Delicious pickles, despite odd smelling ferment

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Delicious pickles, despite odd smelling ferment

Postby KittyJ on Fri Aug 25, 2017 8:05 am

I really need some good advice on these pickles. They are still fermenting -- I usually ferment for 3 weeks. The smell is still strong, though when a friend visited a couple of days ago I asked if he could smell them and if the smell seemed off to him. He said he could smell them but they just smelled like good dill pickles. So maybe I'm stressed about nothing. The smell is something I haven't encountered in previous ferments, and the thick brine is also something I haven't encountered. Sedimentation is good, but this is a lot of sedimentation, not clear, not settling in the crock. Has a yellow tinge. As noted below, I tasted a tiny bite of a pickle last week, and had no ill effects. I'm due to take these out of the crocks on 8/30 and put them in jars, so I really need some advice. Is this a case where I should discard all this brine and add fresh brine to the jars? Or is it likely just yeast sediment from the strong, early fermentation that took place and continued for at least a week? I don't want to poison myself or friends with these, so please help! And many thanks, upfront.



I've made pickles successfully several times over the last couple of years, but this time I'm not really comfortable with what I smell.

They've been fermenting two weeks in crocks, covered with cloth. Fermentation began almost immediately and was quite strong. Lots of bubbles and burps and foam to skim off. Smelled great. Developed a tad bit of mold early on, but was able to skim that, clean the sides, etc.

The past few days the smell has gone from fresh dill to kind of funky, underlaid by dill. The top of the brine looks normal. Everything completely submerged, not much white layer developing that needs to be cleaned off anymore.

Any suggestions? I emptied contents of one crock into large bowl. Everything looks normal, but the brine is milky and the kitchen reeks. Maybe just more sediment than normal? I tasted a small part of one pickle -- it was crunchy and tasted normal, didn't smell. Maybe it was the oak leaves that were creating a smell? HELP!
Last edited by KittyJ on Thu Aug 31, 2017 6:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Chris or Tibor, can you help? Off smell on pickles

Postby Tibor on Wed Aug 30, 2017 7:37 pm

Maybe it was the oak leaves. I have never used anything but grape leaves for my pickles, so I don't know what oak leaves smell like in a ferment. I once made the mistake of adding too many leaves which caused a bitter taste. Also depending on the stage and maturity of the dill you used could have affected your activity earlier on and made for a cloudy brine. I've had that happen.
Your pickles sound fine from what you describe. Remove all the leaves and dill and strain your brine before covering your pickles to store in the fridge once you shift from the crock. There is no need to discard the brine. Give it a bit of time and I bet the smell will mellow and the pickles will be great.
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Re: Chris or Tibor, can you help? Off smell on pickles

Postby Christopher Weeks on Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:58 am

I don't know either! You describe it as a "reek" but that's not really telling me anything other than you don't like it. And I also have only used grape leaves, so if it's an oak thing, I just have no idea.

In general, if the pickles taste good, I second Tibor's suggestion of waiting for the brine to mellow and see what happens.

Also, while I consider(ed?) myself a knowledgeable fermenter of sour pickles, I crocked fifteen gallons of them up this summer and they all turned to mush -- and I have only faint guesses about what went wrong. I'm a little wary about giving too much "expert" advice right now.
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Re: Chris or Tibor, can you help? Off smell on pickles

Postby KittyJ on Thu Aug 31, 2017 10:59 am

Thanks to both of you. I took the plunge yesterday, because it had been 3 weeks and I didn't want to put it off any longer. I had removed all the leaves, seeds, spices etc (other than garlic) last week so I just had to transfer to jars.

I tested a bite of a small one first, and it was so good it knocked my socks off. Best I've made yet, for whatever reason. Perhaps freshly-picked organic cukes from farmer's market? I polished off that one and then a second small one from the second crock. Not quite 24 hours later, I've had no side effects, am still alive and well. With 8 quarts of delicious pickles in the fridge.

I used most of the brine, but topped the jars off with fresh brine just to thin it out a bit.

I really couldn't come up with a descriptive word to describe the smell early on other than it was strong and 'funky'. It never smelled rotted or fetid, just weird.

In retrospect, I'm guessing that both the smell and the 'thick' brine came from excess yeasts, perhaps because fermentation was really fast and strong? More so than I've experienced before. I put them in the crocks one afternoon, and by following morning there was a thick layer of foam and bubbles on top of both, which I skimmed off. That continued for about a week. Really active. After that is when the strong smell began. And as I tried to pinpoint the smell over the last week, it did have a yeastiness to it.

I've never used oak leaves before, tho I've read somewhere (perhaps Sandor?) that they are useful for tannin to keep the pickles crisp. I don't have easy access to fresh grape leaves this year, but I have big oak trees in the yard. They did the job, because the pickles are deliciously crisp.

Anyway -- sorry for this length, but I thought it might help others who might read this in the future. And Chris, so sorry about losing all those pickles. Funny how mother nature tends to bring us down to earth once we think we have her figured out. In all aspects of life, not just fermentation.

Thanks again to both of you.
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Re: Delicious pickles, despite odd smelling ferment

Postby Christopher Weeks on Fri Sep 01, 2017 7:22 am

Excellent news! I'm glad they've turned out well.
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Re: Delicious pickles, despite odd smelling ferment

Postby khoomeizhi on Sun Sep 03, 2017 7:31 am

Have used oak or prunus (cherry, plum, peach, etc) leaves for tannin a number of times - no noticeable smell from those. Black tea works too, in a pinch. Glad these worked out.
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