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Fermented Pickle Problems: Causes and Possible Solutions

Fermented Pickle Problems: Causes and Possible Solutions

Making homemade fermented natural pickles isn't rocket science... but it does take practice, patience and careful, thorough hygiene to get it right.

Here are some of the common problems, their causes and solutions - or preventative measures!




Soft or slippery pickles. (If spoilage is evident, do not eat.)

1. Salt brine too weak during fermentation.

1. Maintain salt concentration specified in recipe.


2. Cucumbers stored at too high a temperature during fermentation.

2. Store fermenting cucumbers between 70° and 75°F. This is the optimum temperature for growth of the organisms necessary for fermentation.


3. Insufficient amount of brine.

3. Keep cucumbers immersed in the brine.


4. Pickles not processed properly (to destroy microorganisms).

4. Process pickles in canner after filling jars.


5. Moldy garlic or spices.

5. Always use fresh spices.


6. Blossom ends not removed from cucumbers.

6. Slice at least 1/16th inch off blossom end of cucumbers and discard.

Strong, bitter taste

1. Spices cooked too long in vinegar, or too many spices used.

1. Follow directions for amount of spices to use and the boiling time.


2. Vinegar too strong.

2. Use vinegar of the proper strength (5% acidity).


3. Dry weather.

3. No prevention. Bitter taste is usually in the peel or skin of fruits and vegetables.


4. Using salt substitutes.

4. Potassium chloride, the ingredient in most of these, causes bitterness.




Hollow Pickles

1. Cucumbers too large for brining.

1. Use smaller cucumbers for brining.


2. Improper fermentation.

2. Keep brine proper strength and the product well covered. Cure until fermentation is complete.


3. Long lapse of time between harvest and brining.

3. Fermentation process should be started within 24 hours after harvesting cucumbers.


4. Growth defect of cucumber.

4. None. During washing, hollow cucumbers usually float. Remove and use for relishes instead of fermented pickles.

Shriveled Pickles

1. Placing cucumbers in too strong brine, too heavy syrup, or too strong vinegar.

1. Follow a reliable recipe. Use amounts of salt and sugar called for in a recipe, and vinegar that is 5% acidity.


2. Long lapse of time between harvest and brining.

2. Brine (start fermentation) within 24 hours after harvesting cucumbers.


3. Overcooking or overprocessing.

3. Follow a reliable recipe exactly.


4. Dry weather.

4. No prevention. Bitter taste is usually in the peel or skin of fruits and vegetables.


Scum on the brine surfaces while curing cucumbers.

1. Wild yeasts and bacteria that feed on the acid thus reducing the concentration if allowed to accumulate.

1. Remove scum as often as needed.

Dark or discolored pickles. (If brass, copper or zinc utensils and brining equipment were used, do not use pickles.)

1. Minerals in hard water.

1. Use soft water.


2. Ground spices used.

2. Use whole spices.


3. Spices left in jars of pickles.

3. Place spices loosely in cheesecloth bag so they can be removed before canning.


4. Brass, iron, copper or zinc utensils used.

4. Use food-grade unchipped enamelware, glass, stainless steel, or stoneware utensils.


5. Iodized salt used.

5. Use canning or pickling salt.




Spotted, dull, or faded color

1. Cucumbers not well cured (brined).

1. Use brine of proper concentration. Complete fermentation process.


2. Excessive exposure to light.

2. Store processed jars in a dark, dry cool place.


3. Cucumber of poor quality.

3. Use produce of optimum quality, and grown under proper conditions (weather, soil, etc.)

White sediment in jar.

1. Bacteria cause this during fermentation.

1. None.


2. Salt contains an anti-caking agent or other additives.

2. Use canning or pickling salt.



Pickle Making Problems?

Some questions are answered at the bottom of this page.  See this page for a more complete set of frequently asked pickling questions and answers

Note about Pickle Mixes

To interject a crass commercial here - hey, I've got to pay for the website somehow :)  I have found the best (crispest, best tasting) pickles from a mix are with the "Mrs. Wages Polish Dill Refrigerator Pickle Mix" They REALLY are good AND you don't need a canner - you store them in your fridge right after making them.  They're ready to eat in 24 hours!  Our affiliate sells the mixes (and at really good prices, too)

Whether you want dills or sweet pickles; canning them or straight into the refrigerator; there is a mix for every taste and need here! Get them all here, delivered direct to your home,  at the best prices on the internet! Get everything you need to make pickles: mixes, salt, brine, etc. here!



Other Equipment:

From left to right:

  1. Jar lifting tongs 
            to pick up hot jars
  2. Lid lifter 
            - to remove lids from the pot 
            of boiling water (sterilizing )
  3. Lid 
           - disposable - you may only 
           use them once
  4. Ring 
          - holds the lids on the jar until after
          the jars cool - then you don't need them
  5. Canning jar funnel
          - to fill the jars



Home Canning Kits

This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer, and the bible of canning, the Ball Blue Book. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You will never need anything else except jars & lids (and the jars are reusable)! There is also a simple kit with just the canner and rack, and a pressure canner, if you want to do vegetables (other than tomatoes). To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!

How to make other pickles -  recipes and instructions:

Can't find the equipment?  We ship to all 50 states! Use our Feedback form!

Above is the
2020 version of
the Ball Blue Book