Tea makes crunchy pickles

a large mason jar full of cucumber pickles with dill and garlic

My experiment making fermented cucumber pickles with tea is over, and the verdict is: tea keeps pickles crunchy. I’ll definitely be trying it again to see if I get the same results. For the recipe I used, see part one here.

Closeup of a quarter pickle, sliced lengthwise, on a cutting board

I pulled them out of the crock after three weeks of daily temperatures that went from 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night to 80 in the afternoon. They’ve got a good flavor, and I don’t taste the two tea bags, but they are certainly crunchy pickles! They’re also a little too salty. Next time I’ll lower the ratio of salt to water and see how that influences the crispiness.

Tea-fermented cucumber pickles and garlic in a bowl

I added tea because the tannins it contains help slow the pectinase enzymes that break down plants’ cell walls, which are made of pectin. It’s the stuff that makes fruit ripen. As those walls soften, so do the cucumbers. The traditional way to get tannins into fermented pickles is with grape leaves, horseradish leaves, and oak leaves. A lot of other plants have high tannin levels–I almost used plum leaves until I read that they could be poisonous. Tea is so accessible it seems like a great alternative. If you give it a try, tell me how it goes.

Here’s the original recipe.

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  1. Eileen’s avatar

    Tea in pickles?? I have never hear of this trick. Very interesting indeed!

  2. adrien’s avatar

    I tried and mine were very soggy…

  3. Sophie’s avatar

    I’ve used tea in pickles with good results too. In the summer I use grape leaves since I have a vine but the winter is the tricky part. I found that leaving the cucumbers whole is best and cutting a little bit off each end keeps the pickles from getting that musty taste which I don’t like (but my husband does!). I also soak my pickles in cold water for at least a few hours before pickling. This allows the cucumber to rehydrate if they are not fresh off the vine and prevents them from soaking up too much of the salt brine which makes them mushy too. Nice pics and website!

  4. Zes’s avatar

    Perfect ratio for a lacto fermented pickle is 5% so for 100/500g of water 5/25g of salt is needed. You can start this pickle and after 3 days switch to a 3% brine for a slightly less salty pickle.

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