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.

11 thoughts on “Tiny Bubbles in the Pickle Jar”

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. Good question, Beth! Apparently mold and yeast aren’t attracted to dry spices and peppers, even after the spices and peppers have sat in brine for weeks. Really spicy pickles, such as typical kimchi, seem to fend off mold and yeast altogether.

  3. 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!

    1. 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.

  4. Linda, My pickles this year or concerning to me. Half of the batch is solidly clear while the other half has the white sediment. And the covers seem to be bulging a little bit. The recipe is pickled pickles, not fermented as far as I am aware of pickle making. We leave them set for several weeks and perhaps that means they’re fermented 🙂 I have joined your blog and intend to learn more. One of the jars that looked cloudiest and was in fact unsealed, I opened at which point a major amount of fizz happened. The pickle juice remains cloudy. It has been in the jar for about three weeks. Can I repickle these pickles with a new brine and spices? Or do you think these are ruined? From reading Jeramy’s response I would say the cloud is yeast. But I can honestly say that the energy of the following upon opening the one jar was quite intense. And it continued for several minutes

    1. Rhonda, I don’t know what kind of pickles you made, but it sounds as if they did ferment, as if carbon dioxide was trapped in the jars, and as if half of the jars developed a yeast scum. If the pickles are sour, they are probably safe to eat. If you’re afraid to taste them, you might check them with a pH meter or even pH test strips. If they are tasty, you might skim off the yeast and store the pickles in the refrigerator. Consider also boiling the brine to stop the fermentation. If you read the first chapter of The Joy of Pickling and the introduction to the chapter on fermented pickles, all should become clear.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *