Pickle help needed!

OK, about a month ago I started a batch of deli-style pickles, following (to a T) the recipe in the Ball Complete Guide to Home Preservation book. The pickles are supposed to sit in the brine for at least three weeks and it has been more than that already.  The book says to “every day, remove any scrum that has formed.”  The problem is that it is impossible to remove all the scum. Take a look at what I’ve got.

Sludge on top of deli pickles

Sludge on top of deli pickles

Side view of pickle sludge

Side view of pickle sludge

If you have experience with this type of pickle, any suggestions?  In spite of the sludge, the pickles smell like pickles.  There are no foul smells at all. Could I rinse the pickles off and then create a new, sludge-free brine for canning?  Or, has this turned into a science experiment that could lead to a food-born illness and must be disposed of? Help!


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8 Responses to Pickle help needed!

  1. I think this is the most timely post I’ve ever read! I just started a batch of those same pickles last weekend and have the same sludge. I grabbed a few and felt – they are mushy and feel hollow. The smell great and look just like yours. I vowed to buy a harsch crock this year and chuck my old crocks because the only other time I tried using them (kimchee) I ended up having to throw that out as well and I plan to eat a LOT of kimchee this winter!

    Please post back when you find out what went south. Until I get the right equipment I give up on lacto-fermented veggies!

  2. Hmm. Just pulled a pickle out and sliced it up. It isn’t hollow or mushy. Looks like a normal pickle to me. Any thoughts with this additional information?

  3. I think with lacto-fermentation if it doesn’t smell bad it’s ok to try. Have you tried it? I would try mine but I moved the whole crock out onto the back porch where I’ve now seen flies & chickens trying it out. I’m guessing the chickens were more interested in the flies then the pickles. They smelled heavenly and I’m planning to try again.

  4. KitsapFG says:

    I have always done the quick process dill pickles and never done the slow fermentation. I have done slow fermentation with saur kraut though and it too got the scum at the top. Which I diligent removed on a daily basis. When the kraut was ready to can – all of the brine was poured off and the kraut rinsed – and then new brine was used for the canning process. It all turned out fine and we did not die from eating it.

  5. Chiot's Run says:

    I would use them, I get scum when I do sauerkraut and skim off what I can and don’t worry about the rest. If you pickles are mushy, slimy and smell off, I’d probably start over to be safe. If they aren’t are still crisp and smell good, eat up!

    I’m making brined pickles as well, I have a similar scum on mine, but since mine’s in a gallon jar there’s not that much one it. I followed an old old recipe from an old Farm Journal cookbook Mr Chiot’s stepmom gave me. It has some vinegar in the brine along with salt and spices. I’m getting ready to finish mine off, can’t wait.

  6. Part of my problem was that I was using a gallon jar and didn’t have anything that could keep all the cucumbers totally submerged. I thought I had managed with a bowl and then pie weights in the bowl but the tops of them were not the same color as the rest so I know it didn’t work right.

    I have read recipes that call for boiling the brine to use when canning which would kill any of the mold.

    What have you guys used to weight your cukes down? I have the ceramic crocks and ordered pine discs for them but they swell when they get wet and then I can’t get them back out. My plates are too big. Any ideas? I seem to be the only one who can’t sufficiently submerge her pickles.

  7. Nancy says:

    Have you ever been to an actual pickle factory? When I was in college, my roomie discovered one and we went on a tour of sorts…really icky! You wouldn’t believe what we saw floating in the brine tanks. I still eat pickles…Surely yours can’t be any worse than what we saw!

  8. Pingback: Green beans and a new venture | The 10 Year Challenge

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