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Pickle connoisseurs will tell you that homemade summer pickles made with the natural lactic acid fermentation process are in a class of their own. Each year I looked forward to devour the jar of cucumbers my grandma would put in the window. It was less romantic than in one’s own porch among the geraniums, but what can apartment dwellers in Budapest do to get a bit of sun action for their cucumbers? Out they went on the window ledge. In my present life we have so many trees around the house that I was hard pressed to find a spot where the sun shines for the better part of the day. Sunshine beating down on the cucumbers is what’s needed to start the fermentation. The choice fell to our back stairs’ ledge that leads down to the backyard. There I hope the slice of light rye will do its charm to get the cucumbers started. Now if only the weather would cooperate…

*Beware; one bitter cucumber can spoil the entire jar of pickles. I had only one more left when I found a bitter one, so be diligent and taste all the ends [of what you cut off actually]. If one end is bitter, keep slicing bits off until only the sweet tasting part remains. Some cucumbers you may have to be discarded altogether.

mid sized cucumbers [minimum 2, maximum 4 pounds]
2 heaping Tbsp salt
4 cups of water
4 stalks of fresh dill with heads
3-4 cloves of garlic
a thick slice of rye bread

• Add a heaping tablespoon of salt to 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.
• Let it cool for 5 minutes.
• Meanwhile wash the cucumbers, scrub them if necessary.
• Slice the ends off, making sure not to include bitter cucumbers*.
• Slice into them lengthwise in 3 places so they stay in one piece.
• Place half the dill and 2 cloves of garlic in the bottom of a clean jar.
• Layer the cucumbers standing upright.
• Add the remaining dill and garlic.
• If the jar is very large and there are more cucumbers, layer these on the top too.
• Pour the salt water over the cucumbers and top with the bread.
• Make sure the bread is wetted.
• Retain the leftover brine for topping up later.
• Cover the jar with either cheesecloth or with a saucer to keep the bugs out.
• Place in the sun for several days.
• The water will turn cloudy during fermentation.
• Make sure the cucumbers are always submerged in brine; some brine will spill over during fermentation. When it does, top it up with the saved brine.
• If the weather remains good, the cucumbers will stop fermenting in about four days.
• Test before ending the fermentation process though.
• The pickles should be pleasantly sour and not too soft, giving a little resistance when bitten into.
• Discard the bread and remove the pickles and rinse them.
• Pack them into smaller jars and cover with the sieved fermentation water.
• Pickles will keep for 3 weeks in the refrigerator.


  1. It's funny, I have also made fermented cucumbers last week. I never use any bread or sun, they just ferment with water, salt and spices.
    The problem I find here in Switzerland is the crazy use of fertilisers. The fermented cucumbers start stinking when too much fertiliser was used on them...
    I prefer pickling in vinegar. This method is less demanding in what concerns the cucumber quality.

  2. I simply love the flavour of these cucumbers. Yes, I heard you can make summer pickles without bread. But those pickles are not kovászos. “Kovász” is the actual sourdough that is used in bread making. The word kovászos means something is made with kovász. In some parts of Hungary people drink the fermented brine mixed with soda water. It supposed to be a refreshing beverage during the summer’s heat. I would rather turn on the air conditioner.

  3. Oh, I understand! so it's for the special flavour!
    There is a Russian drink called "kvas" and made from fermented rye bread. It's very good on hot Summer days. The liquid from fermented cucumbers is a great hangover remedy (very appreciated in Poland and Russia and even sold in shops separately!).
    Thank you for the Hungarian lesson ;-)

  4. Really? I didn't know that about the hangover remedy. I hope I didn't offend you with the Hungarian lesson, haha, the majority of people who come on my site are not Hungarian speaking including my own children I am shamed to say.

  5. Offended? It's so kind of you to say this, but on the contrary. I am so happy to learn new words in Hungarian! I have been trying to stop forgetting my basic Hungarian, but it's very difficult. No Hungarian tv (it would help) and I speak French with Hungarian friends.
    It's funny I have just realised "kvas" and 'kovasz" sound so similar... I wonder if the Hungarian word doesn't come from the slavic word (not necessarily Russian!).

  6. Zsuzsa, as it is just coming into summer here in Australia I tried this for the first time - and it worked brilliantly. Thank you for sharing this, I have wanted to know how to make these for a very long time!!! YUMMY!

  7. I am so glad it worked for you!!! Those things are very delicious; unfortunately, we are just entering into our winter here in Canada. Huh, it will be months before I can even think about them.

  8. Yes, indeed "Kovász" is sourdough, and is related to kvas. In Hungary, peasant rye bread is sourdough, not yeast-based. If your New World (American, Canadian, Australian) rye bread is made with yeast, stick with a plain white wheat bread, that is sourdough instead. Yeast bread works, but doesn't taste as authentic.
    Save the whole draining and straining by wrapping the bread in muslin or cheesecloth. Or even an unused Chux type wipe-cloth (as long as it's not an anti-bacterial one).

    To make them keep for ages, they need to be "properly" bottled. Pack into smaller (sterilised) jars and pour over the juice, heated to boiling. Seal. As they cool, a vacuum forms, so there's no air in there to aid the growth of mould.

  9. I will give these suggestions a try. Thank you Karla

  10. Sissi just published a recipe for sour pickle soup and I immediately craved that distinctive flavour of my dear Mom's Hungarian salt brined pickles. I can't recall that she put the jars in sunlight, but I do recall a couple of jars always sitting on the stove, I suspect the heat helped in the fermentation process. The crunch and dill flavour brings back such memories. I knew you would have a recipe and as soon as I see uborka in my markets I will make this wonderful condiment.

    1. Eva make sure they are the old fashioned cukes and are extremely fresh. A couple of years ago I bought some mid eastern type cucumber and it was simply awful, I had to dump the whole lot of it. but it was the cucumber and not my failure, because since then had the opportunity to taste a commercial bottle of the same type of pickles and it was equally horrid.




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