Half Sour Pickles

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Half sour pickles are so easy to make at home, you need a few simple ingredients, no special equipment, AND best of all, there are zero canning skills required for this cucumber preservation recipe!

You never forget the first time you try a fermented pickle.

Half-sour pickles are crunchy, salty, and sour in all the right ways. Their flavor is so powerful that you can’t help but keep eating them until the entire jar is empty. (Not that I would know….)

Fermented pickles are a favorite snack when we want something savory and salty to satisfy our cravings. Their intense flavor is perfect for pairing with other foods and is especially good at brightening high-fat foods, like Traeger smoked burgers, or for cleansing the palette on charcuterie boards.

Having the skills to make delicious pickles in your repertoire is NEVER a bad idea.

This half sour dill pickles recipe is dedicated to good ideas.

Half sour pickles in a jar.

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Tips + Tricks

No. 1 –> Hooked on ferments? I have a WHOLE pile of great fermenting recipes, like fermented hot sauce, fermented salsa, fermented garlic, kombucha, sourdough starter… AND MORE!

No. 2 –> It is very important to ensure that ALL cucumbers remain below the brine at all times during the fermentation time – this is the best way to keep baddies at bay and prevent batch-ruining molds or other unwanted visitors to your homemade kosher pickles.

No. 3 –> Fermentation is a really accessible food preservation method, anyone can do it, with nearly any supplies. I have a section below detailing supplies required and easy substitutions that you’ll likely have around home!

No. 4 –> When I talk about burping your ferment, what I mean is to open the lid and allow the carbon dioxide to escape, reducing pressure inside the jar. During the process, the live cultures in the ferment consume the peppers and other ingredients and excrete carbon dioxide which creates pressure on the jar. If left too long, the jar can burst due to pressure.

No. 5 –> Make these truly your own pickles! Customize the herbs and spices in the brine to make the perfect pickle for you – optional ingredients include mustard seed, red pepper flakes, dill seeds, celery seed, corriander seed.

A jar of half sour dill pickles with a dill flower.

What Are Half Sour Pickles?

Half sour pickles, also known as kosher dill pickles, are a unique pickle that never seems to quit gaining popularity. These crunchy treats are staples in many delis and are tasty when used to garnish pastrami sandwiches and burgers.

The term “half-sour” refers to the specific process that is used to make these pickles, which involves a combination of fermentation and brining. Half sour pickles are made by fermenting fresh cucumbers in a salt brine, which gives them their characteristic sour flavor. Regular dill pickles are preserved in a vinegar brine giving them a strong, acidic, vinegary taste.

During the lacto-fermentation process, naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria convert the sugars in the cucumbers into lactic acid, which gives the pickles their distinct flavor, each day the pickles are left in the brine their sourness increases.

Half Sour Vs Full Sour Pickles

The difference between half sour pickles and full sour pickles lies in their fermentation time, texture, and taste.

Half-sour pickles receive a shorter submersion in salt brine, which works to clarify the flavor but does not fully mature it. This makes them fresh tasting with a crisp texture.

Full-sour pickles on the other hand are submerged in its brine for significantly longer, and this interaction intensifies the flavors and produces an acidic sensation upon consumption. The full-sour pickle has a far more intense flavor that can even be described as “puckery,” and its texture is softer than that of its half-sour counterpart.

Generally, half sours are fermented for 3-4 days while a full sour is fermented for 6-8 days.

Hands holding a jar of packed cucumbers.

What Is Lacto Fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation is a centuries-old process of pickling vegetables in brine (water and salt) that uses lactobacillus bacteria to create lactic acid. Lactic acid gives fermented foods their characteristic sour taste and acts as a preservative, extending the shelf life of your vegetables. The bacteria also produce other compounds that contribute to the flavor, nutrient content, and digestibility of these foods.

Lacto-fermentation is a natural process that does not require the addition of heat, chemicals, or other artificial ingredients. The lactobacillus or beneficial bacteria are found naturally on the surface of plants, so when vegetables are submerged in brine, the bacteria begin to grow and multiply. As they do so, they release lactic acid into the mixture, which lowers the pH and creates an environment inhospitable to other harmful microbes.

Lactic acid also has several health benefits; it is thought to help improve digestion, boost the immune system, and reduce inflammation. Fermented foods are also a good source of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and aid in digestion.

Key Ingredients

Cucumbers: Choose an unwaxed, pickling variety for your half-sour pickle recipe. Aim to use the fresh cucumbers as soon as possible after harvesting for best results. As always with food preservation recipes, discard any spoiled, bruised, rotting vegetable – use only the highest quality produce. If you don’t have a bountiful garden, check out the farmers market and specialty grocery stores during cucumber season!

Salt: Is critical to the fermentation process, its presence helps to prevent undesireable bacteria from affecting your pickles. Choose mineral sea salt for the best flavor profile or coarse kosher salt for the most neutral salt flavor. Avoid using table salt as it is iodized and can affect the pickling process.

Water: Spring water or well water works great in fermenting recipes. Avoid chlorinated water wherever possible as chlorine can affect microbial activity. I use straight well water or well water run through my RO system for all my ferments.

Ingredients required for kosher dills.

How To Make Half Sour Dill Pickles

Prepare Supplies + Ingredients:

  1. Wash your fermentation vessel in hot soapy water and rinse well. It does not have to be sanitized or sterilized but should be washed well with hot soapy water. Set aside to dry. 
  2. Scrub and rinse 2 lbs pickling cucumbers under cold water – avoid hot water or soap which can damage the lactic acid bacteria necessary for proper fermentation. Slice blossom end from each cucumber.
  3. Wash 1 dill flower and 4 fresh dill fronds in cool running water and spin dry in a salad spinner or blot dry with a clean kitchen towel. Peel and slice 4 fresh garlic cloves.
  4. Place 1 dill flower and 4 sprigs of dill in the bottom of each jar along with 4 sliced cloves of garlic and 5 whole black peppercorns. I like to use regular mouth quart sized jars for this recipe as the natural taper of the jar helps to hold all the ingredients under the brine.

Prepare The Brine:

  1. Combine 4 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of coarse kosher salt or sea salt. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved.
  2. Pour salt brine into the jars, ensuring everything is covered.
  3. Weigh down the ingredients before securing the lid tightly.
  4. Set it aside to ferment.

Ferment The Pickles:

  1. Keep your ferment somewhere where you’ll see it daily to observe and open the lid and burp it if necessary but keep it away from direct sunlight.
  2. After a few days, you should start to notice fermenting activity. There will be small bubbles that rush to the top of the jar when you tap it, the jar may hiss slightly when opened, the color of the cucumbers will dull from bright gree, the brine will be cloudy, and the brine may leak over the top of the jar and run down the sides.
  3. Allow the pickles to ferment for 3-4 days before transferring to cold storage or the fridge. Rest pickles for at least 2 weeks before enjoying.
Half sour pickles in a jar.

Recipe Notes

Fermenting Time:

The great thing about making homemade pickles anything is that it’s all about personal taste, and there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to fermentation time. Most people ferment their half sour pickles for 3-4 days for crunchy pickles, but you can certainly ferment for longer if you want to develop a deeper, more complex flavor. Go up to 7 or 8 days for full sour pickles.

The key is to experiment and find what works best for your taste buds. If you’re new to fermented food, start with a shorter fermentation time and then taste your pickles each day to see how they’re developing. If you like what you taste, then you can halt the fermentation and enjoy it. But if you want a more sour, tangy flavor, then you can ferment for a little longer next time.

Fermenting Temperature:

The ideal range for fermentation is at room temperature, between 68-75°F.

If the temperature is too low, the fermenting process will take longer and may not be as effective. On the other hand, if the temperature is too high, the fermentation process will occur too quickly and may produce an unpleasant flavor.

Kahm Yeast:

If you notice a white film forming on the surface of your ferment, it’s more than likely kahm yeast – which is generally harmless but tastes terrible.

The presence of kahm yeast will probably affect the outcome of your ferment – though some people say you can scrape it off and continue, I’d advise you to scrap it and start again.

Hands holding a jar filled with dill.

Batch + Storage

Batch:

This recipe as written makes about 2 quarts of half sour pickles, but don’t be alarmed – it’s infintely scaleable if your garden is over producing cucumbers! Simply prepare each jar as directed and make more brine as required, ensuring you’re using the 4 cups of water to 2 tablespoons of salt ratio.

Storage:

Once the pickles reach your desired taste, toss them in the fridge for up to 1 year! They will continue to ferment over that time, but the progress will be much slower.

They can also be kept in a cold room for long term storage, just ensure the temperature in the cold room is around 37f or (3-4 celcius) in order to keep the microbes in the pickles in a less active state.

More Fermenting Recipes To Try!

As previously mentioned, fermentation is very accessible – it doesn’t require any specialized equipment.

Fermentation vessel: This can be any glass jars that have airtight lids. A mason jar, an old pickle jar, an old kombucha bottle. Anything you have around will certainly work! It just needs to be airtight and glass. Non-glass materials can be porous and difficult to clean, and/or harbor bad microbes.

Fermentation weight: While there are specific glass fermentation weights or pickle pebbles, you can use a few different things. A ziplock-style bag half filled with brine placed on top of the ingredients works great. A crumpled piece of parchment paper placed on top of the ingredients also works.

I have AIRLOCK LIDS and PICKLE PIPES as well as GLASS FERMENTATION WEIGHTS here in the Crave kitchen, but I also don’t have enough of them to keep me in the ferments, SO I often end up using other things from around the house and they work just fine!

If you love this recipe, please give it a star rating or leave a comment below! This helps me to create more content you enjoy!

📖 Printable Recipe

Half sour pickles in a jar.

Easy Half Sour Pickles Recipe

Allyson Letal
Make your own delicious and zesty half-sour dill pickles right at home! They're perfect as a snack or garnish for any dish – you won't believe how simple it is to make these easy kosher dill pickles in your kitchen!
4.54 from 13 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Fermentation Time 3 days
Total Time 3 days 10 minutes
Course Preserved
Cuisine American
Servings 10
Calories 4 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • Pickling cucumbers to fill 2 quart jars
  • 8 sprigs fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 2 dill flower optional
  • 8 cloves garlic sliced
  • 10 whole black peppercorns optional
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt or sea salt

Instructions
 

Prepare Supplies + Ingredients:

  • Wash your fermentation vessel in hot soapy water and rinse well.
  • Scrub and rinse 2 lbs pickling cucumbers under cool running water. Slice blossom end from each cucumber.
  • Wash 1 dill flower and 4 fresh dill fronds in cool running water and spin dry in a salad spinner or blot dry with a clean kitchen towel. Peel and slice 4 cloves of garlic.
  • Place 1 dill flower and 4 sprigs of dill in the bottom of each jar along with 4 sliced cloves of garlic and 5 whole black peppercorns.

Prepare The Brine:

  • Combine 4 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of coarse kosher salt or sea salt. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved.
  • Pour salt brine into the jars, ensuring everything is covered.
  • Weigh down the ingredients before securing the lid tightly.
  • Set it aside to ferment.

Ferment The Pickles:

  • Keep your ferment somewhere where you'll see it daily to observe and open the lid and burp it if necessary but keep it away from direct sunlight.
  • After a few days, you should start to notice fermenting activity. There will be small bubbles that rush to the top of the jar when you tap it, the jar may hiss slightly when opened, the color of the cucumbers will dull, the brine will be cloudy, and the brine may leak over the top of the jar and run down the sides.
  • Allow the pickles to ferment for 3-4 days before transferring to the fridge. Rest the pickles for at least 2 weeks before eating.

Notes

Fermenting Time:

The great thing about fermenting anything is that it's all about personal taste, and there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to fermentation time. Most people ferment their half sour pickles for 3-4 days, but you can certainly ferment for longer if you want to develop a deeper, more complex flavor. Go up to 7 or 8 days for full sour pickles.
The key is to experiment and find what works best for your taste buds. If you're new to fermented food, start with a shorter fermentation time and then taste your pickles each day to see how they're developing. If you like what you taste, then you can halt the fermentation and enjoy it. But if you want a more sour, tangy flavor, then you can ferment for a little longer next time.

Fermenting Temperature:

The ideal range for fermentation is between 68-75°F.
If the temperature is too low, the fermenting process will take longer and may not be as effective. On the other hand, if the temperature is too high, the fermentation process will occur too quickly and may produce an unpleasant flavor.

Kahm Yeast:

If you notice a white film forming on the surface of your ferment, it's more than likely kahm yeast – which is generally harmless but tastes terrible.
The presence of kahm yeast will probably affect the outcome of your ferment – though some people say you can scrape it off and continue, I'd advise you to scrap it and start again.

Batch:

This recipe as written makes about 2 quarts of half sour pickles, but don't be alarmed – it's infintely scaleable if your garden is over producing cucumbers! Simply prepare each jar as directed and make more brine as required, ensuring you're using the 4 cups of water to 2 tablespoons of salt ratio.

Storage:

Once the pickles reach your desired taste, toss them in the fridge for up to 1 year! They will continue to ferment over that time, but the progress will be much slower.
They can also be kept in a cold room for long term storage, just ensure the temperature in the cold room is around 37f or (3-4 celcius) in order to keep the microbes in the pickles in a less active state.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 4kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 0.2gFat: 0.03gSaturated Fat: 0.003gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.01gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.01gSodium: 1401mgPotassium: 19mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 0.03gVitamin A: 78IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 11mgIron: 0.1mg
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12 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this!

    And is that all that Brine is, water,and salt? Also can we use coarse pink hemillahian salt?

    1. Hey Mike! Yup, the brine is literally only salt and water, it’s so easy. Go ahead and use the Himalayan salt, it will be just fine. If it’s really coarse, add an extra pinch to make sure the salinity is high enough. Hope you enjoy them! If you’re new to fermenting, you may want to let them mellow out in the fridge for a week or so after you put them in there, it will allow the flavors to meld a bit more!

  2. As the pickles ferment will the brine evaporate/reduce and if so do I add more if I notice it’s not covering the cucumbers?

    1. Hey Jennifer, the jar is closed so the brine should not evaporate. If you notice the cucumbers/pickles are floating during the fermenting process, you can always fill a small ziplock bag with a little bit of brine, remove the air and seal it shut, then place on top of the cucumbers. This will help weigh them down and if the bag leaks, it won’t dilute the brine!

      The cucumbers may shrink a little bit after the brine time, and I’ve found if they float a bit once placed in the fridge it’s not a big deal!

  3. I’m confused on the part to remove the kahm (sp) and continue (with the batch) vs that you would scrap and start over. Are you saying you would throw out your batch and start a new one from square one?

    1. Hey Linda, you bet. Kahm yeast is edible, but it can cause butter flavors in your ferments, so I throw out anything that has had kahm yeast and start over with fresh ingredients. The good news is that with proper sanitation, you’re less likely to have kahm, in fact I’ve only had one jar with kahm yeast in the years I’ve been fermenting. And I always have a few sentient jars on the counter lol

    2. @Ally, thanks a bunch. I added a new note today as I imagined what some past people I’ve known would do with this. I’d give specific examples but feelings might be hurt if they were ever to see them in print. Definitely eyebrow raising. LOL Thanks for the article. Going to try the dill pickle hot sauce soon. It sounds intriguing.
      ldr

        1. I’m confused as your total time says 3days 10min but it states to rest in the fridge for 2 weeks before eating. So should the total time be 17 days?

          1. I don’t consider that to be included in the recipe time, because even with vinegar pickles you’re best to wait at least a couple of weeks before trying and it’s not actually time where you need to be monitoring the recipe in any way.

            They can be eaten right away, but are definitely best when rested for at least a couple of weeks in the fridge.