “Make Your Own Bubbies Pickles”

  1. Brian says:

    Any concerns about botulism with this method?

  2. Lindsey says:

    Brian,
    Sure, it’s probably possible. Likely not common at all, since the botulinum bacteria produces its toxin when in low-oxygen environments. The salt of the brine and keeping the pickles under refrigeration once done may also have an inhibitory effect on the C. botulinum bacteria. Cases of botulism are rare. But yes, there is probably a certain amount of risk, no matter how small.
    More info from the WHO:
    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs270/en/

  3. patti says:

    I tried your recipe last year and the great dilly taste was there but they were sooo salty. I used the non iodized salt at the right amount but they were just so bad that I didn’t keep them. I even tried emptying half the brine out and replacing with clear filtered water but it didn’t help. any suggestions as I really want to do this again.

  4. jeanie says:

    Can I use ground Coriander? And what if I don’t use the fennel seeds ? I’m all ready to make these pickles and am missing these two ingredients!

  5. Lindsey says:

    [[EDITED TO ADD: My following reply comment is confusing. I had a lapse of cognition here obviously! Yes fennel seed is in the ingredient list, and yes you should use it unless you don’t have it. Yes Dill Seed is also on the ingredient list, and you should definitely use dill seed! It’s an important ingredient! But if you don’t have fennel seed, it’s okay to leave it out of the recipe. But don’t leave out the dill seed! Sorry for confusing everyone, including myself. Proceed with the original recipe and just ignore me!]]

    Jeanie,
    I wouldn’t use the ground coriander unless I knew it would sink to the bottom. Reason for not using ground, is because it may float on top of the water and provide mold a handy place to grow!
    And don’t use fennel seed!! It’s DILL SEED. Big difference in taste; definitely get dill seed because that’s a big part of the flavor. I’d say the two missing ingredients are enough to stop where you’re at and wait till you obtain them.
    Good luck Jeanie!
    Lindsey :)

  6. Lindsey says:

    Oh dear Patti, I’m sorry for them being so salty. If you would like to try the pickles again, it’s OK to cut back on the salt. They may ferment faster, or you may have to scrape off some of the white “kahm yeast” that could form on top, but salt in fermentation is not an exact science.
    If they’re still too salty, try taking the pickles out of the brine once they’re done, and storing them in clean water in the fridge for a week or two, and then give them a try. Experience has shown this method to help leach out extra saltiness from fermented items. Good lucky Patti!

  7. Alex says:

    Hi Lindsey,
    I am about to make your pickles but a little confused about the ingredients. In the post above you say don’t use fennel seed but in your ingredients it calls for 1 tsp of fennel seed… What up??

  8. Lindsey says:

    Sorry Alex this is a mistake! Your eyes do not deceive you — I do have fennel seed on the ingredient list. I had a lapse of cognition there! Definitely don’t sub fennel for dill seed, as dill is an important ingredient, but if you don’t have fennel seed it’s OK to leave it out.
    Sorry, I’ve confused folks, I know.

  9. Ann says:

    Hello… can you uses fresh dill like the green fronds, not the blossom part?

  10. Bryan says:

    Patti, yours may have been salty because this recipe uses volume for the salt measurement. Different sized grain salts will contain different amounts of sodium for the same volume measurement. For instance, 1 Tbsp of very coarse salt would have less sodium than 1 Tbsp of very fine grained salt.

    The more accurate way is to measure by weight (grams) to create the percent salinity you desire. For pickles, it’s about 3.5% to 5%. This site has a handy Brine Recipe chart to help you with the salinity: http://www.probioticjar.com/brine.html

  11. Lindsey says:

    Hi Ann, I’m sure the answer would be Yes (I haven’t used fresh dill myself) but just a word of advice: If you can keep the fronds beneath the surface of the water, and not floating ON the surface where it will likely breed mold, then I’d say it would be fine to use fresh. I would add the dill before packing in the cucumbers to achieve this.
    If you do try with fresh, report back will you? Let us know how you go.
    Best of luck!

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