Sun Pickles: An Old German Recipe


No need to be chained to the stove canning pickles. The sun does all the work! In about 3-4 days, you'll have pickles!

Mary Rudloff is now in heaven making her famous dills. This is an old German recipe. Her daughter, Ann and I have been friends since first grade at St. Margaret of Cortona in Madisonville.  Now you will have to go to taste on the pickling solution.  A little less salt, little more vinegar, water, etc. won’t hurt it.  But the pickling solution should be pretty tangy to make a good pickle.

Here’s my adaptation. Now these pickles taste like the old time fermented pickles. The taste is distinctive and, to me and my son Shane, addictive. After a few days in the frig, they get real crisp.

1 gallon glass jar or bowl (jar is a better choice)

Pickling cucumbers

Fresh dill - I like lots

Pickling or Kosher salt

Water and cider vinegar

Rye bread with or without caraway (not dark rye)

Piece of cloth

Wash cucumbers and cut tip off both ends.  Mary starts to slice in halves or quarters, starting at one end of cucumber, but doesn’t slice all the way through the other end so the spears remain connected.  You can simply slice them into spears.

Place sliced cucumbers in a large glass bowl or sink.  Cover with cold tap water and add 1/2 cup of salt.  Swirl around to dissolve salt.  Soak 45 minutes.  Drain off salt water.

Line bottom of gallon jar with a good amount of dill.  Then make a layer of cucumbers, add more dill, another layer of cucumbers, etc., ending with a dill layer until jar is almost full.

Place one or two slices of rye bread on top of last dill layer.

Pickling solution: dissolve 4  tablespoons salt with 4 tablespoons cider vinegar or less to taste in a cup of water. Set aside while pouring regular water half way up the jar of cucumbers.  Pour pickling solution over.  If you need more water to cover the cucumbers, add it.

Lay a piece or two of rye bread on top.  Cover with cloth to keep bugs out. 

Day 1: Place in sun, turning jar to face sun several times a day. Bring in at night or if it rains.

Days 2, 3 and possibly 4:  Remove rye bread and replace with fresh bread. Place in sun, turning jar to face sun several times a day. Bring in at night or if it rains.

(Cucumbers will start to turn a yellow-green toward the second or third day. They are done in 3-4 days if it's warm and sunny out. It was almost 90 degrees here when I made these so they were done in 3 days).

Sometimes a bit of scum will form on top. I remove that with a spoon.

NOTE: If some pickling solution has evaporated during the process, make up more and add it or just add water, depending upon your taste. I like to add pickling solution in the proportion of 2 tablespoons ea vinegar and salt to 1 cup water.

IMPORTANT: When pickles are done on the last day, remove rye bread and don't replace. Store pickles, covered, in frig to crisp up.

Good Add Ins: Garlic, bay leaf, hot peppers.  Add these at beginning of pickling cycle.

DSCN2141Day 1 DSCN2143Side view Day 1 DSCN2144Day 2 DSCN2169 Day 3DSCN2170Top view Day 3

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Jereme Zimmerman (RedHeadedYeti)

July 23rd, 2014 at 9:14am

This looks awesome. I made something similar called dilly beans recently. You can pickle the beans, or lacto-ferment them as I did. They're tasting magnificent thus far. The setting in the sun and weighing down with rye is a new one to me.

A quick note. I'm assuming by " Each morning place in sun for about 3-4 days," you meant 3-4 hours. :)

Jereme Zimmerman (RedHeadedYeti)

July 23rd, 2014 at 9:39am

Not trying to be critical (at least not in the negative sense). My blogs are full of things I didn't catch through self-editing. I assume it's meant to say "Each morning place in sun for about 3-4 hours", rather than setting them out all day. Correct me if I'm wrong. Just wanted to make sure.

Rita Heikenfeld (Rita Heikenfeld)

July 23rd, 2014 at 10:53am

Sorry the instructions are confusing. I redid them to clarify. It does take 3-4 days, all day, until dusk, for pickles to ferment. Those old timey recipes aren't very clear and sometimes neither am I!

When I asked Mary why she put the rye bread on top, she said it had something to do with the yeast in the bread.

Your green beans sound awesome. Will you share that recipe?

Donald Adams (GrumpyOldMan)

July 23rd, 2014 at 12:46pm

Rita, Once again, thank you for the information! These pickles are something I'm going to have to try! My German Grandmother just used to use a piece of cleaned wood to hold things down instead of the rye I would think that the yeast may not make any difference? Bread was just something to hold everything down in the solution??

Jereme Zimmerman (RedHeadedYeti)

July 23rd, 2014 at 12:57pm

Having read through a number of medieval mead recipes of late, I can certainly concur. It's not always easy trying to figure out what they're saying and translate it for a modern audience. :) Grumpy, wood or a flat clean rock also work for submerging ferments. Lacto ferments work as much with bacteria as they do with yeast. I suspect the bread was used as a weight, and as flavoring, or just because old Germans often have a lot of rye around and some of it gets too stale to eat. You can also make a beverage by soaking stale bread. The Russian version is called kvass ( I hope to make it soon and blog about it.

Jereme Zimmerman (RedHeadedYeti)

July 23rd, 2014 at 1:03pm

The dilly beans recipe is a modification of a version by Sandor Katz and my friend Chetan Talwalkar's fermentation workshop. I'll just do a straight cut and paste here until I have time to write up a blog. I should be fermenting another batch of beans in a day or two. You can also do carrots or any other veggies you might pickle.

Fermented Dilly Beans

Green beans [or any kind of wax bean, green, yellow, purple or spotted] 1 pound or more
Garlic 2 cloves or to taste
Dill 1 Tbsp dried or
2 handfuls of sprigs
or flowerheads or
1 tsp dill seed
Red or green
Chili 1/2 or to taste
Peppercorns 1 tsp (optional)
Celery seed 1 tsp (optional)
Pickling spices To taste (optional)
Salt 1 Tbsp
Live whey 3 Tbsp
Whey can be replaced with 1 Tbsp more salt, or with live brine from mature batch of veggies.
Younger, more tender beans may be preferred. [Even slightly older ones are tasty but tough]
1. Dissolve salt into 1 Cup non-chlorinated water (below 100 degrees F)
and add whey.
2. Place spices in bottom of quart jar and cover with crushed garlic cloves.
3. Wash and string the beans and cut off ends. Slice green beans into
same-size pieces (big or small). If you prefer to leave them whole, trim
them to ensure they will not stick out above the brine. Pack beans
tightly into jar.
4. Cover beans with brine, leaving about 1 inch to top of jar. Add more
clean water to cover if necessary. If beans are sliced, weigh them down
so they do not float above the brine. If the beans are whole, pack in
more as needed to ensure they do not float up above the brine.
5. Loosely fit lid, or cover with clean cloth, coffee filter, or towel and
secure with rubber band or string.
6. Store at room temperature and check daily to release any pressure
buildup and ensure nothing has floated up. Skim off any mold or yeast.
After 3 days, start tasting them. Move to fridge or cool storage when
they taste ready -- up to 2 weeks or more depending on conditions.
They should keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.
The brine may be used as a starter; the garlic and dry spices for cooking.

Rita Heikenfeld (Rita Heikenfeld)

July 23rd, 2014 at 1:52pm

The rye bread is a necessary element in the pickles. Not just to hold them under the brine. From what I remember from Mary, the yeast in the bread helped ferment the pickles.

Thanks for fermented bean recipe. Can't wait to try it~

Jereme Zimmerman (RedHeadedYeti)

July 23rd, 2014 at 2:05pm

I would suggest that using de-chlorinated water (tap water set out for a few hours) and adding a bit of starter (I added some kefir whey to my dilly beans), would work without the bread. Providing you're not using sprayed cucumbers, they should have enough yeast and natural bacteria to help things along. Using chlorinated water or non-organic vegetables will kill off the yeast. At least that's been my experience with most other vegetables. I'm not knocking the idea of the bread though. If it's a tried and true tradition, then go with it. I'll certainly be considering it as an option for my future ferments. Anything that will get the yeast working is good by me. Fermentation is such a fun and forgiving process if you're patient.

Rita Heikenfeld (Rita Heikenfeld)

July 23rd, 2014 at 3:18pm

I always learn so much from all of you. I'll have to try your method. My cukes are organic so they should be good to go.

Jereme Zimmerman (RedHeadedYeti)

July 23rd, 2014 at 3:27pm

Hey, you're method is great too. I'm always into learning new techniques. I like to think of Earthineer as an open-source learning community. Think I'm going to go offline soon and get going on my next set of dilly beans.

Jereme Zimmerman (RedHeadedYeti)

July 23rd, 2014 at 9:33pm

Oh no. I used the wrong "your" in my last comment. Bad writer, bad. Go sit in the corner.

j cat (Cat Clan Homestead)

March 30th, 2016 at 6:46pm

this is a great read! thank you so much. I cant wait to try this when the weather permits.