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.


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


Ingredients for Homemade Bubbie's Pickles

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



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.


340 Responses to “Make Your Own Bubbies Pickles”

  1. Lindsey says:

    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.

  2. Brian says:

    Any concerns about botulism with this method?

  3. Lindsey says:

    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:

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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!]]

    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 🙂

  7. 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!

  8. 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??

  9. 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.

  10. Ann says:

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

  11. 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:

  12. 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!

  13. Diabe says:

    Batch one was delicious, if a tad too salty. The same crisp bite I remember from my parent’s crock pickles. Everyone loved them anyway!

    Batch two is in the crock, with the lesser amount of salt, more garlic (4 heads) , and added fresh dill to replace one of the Tbsp of dill seed. (I was out)

    All around winning recipe! I’ll post the results if my variations work well.

  14. Richard Nero says:

    Where can I find fresh grape leaves? I bought jared leaves from the store I hope these will work.

  15. Lindsey says:

    Best place to find grape leaves is the surrounding environment. Usually they aren’t sold, unless perhaps at an ethnic store. If you can identify grape vines, you’ll be in luck – don’t know where you are but they’re abundant in most of the U.S.

  16. K. Wilks says:

    I had to make mine into spears, they seam to have a good flavor but very mushy, (not firm at all). I am pretty sure I followed the instructions to the T which I normally don’t but because this was the first time I paid attention to detail. Any suggestions on what I may have done wrong,

  17. Lindsey says:

    Hi K,
    Sounds like you’ve done it correctly, but the cucumbers were too large. I did this too once, and although the pickles tasted great, the cucumbers were those big ol’ honkers left on the vine too long in my garden. The spears were on the mushy side. I think if you try this recipe again but use those small pickling cucumbers, you’ll have better luck.

  18. Bettie Waddle says:

    Can I use Pickle Crisp instead of grape leaves?

  19. Lindsey says:

    Good idea. I haven’t tried it personally but go ahead and do report back how it went.

  20. Sara says:

    Can you use jarred grape leaves?

  21. Larry Yampolsky says:

    Great recipe nothing but complements. Better than bubbies!

  22. Rhianon says:

    I love Bubbbies! These look great; you can tell that brine is fermented! I’ve heard that grape leaves can be used to make your pickles crunchier; that’s probably why my pickles have always turned out mushy. I’ll have to try your recipe!

  23. liz says:

    how about this? bring the water to a boil, add the salt and spices, excluding garlic, cool down to room temp then add to jar?
    this insures that salt is dissolved, and the active ingredients from the spices infuse into the brine, right?

  24. Mindy says:

    Can the same brine be used more than once?? I know we will eat the pickles almost as fast as I make them.

  25. Candy says:

    Do the leaves have to be green and fresh it can they be dried? I’ll likely be using oak

  26. Patricia Griffin says:

    Can you use the Picking Spice that has everything all mixed together instead of using them seperately ?

  27. Lindsey says:


  28. Lindsey says:

    Mindy, the salt content may be altered after one round; try it and see — I can’t say for sure!! If you try it, let us know!

  29. Rocky says:

    Thanks for this recipe !
    So i’ve been making these pickles for about 4 years now and have had both great success and dismal failure. Lately I have had the brine turn very turbid while fermenting and when the pics were done some were hollow and mushy. I clean all my jars very well and use boiled water.
    Has anybody else encountered this problem?


  30. Will cabbage leaves work with pickles to keep everything submerged. I use them for making kraut and works great with some weight on top of them. I have three crock pots and weights to fit each of them but also use half gallon jars with a special air lock cap and an oxygen pump to get oxygen out after the first taste test. Cabbage leaves work great in the jars with special glass weights to keep leaves down.

  31. I love this! Keep doing what you’re doing! Your recipe looks delicious and simple!

  32. Lindsey says:

    Charles I love this idea for the pickles! I use whole cabbage leaves myself, with my sauerkraut, to keep the shredded cabbage submerged, but haven’t thought to use this method with the pickles. Thanks for your comment and I will certainly try this next time!

  33. Lindsey says:

    Liz, I don’t see why not. Try it!

  34. Martha says:

    My pickles are ready to go into refrigerator. Would it be okay to vacuum seal them?

  35. Lara says:

    My 11 year old LOVES Bubbies dill pickles! I just tried your recipe.

    I used pint jars instead of a big crock, Is that ok?

    Also I have coffee filters on the jars but since I filled the brine to almost the top the paper filter is getting wet. Can/should I switch to canning lids or does the fermentation require access to air?


  36. Peter Golan says:

    I have had grand success with your recipe and then not so much. I have to keep precise amounts of ingredients. Problem is finding the right pickling cucumbers. I tried persians but they get hollow. I tried growing my own but I have a black thumb. Gophers and birds are not helpful. What variety of seed do you suggest and why the hollow problem

  37. Dee Rush says:

    I have made these last two yrs…already have my 5th gal. going. Hope get at least 5 more going, if garden keeps producing. Have AWFUL gut issues and fermentation heals…
    Your right, much better than bubbies, and TONS cheaper…..I don’t use but 2heads garlic, only difference oh and I add little extra dill seed!! Wonder if it would be ok to leave leaves in? These go in fridge I don’t check much…will cucs mold if float up? Will be refrigerated all yr..

  38. bill lyster says:

    Pickles came out a little mushy. After capping them I sealed the top with lids and bands. Should I have left it open to the air with the pickles and grape leaves submerged? Pickles were always in the brine by the way.


  39. Melodie says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I have no doubts that it will be wonderful as soon as I can get your help. I followed the recipe exactly except for a couple of things. The flavor is off and I am needing some guidance on what I have done wrong. My pickles do taste like Bubbies, but definitely have an off flavor. The things that I did different were using ground coriander instead of the seed-whole, and I used about 10 grape leaves in each jar. My thought was if a couple of grape leaves make it crispy then 10 will certainly make them very crispy. The pickles are definitely fermented enough-about 12 days. They are nice and sour and almost taste like the original, but as I said they have an off taste. Also the pickle is very squishy. You can press it and air comes out of it. When I bought the pickles they were very firm. I cut the squash blossom end off just like you said. And everything else I followed except the things I mentioned. I don’t know how to describe the flavor of been off except like they’re going bad. It taste right but also like it’s almost rotten. That sounds pretty gross, I know, but I’m not sure how else to describe it. Do you have any advice? Thank you so much for your help.

  40. Crystal says:

    Not sure how these turned out. Couldn’t find leaves, but I used to brew mead and fruit wine so I had powder tannins I used. Found mold on the top. Does this ruin the batch? Made one jar was smaller pickling cucumbers and one with big spears. Spears seem mushy. Not sure about the taste yet.

  41. Katie says:

    Hi! I just wanted to let you know I found your recipe here in 2010 and have been making it ever since. Everyone who eats them at our house LOVES these pickles. Thanks so much for creating this recipe!

  42. Lindsey says:

    Katie, Oh my gosh! 8 years!! How cool; thank you so much for coming back and letting me know. This makes my day! So happy to hear it.

  43. Lindsey says:

    Crystal, if you remove the mold soon enough and keep on top of it, it won’t ruin the batch. Good idea about powdered tannins. Hadn’t thought of that. I’ve had big cuke spears get mushy… it may just be due to the size. Let me know how they turned out.

  44. Lindsey says:

    Hi Melodie,
    Sorry for the delayed reply! I know the flavor you describe. Was there visible mold on top of the brine at any time? My thought goes first to the powdered coriander. The idea is to not have too much stuff floating on top of the brine that mold could latch onto. Did the powder float on top and get moldy by chance? The grape leaves probably were not the issue but really I am no expert! Another definite possibility is that they were left out too long in too warm of weather maybe. I hope you are able to try again with a new batch and that the recipe works out to your expectation! Good luck.

  45. Lindsey says:

    Bill I think it was OK to cap them. I’ve always left open to the air, but when I make sauerkraut now I always cap it with bands and lids. So I bet that was fine. Mushy pickles… that seems to be the $64,000 question…..

  46. Lindsey says:

    So happy to hear this recipe is working out for you in a big way! When kept in the fridge for many many months, I have never had issues with cukes getting moldy when floating to the top. They should be OK for you.
    Good for you for growing all your own cukes too!
    Thanks so much for leaving this comment.

  47. steve bell says:

    is it possible to water bath the cukes in the salt with some vinegar and sugar to end up with a sweeter pickle and retain the crispness and in creases the shelf life .. looking to keep them on the shelf for a year or so between seasons

  48. Lindsey says:

    Hi Steve, yeah it probably is possible. I’ve never tried it, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t yield an extra-tasty bread-n-butter pickle, waterbath canned in the usual manner. Try it!

  49. Julie says:

    Are these able to be canned for winter preservation? And do you have a recipe breakdown for quart jars

  50. Lindsey says:

    Hi Julie,
    I don’t honestly know about how fit they are to be canned. Pressure canned, sure. Waterbath canning, I’m not sure on that. Of course they’d lose their living good bacteria, and may possibly become mushy, but I’d say go ahead and try. And no I don’t have a quart jar recipe breakdown for you, unfortunately…

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