"These old-fashioned deli-style pickles are created entirely by fermentation, without the use of vinegar. This recipe produces a quantity that fills a half-gallon Mason jar. If you like, add a few non-traditional chile de arbol peppers for their red visual appeal (and spiciness)!"
Pour 1/2 gallon of water into a large container or pot. Cover loosely and allow to sit for 24 hour to allow dissolved chlorine to escape.
Crisp cucumbers by storing in the refrigerator or soaking in very cold water for 1 hour.
Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Add salt and stir to combine. Set aside to cool.
Wash cucumbers in cold water and remove any blossoms that may be clinging to them. Quarter large cucumbers lengthwise. Cut medium cucumbers in half lengthwise. Leave gherkin-sized cucumbers whole.
Peel and gently crush garlic cloves, but don't splinter them into fragments.
Pour cooled salt water into a 1/2-gallon Mason jar. Add cucumbers, garlic, dill, and dried chile peppers, arranged attractively. Pack cucumbers tightly; they will shrink as they pickle. Fill the jar with the dechlorinated water until cucumbers are just covered to avoid overly diluting the brine.
Loosely cover the jar and set aside at room temperature. Set the jar on a dish if it is very full, to catch any dribbles. Give the pickles 12 to 24 hours to begin fermenting. Refrigerate them, in brine and loosely covered, as they approach the stage of pickling you prefer: new, half-sour, or sour. Don't overshoot the mark, as refrigeration slows, but does not stop, fermentation.
Letting tap water sit for 24 hours removes the chlorine, which inhibits fermentation.
Ideally, choose small cucumbers of a similar shape and size.
Fermentation results are more variable than those of any other food preparation method. They can be affected by the ratios of salt to water, brine to cucumbers, cucumber size, cucumber quality (freshness, growing conditions & weather, cultivar/variety, etc.), ambient temperatures during fermentation, and the mysterious behavior of lactobacilli. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Pickles are fickle!
Try to keep the cukes immersed in the brine. Submerge, rotate or upend the top pickles daily, as needed.
If the pickles ferment too fast, refrigerate or add a little more kosher salt. If still not fermenting after a day or so, cut off a piece of submerged cuke and taste it. If too salty, add more plain water. (Salt slows and impedes fermentation.) Remove some brine to make room for the additional water. Allow 24 hours for the adjusted saltiness to equalize.