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. Zach says:

    Hi Lindsey,

    I just made my first batch and am looking forward to trying them. I’ve got a small jar in there to hold everything under the brine, but a lot of the seeds have floated to the top and are sitting right on top around the jar. Does that matter?

  2. Lindsey says:

    Hi Zach,
    Hmmm… it might matter, so keep your eye on the seeds and if they don’t eventually sink to the bottom, but rather stay at the top and start getting moldy, scrape them off and keep scraping each day if it continues. Good luck with the first batch!

  3. Fern Youngswick says:

    Hi Lindsay,
    I am on day 4 of brining and there is mold growing on top of the liquid. I followed your recipe exactly, with one exception. As I did not have a 1 gallon glass jar, I used four 4 quart plastic containers. After placing the cucumbers in the jar, I filled it with the brine and then covered the pickles with grape leaves. To ensure that the cucumbers and grape leaves stayed fully submerged, I weighed them down with a jar lid, filled with brine and then loosely covered the containers with their plastic lids. Can you please let me know if I need to discard my first attempt at pickle making or if I can just skim off the mold? Thanks!

  4. Lindsey says:

    Hi Fern,
    It might be OK! Just skim off the mold and keep skimming each day — keep on top of it — my experience with various fermentation projects has shown me that often the mold is confined to just the very top and everything below is A-OK! You just have to keep removing it. Good luck, I do hope it turns out for you 🙂 Thanks for your comment.

  5. Ellen says:

    On the off chance you are reading this in the next few hours, why soak the cukes for a few hours? This is my third go at these, first yr I did them in my 1-gallon crock, this year and last year I’m doing a 5-gallons crock. Super easy and the best ever pickles.

  6. Carolee says:

    I love this recipe but am needing just the brine to help with some electrolytes on longer fasts. Is there any way to keep “growing” the brine like you do with kefir or can you ferment this with only a few pickles so you mostly have juice?

  7. Lindsey says:

    Hi Ellen,
    I’m not entirely sure about the WHY of soaking the cukes in water; I think it’s mainly to re-hydrate them in an effort to make the end result as crunchy as possible. Probably a step you could skip and I don’t think they’d suffer too much unless they were rather desiccated (bending rather than snapping) when you began the project.
    So glad you’ve had success with them in past years! Great to hear.

  8. Lindsey says:

    Boy what a novel idea. I am a brine drinker too! I just love it. I hadn’t thought of fermenting just the brine, but I think your ideas are right on, and that’s how I would approach it too. Mix up only the brine and add some “starter” brine from a previous pickle batch (or some left over store-bought Bubbies brine), or if you don’t have a previous pickle batch to draw from, I’d add at least a few raw cucumbers to inoculate it with the beneficial yeasts.
    Thank you for your comment! This has started my mind working… and I think I might try this myself. Let me know how you go, if you do this!

  9. Sara says:

    Hi, what if I cannot find any type of the leaves? Is there something else I can use?

  10. Taz says:

    I followed the recipe to a T and although the final product was a bit salty (5 tbps), these bad dawgs tasted just like Bubbies. I will definitely be making these again. Thank you for the awesome recipe!!!!!!

  11. Lindsey says:

    Hi Sara,
    You can leave out the leaves without using anything in their place if you want. It’ll still definitely work!

  12. Tatiana says:

    I was so excited to find this recipe as my husband and I are huge fans of Bubbies pickles, so thank you for posting. Unfortunately, after only 2 days, the entire top inch was slime. I am using a water sealed crock, with glass weights. I did add more salt for the brine than the recipe asked for (pickling salt). I am new to pickling, and had success with using vinegar instead of a brine the first time. What am I doing wrong? Is the whole crock wasted? How can I prevent this from happening. I did the recipe exact with everything organic and cut the blossoms. Any help would be great, thank you!

  13. Lindsey says:

    Oh my goodness Tatiana, how frustrating to have discovered this when it sounds like you did everything right. I have no idea, really, what the problem is here. I’ve never encountered a layer of slime, so if you are able to scoop it off that would be the best place to start, to try to control it. I realize my reply comes way too late, probably. I hope it wasn’t a total loss for you, but if it was – well, welcome to ‘club fermentation’ where probably everyone inexplicably loses a batch now and then. I hope you’ll try again.
    Thank you for commenting and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

  14. Sarah says:

    Hi, love that you have this recipe!! Hoping it will save us major $$$ because the amount of Bubbies my husband eats a month.. hahaha. I was wondering if you think left over seeds from previously purchased Bubbies jars would work just as well. Thanks!

  15. Lindsey says:

    Hi Sarah! So glad you can use the recipe! I think the leftover Bubbies seeds may be somewhat spent…flavor leached out. I’d use fresh if at all possible, and “leftover” in a pinch — and if you use leftover, use a lot more of them to try to compensate for their lesser flavor.
    Good luck!!

  16. Sulllivan says:

    Hey Lindsey,
    I just wanted to add that there appears to be 2 Jamaican allspice seeds per quart jar as well as very finely crushed dry bay leaves. I’m attempting my first batch as we speak! In addition to your recipe I am
    soaking the cucumbers in a solution of calcium hydroxide (pickling lime) in attempt to secure the beautiful crisp texture in Bubbies. I know that they use calcium chloride to achieve this but sadly I am not able to procure this locally. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to post your process!!

  17. Ilene says:

    THESE CAME OUT GREAT! Thank you for the recipe! Only one PROBLEM … I used the small Persian cucumbers – every pickle came out with a hole going through the middle (on the inside of the pickle – not visible from outside). At first I thought it was just one weird pickle, but it happened to them all. Any idea why?
    Also, I couldn’t find grape or oak leaves ANYWHERE, so I used black tea leaves. For my next batch, is there any place online where I can find the CORRECT leaves? Have you ever used dried bay leaves?

  18. David says:

    I couldn’t find fresh leaves but I did find grape leaves in brine. Will that work?

  19. Lindsey says:

    Hi David, I’m sorry I’m not entirely sure if it will be the same as fresh, but go ahead and try the canned as long as they don’t have preservatives.
    Good luck!

  20. Lindsey says:

    Great! Glad they turned out. The cukes with holes in the center is how they grew out in the field — it’s nothing you did.
    I’m sorry I have no good source for fresh oak or grape leaves online. I haven’t used dried bay — that sounds delicious actually! If you try it, let me know how it turns out. Not sure if they have tannins or not, or if oak or grape leaves even are THAT necessary.
    Thanks for your feedback, I do appreciate it!

  21. Lindsey says:

    Thank you for this TIP about the whole allspice and cut bay leaves! I MUST try this next time, and if you get a moment, please do report back on how yours turned out, with the extra spice and using pickling lime.
    Thank you!!!

  22. Julie Starbird says:

    If you are using spears of larger cucumbers, would you soak the spears or the whole uncut cucumbers in the cold water in step 1?

  23. David says:

    Thank you. It is so very gratifying to have something I thought was impossibly complex turn out to be so simple. My kids and their friends LOVE these pickles after 8 days in the garage (In (Hot) Florida). If I even hint that I might cut one up, they come running. They’re delicious! Truly, thank you. I’ve loved Bubbies forever and I agree, these are better. I bought a pickling jar with a water valve. I bought pre-shucked garlic cloves and used 48 of them and otherwise followed your recipe exactly with 6 TBS of salt. Amazing. You are the pickle Prometheus.

  24. Lindsey says:

    David this is such a nice comment; thank you for taking the time to let me know. I think companies love to make it sound like their products are shrouded in mystery so that the consumer has no hope of replication. It IS gratifying to be able to make your own favorite products!
    I’m so glad you’ve taken the time to try the recipe and that it worked out well and especially that your kids and their friends love the pickles too!
    Good on you, keep it up.
    Thanks again for your kind words, that made my day.

  25. Lindsey says:

    Hi Julie,
    Well now that’s a good question! I think I’d probably skip that step if you’re using big cukes.

  26. Mason says:

    Awesome site! I’m curious if using a crock with an airlock would also be alright. Hmm?

  27. Lindsey says:

    Thank you Mason!
    I think using an airlock would be OK, and probably would cut down on the likelihood of kahm yeast forming on the surface. If you use an airlock, let us know how it goes!!

  28. Sara says:

    Hi! must the jar be sterilized first? Im afraid it will break. Thanks

  29. Lindsey says:

    Hi Sara,
    The jar you make your Bubbies in doesn’t need to be sterile, just nice and clean. So, you don’t have to worry about glass breaking with trying to sterilize it with boiling water or anything. Generally any vessel you’re fermenting stuff in doesn’t require sterility…but rather just a normal household standard of cleanliness.
    Good luck friend!

  30. Dorothy says:

    One of my very good friends treated me to her Bubbies and shared this site with me. Cukes are late this year and I definitely plan to make a quart in experimentation.
    Couple of insights from my previous pickling and lacto-fermentation products:
    • I use kosher salt rather than “pickling salt” as it doesn’t contain iodine, either, and is usually more available and less expensive.
    • Use distilled water, not tap water; especially if you are on city water. Any other kind of water, including well water, will introduce minerals that can affect taste or crunch.
    • After washing jar with soap and the hottest water you can stand (using only a fresh dishcloth or disposable towel), put 1-2T/quart volume of white vinegar in the empty jar, then add distilled water to half-full, seal, and shake vigorously,. Dispose of liquid. Rinse and shake with another cup of distilled water. Dispose of liquid. Allow to air dry, preferably upside down so the naturally-occuring bacteria in the air doesn’t have a chance to settle in. This process should cut any remaining soap in the jar and further reduce any unwanted bacteria load in the jar.
    • If you buy cukes from store or stand, wash and rinse each one thoroughly and gently with soap and warm water to remove any residual oil or bacteria. Then soak in cold water, if they seem wiggly.
    • Whatever the source of your cukes, do NOT use any cuke showing mold, is mushy when raw, or if the skin feels slimy. If there is a cut or bruise, cut out that part before fermenting.
    • Do NOT use oak leaves of any kind as some species can harbor a plant virus that will ruin your pickles/fermentation. If using fresh grape or cherry leaves, ensure that they, too, are in peak condition and not growing near a road. Rinse them briefly with cold water, and gently pat dry. I’ve never tried berry leaves as they are so small. Pickling lime used carefully may also give you the crunch you want. Trim away the blossom end (opposite end from the stem) before using pickling lime.
    • I’ve always covered my fermenting lacto jar with a piece of CLEAN t-shirt material, held with a rubber band. The good bacteria can get in, the flies and gnats can’t, and the fermentation gas can escape.
    • Personally, I don’t take a chance with a fermented liquid product that either smells like rotten vegetables or has a significant mold colony. Kahm yeast (aka slime) is a natural part of fermentation. If the film or spot you see has dimension (height or looks fuzzy), that’s mold. If I see one or two little surface spots of mold, I’ll scrape them out and keep a close eye on it. If the mold returns and is more like a Bacteria Beach Party, then just chuck it. When in doubt, throw it out.
    Looking so forward to a successful batch of Bubbies!

  31. Lindsey says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write this out! These are all great points you make.

    Thank you again and I wish you excellent luck with your Bubbies batch!

  32. John Zuckerman says:

    Im pretty sure I know the answer but i thought i would ask the pro, I am using a 3 gallon crock, for two gallons of pickles, do i need to double the recipe?

  33. Lindsey says:

    Hi John!
    In my opinion I don’t think you need to double the recipe.
    Good luck!!

  34. Chase says:

    Do you use fresh grape leaves or canned/pickled? Where can you buy fresh ones?

  35. AUDREY says:

    Can these be canned instead of refrigerated? If so would it be like a regular dill pickle or would vinegar have to be added?

  36. Dan Dees says:

    I’m looking forward to trying this recipe. I’ve tried to make brine pickles (my favorite kind) in the past, with varying success. I love Bubbies pickles. However, I’ve been buying the spicy type since I discovered them. Is it possible to add ingredients to your recipe to make them like the spicy Bubbies? I hope to start a batch this weekend.

  37. Lindsey says:

    I use fresh grape leaves. It’s probably easier to find grape vines in your area than it is to find grape leaves for sale. If you can’t forage a few grape leaves, it’s fine to leave them out.

  38. Lindsey says:

    Hi Audrey,
    I’ve never tried canning these. If you’d like to try, I’d let them ferment and then can them, but the question would be whether they’d be acidic enough for waterbath canning like vinegar pickles. Interesting thought to add vinegar. This would need some experimentation. I don’t know the answer. Perhaps pressure canning would be safer if in doubt.

  39. Lindsey says:

    Hi Dan,
    Oh you bet! Please add anything you like to my recipe, and if they turn out, report back and let us know how it went. GOOD LUCK!

  40. Dan Dees says:

    I just made my first batch. I had decided I was done trying to make brine pickles, but when I ran across your recipe, I decided to try again. I recently inherited a large crock (about 4 gallon size), so I bought 8 lbs. of cucumbers at the local farmers market. Last Tuesday was day day 10, so I had my first taste, and they are great.
    Today I bought another 8 lbs. of cucumbers and will start a new batch tomorrow. This time I’ll add some jalapeno peppers and try for the spicy type. I even ordered a mini- refrigerator so I won’t have to cram all those jars into our kitchen refrigerator.

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