BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Pickle Problems?: Week 2

with 8 comments

Is that white scum mold?

Is that white scum mold?

Nurturing these pickles for a week, you become attached. I’ll be more than distraught if something goes wrong now. They still taste good but today was the first day I noticed the presence of white, filmy scum…mold I suppose. Perhaps my cover was too airtight? I replaced it with a pillow case to let the brew breathe a little better. Looks like my instincts were also right to add extra salt after the first day, according to Wild Fermentation master Sandorkraut. My recipe called for 1/2 cup salt to his 3/8 cup per 4 pounds cukes, so at least I already had that more saline brine he recommends. It’s nice to see that even experts botch their ferments when they first begin. It is a science but not an exact one. There’s plenty of room for trial and error here. Sandor also gave me the idea to try horseradish leaves in addition to the grape ones to keep the pickles crisp. Though I need to transplant my horseradish root into a big pot, else it take over the yard!

Next, I’ll try to make a kraut ferment with this beautiful young purple cabbage our friend Sang picked and gave to us today. We are dog-sitting sweet Mr. Baba (baba-sitting) while she and Antony head to Burning Man this week.

I’ll start small with kraut in a mason jar. Season it with caraway, celery seeds and/or fennel. I just hope the dog doesn’t get into it:) Any suggestions on kraut seasonings? Any advice on controlling mold while your veggies brine?

I'll grow cabbage next year.

I'll grow cabbage next year.



Written by baltimoregon

August 31, 2009 at 12:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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8 Responses

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  1. Hello Baltimore,

    A cloud of thick, white scum tends to appear on cucumber pickles in about a week. I freaked out the first time I saw it, but all is well. The white stuff is natural. Do your best to remove it, but it does not mean the pickles are ruined. The trick of using oak, or grapes leaves really works to help keep the pickles crisp. I like to put in whole cloves of garlic to my pickle brine. That way I can save them to use as dilly garlic. The pickling process mellows out the garlic and I like to eat them whole, both as a treat and as a remedy for colds. I never used horse radish leaf (where would you get them? lol), but that sounds cool.



    September 3, 2009 at 6:59 am

  2. Good to know the white scum is normal. I really recommend the horseradish leaves used in combo with the grape (though I’m not sure which one is working more). Sandorkraut mentions horseradish leaf. I got them in my backyard b/c I planted a horseradish root this spring. Though I’ve been warned the prolific plants take over the the garden so I might transplant to a pot.


    September 3, 2009 at 10:28 am

  3. Problem with my pickles I think; cuc’s in a crock for one week now, and they aren’t bubbling to indacate curing. Is this a problem?

    Rafael Monzon

    September 7, 2009 at 10:38 am

  4. What recipe did you follow? They don’t need to be bubbling necessarily but should start tasting acidic and less salting. Are you storing it at below 75 degrees? It won’t ferment properly and pickles will get soft, spoil, if you store at a higher temp than that. That’s why I have mine in my basement.


    September 7, 2009 at 3:23 pm

  5. Hi! Such awesome blogs! Guess what? You don’t really need to worry about the mold on top of the pickle crock (unless your crock is ultra shallow and the entire thing is surface full of mold). Just skim it off. No big thing. Also, check out my blog about pickle mishaps. I think we could swap insights here. After all, I came to this blog (found it, really) because I was wondering if my mildewy basement was suitable for fermenting of if, alas, it is too mildewy.

    Jono Tosch

    July 15, 2010 at 9:15 pm

  6. Thanks for posting this! My pickles started to get “scummy” after about 4 days, and it made me afraid to try them. This is day 7 and I was going to taste/transfer to the fridge to slow down fermentation if ready. I tried to skim it off the top the other day but it kept sinking and was sort of difficult to get out- any suggestions? I was using a cup strainer for yogurt.. maybe it was too big. Also it got all mixed in when I took out the weight to get at it. Thanks for reassuring me this is normal 🙂


    August 28, 2010 at 11:22 am

  7. Hi Caitlin,

    I’m guessing maybe the temperature you’re fermenting the pickles at is too high? The temperature should be no higher than 75 and can be as low as 55. Check out the “brining pickles” recipe in this great Oregon State Extension Service publication:

    Good luck!


    August 29, 2010 at 10:36 pm

  8. If you don’t have oak, currant, horseradish or other leaves handy you can still have crisp pickles — just scrape off the “blossom” end of the pickles. The blossom end is what creates the enzymes that soften the pickles. No blossom end, no soft pickles. You can either scrape it off or using a sharp knife slice off about 1/32″ (a very thin slice).


    October 18, 2010 at 7:38 pm

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