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Fermented Cucumbers with an Eastern European Secret Ingredient

Love Pickles? Got cukes? When your cucumber harvest is coming in, you need to preserve this bounty quickly. And boy did we overplant cucumbers this year!

Fermented Cucumbers the Eastern European Way

Contributed by GardensAll community member, Urszula Lewandowski

This is the way people in Eastern Europe prepare probiotics for long winters. This recipe is from my cousin Wanda.


  • Per 1 Liter glass jar with good working cover
  • Young and fresh pickling cucumbers 
  • 1  teaspoon dill seeds or 2 whole dill stalks with seeds
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 inches long piece of horseradish 
  • The secret ingredient: 2 oak leaves either dry or fresh
  • 1 tablespoons of regular salt
  • Hot water
  • I prepare all ingredients before on the table


  1. Put all ingredients in the jar with cucumbers last
  2. Leave 2 inches space at the top of cucumbers 
  3. Pour hot water over to completely cover the cucumbers 
  4. Clean the jar top and the cover with clean towel 
  5. Close carefully (it’s hot!)
  6. With towel around the jar turn it upside down and make sure no water is dripping from jar
  7. Should it drip open the jar and select new cover and try again 

In few days it’s completely fermented and it will keep for many years

If you want to eat it sooner, omit the hot water.


You can add other ingredients as well or instead, such as:

  • Black currant leaves 
  • Sour cherries leaves 
  • Horseradish leaves 
  • Grapes leaves 
  • Etc.

The cucumbers are delicious with sandwiches, and I drink the water from the jar. Pickled cucumber juice is very refreshing and also great for hangovers!

eastern european fermented cucumber recipe
congerdesign / Pixabay

Refrigerator Pickles

Another way to preserve your cucumbers when you don’t have time for canning is quick pickle recipes like refrigerator pickles.

If you don’t have your own garden harvest (or maybe it’s off season), you can still take advantage of sales and Farmer’s Market produce. We love to find tips, tricks and hacks that help us do more with less and in less time. So it’s great to discover a quicker way to pickle cucumbers into homemade dill pickles.


We’re sharing two versions here. These are both simpler than canning but the second one is even quicker. Scan them both and see which you’d like to try first. Please let us know if you try it, how it turns out. Also, if you have a favorite dill pickle recipe, let us know and we’ll share it for others to enjoy too.

Refrigerator Pickle Recipe


Wash jars: Run gallon or half-gallon canning jars through the dishwasher or wash thoroughly.

Prepare your brine: To each quart of water that has been boiled and brought to room temperature, add ¾ cup of distilled white vinegar and 4 Tablespoons Kosher salt (Dan would say “heaping Tablespoons”). Estimate how many quarts to make depending on how many jars you will pack with pickles. Note: Do not use reactive pots (like aluminum) for making brine. Stick with stainless and glass equipment for pickling tasks.

Photo via Flickr by Scott Lilley

Wash and pack small cukes (or green tomatoes or peppers) into clean glass jars, into which fresh dill has been layered on the bottom first.

Add 1 Tablespoon of pickling spice and lots of chopped garlic. Up to you how much. And frankly I never chop it, as you can see in the photo. Creative license!)

Add a dash of crushed red pepper flakes, or 1-2 small hot red peppers slitted open lengthwise, plus more fresh dill. I love having the flowerheads from a variety like ‘Mammoth,’ instead of just the foliage of ‘Fernleaf’ for this task, but you’ll want plenty of both.

Cover with plastic wrap and let stand out until soured, perhaps a couple of days, then refrigerate with lids on.2)

You may also enjoy this article on other ways to preserve food.3)

This recipe is shared from Dan Koshanky’s mother, shared via Margaret Roach, creator of A Way to Garden website and author of A Way to Garden and Garden Parables.

For another simple recipe for refrigerator pickles, we found this one from Rachel of

This is our favorite quick pickle recipes because you can eat the pickles even sooner!

Refrigerator Pickles!

By Rachel on CleanFoodCrush.com4)

{What to do with all of those Garden Cucs! Great on sandwiches, salads, or eaten straight as a side dish!}


  • 8 large, fresh cucumbers
  • 2 Tbsps. green bell pepper diced very small
  • 3 tsp coarse kosher, or pickling salt
  • Large sprig of fresh dill
  • 1/2 Tbsp. celery seed
  • 1/2 cup white, or apple cider vinegar


  1. Slice your cucumbers very thin — I sliced mine a bit too thick here, slice thiner if you can.
  2. Combine everything well.
  3. If you are wanting these to keep for a longer length of time, I suggest using a large glass jar with a lid.
  4. Place jar in the refrigerator: shake it once or twice more over the next few hours to ensure everything is submerged. You can eat them as little as 1 to 2 hours later, but they are wonderful at 8 hours later. These keep in the fridge, submerged in their liquid, for up to 3 weeks.

SOURCE: CleanFoodCrush By Rachel 

Community Contributions

By Urszula Lewandowski

The upside down jars are cucumbers for “fermented cucumbers soup”, (recipe to follow).

Since I don’t add water to the mixture and it’s cold fermented I want to make sure the lids sit tight on the jars. I watch it for leakage. If it is not closed tightly there will be moisture on the table. All I do is replace the lid. But I make sure the jar and new lid are clean and dry.

During fermentation different gases are created. Once the cucumbers are fermented (it will change colors from bright green to darker green) I store it in the cellar, where the temperature is lower. When the jars cool, the gases get constrict and create a vacuum, and the jars remain locked indefinitely. No spoilage.

Polish Cucumber Soup Recipe


  • Soup stock of choice
  • Potatoes
  • Fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Fermented cucumber

For the soup stock you can use any basic bones or vegetables broth of choice.

Editor’s Note: For vegetarian soup stock we use this. Our favorite has evolved over the years as we’ve needed to eliminate soy and minimize yeast, both of which are in most vegetarian broths. Our favorite is the organic private label brand at our local Lowe’s Foods Stores, Full Circle.

The next best one we use is Organic Pacific Vegetable broth. Buying broth saves time and also the feelling of waste, cooking vegetables in water and then throwing away the veggies just to get the broth.


Boil unpeeled potatoes separately till tender. Whip half of the potatoes until creamy. When cooled, remove the skin* whip half of the potatoes and add to soup pot.  Cut up the other half potatoes and add them to the pot as well.

Heat again if needed to serve, but don’t boil. Season with fresh chopped dill salt and pepper and then add the fermented cucumbers. It’s refreshing delicious and very healthy. Lots of probiotics and it can be made fast if you have stock ready.

I also add cream cheese and cream but it’s not necessary if you have dairy restrictions or other restrictions.

*Editor’s Note: We prefer to leave the skin on our potatoes for the added nutrition.

Cucumber harvest, image by Urszula Lewandowski
Cucumber “soup”.
Day 1 Polish Fermented Cucumber, image by Urszula Lewandowski
Day 6-Ready! Polish Fermented Cucumber – Now pickles, ready to eat! Image by Urszula Lewandowski

Thanks for this wonderful share, Urszula!

Happy Fermenting!


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