Tiny Bubbles in the Pickle Jar

In the past couple of weeks two people have told me that they never see little bubbles rising in their containers of fermenting cucumbers. Usually bubbles start appearing after three or four days of brining. I explained that the bubbles may be hard to see because they’re very small. Their movement is most noticeable if the pickles are in a clear glass jar and the jar is moved. The bubbles are usually easy to see at the top of the brine, where they collect. If the brine spills over the top of the jar, you know it’s because gas has bubbled up inside and expanded the volume of the brine.

In the picture above, the cucumbers have been brining for about four days. You can see the bubbles at the top of the brine and a little further down in the gallon jar, just above the point where the jar begins narrowing.

Notice that I’m not using a plastic brine bag to hold down the cucumbers; instead I’ve laid the biggest cucumbers crosswise across the top to hold down the rest. Some of the dry spices are floating; that’s okay. But the brine is pushing grapes leaves too close to the surface, where they might attract the wrong microbes. After taking this picture, I tucked the grape leaves down around the cucumbers.

Approximately a day after I took this picture, a yeast scum began forming at the top of the jar. The yeast isn’t essential to the brining process, but it’s a sign that all is well. I skim off the scum when it gets heavy.

About Linda Ziedrich

I grow, cook, preserve, and write about food in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
This entry was posted in Fermented foods, Pickles and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Tiny Bubbles in the Pickle Jar

  1. Catherine says:

    Where do you get those jars? I want one like that.

    • Catherine, do you mean the gallon glass jars? They used to be used a lot for restaurant supplies; now plastic is usually used instead. But you can buy new gallon glass jars from a container-supply company such as Freund (FreundContainer.com). The jars cost about $5 to $6 apiece.

      • Catherine says:

        Yes, I meant the glass jars. Thanks for the info. I watched the video you did with Harriet and I am in love with pickles and the both of you! She has been kind enough to answer my questions. I want to make some of those fermented pickles!

        Out of curiosity can one use 1/2 gallon mason jars, or do you need the larger space? I saw in your book that you mention the use but was unclear if I could use that size for the actual fermentation. I could just be over thinking it too. Thanks again.

  2. Yes, Catherine, you can use 2-quart mason jars, or even 1-quart mason jars, for brine pickling. I feel that 2 quarts is generally the minimum practical size for fermenting cucumbers, at least if they’re fairly large and I’m using a brine-filled bag as a weight.
    When I use a 1-quart jar, I often just tuck the cucumbers tightly under the mouth of the jar and check them occasionally to be sure they don’t float. A narrow-mouth jar works best in this case.
    Yesterday I saw a picture of brining cucumbers held down in a quart jar by a big wad of cheesecloth stuck begin the cukes and the jar lid. That should work, too.

  3. Beth says:

    I’m curious. How can it be okay that the dry spices are floating? I thought this needed to be anaerobic process and everything needed to be submerged, else mold grown on the surface contaminates the whole jar.

  4. Jeremy says:

    I fermented my first batch of pickles with your Lower East Side recipe. Everything seems great but I have a few questions. My brine is cloudy, which I believe is due to the hard water I have. But, there was yeast that settled at the bottom of my crock and also seems to be in the jars. I did rinse the pickles and boil the brine like mentioned in other recipes. But before I hand these out, are they ok based on your experience? Thank you and i love your book!

    • Jeremy, thank you for your kind words. I’m sure your pickles are okay. Fermentation causes the clouding of the brine and the deposits at the bottom of the crock. These effects may be less obvious with other vegetables, but they are always apparent with cucumbers.

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