I decided to make pickles following a recipe that our crop-share association (CSA) suggested: Three Secrets To Crispy Pickles, And A 'Lost Recipe' Found.

After 4 days, I decided to sample my creation. While the pickles have a nice texture (crunchy) and aroma, they are quite salty (almost inedible). Are pickles that are created this way normally fairly (subjective) salty?

If my calculations are correct (4T salt / 1Q water = 79.2g / 946.4mL), the recipe uses 8.4% saline solution. The concentration might indeed by higher if one adjusts for the water evaporation that occurs during boiling and cooling. From my reading, other recipes use a 5% saline solution.

  • What is the ideal saline concentration for lactic fermentation?
  • Will the perceived saltiness of the pickle decrease as it ages?
  • Is there anything else that might have lead to this result?
  • 3
    I once got the top pickle off a newly-opened ~4 liter jar of pickles in the Ukraine, and that top pickle (which was mostly above the water line) had turned out extremely salty compared to those below the water line. If you have pickles sticking out above the water line, that may be something to be aware of when taste-testing a batch of pickles. Aug 3, 2012 at 17:13

3 Answers 3


I quickly skimmed the article, and this was what I was looking for

"After a week, slice off a small amount of cucumber and taste. If you like the level of sourness that the pickle has reached..."

If the sourness of the pickles increases with time, then the answer to your second question is yes. I don't have the answers to the other ones, but when I worked in a restaurant, our chef taught me that sour foods, like tomatoes, respond very well to salt.

This is a trend I've observed with other sour things I've consumed and prepared. Salt-rimmed glasses for lime margaritas take the focus away from 'sour' and vice versa: licking the salt off a margarita glass without drinking anything would get intolerable quickly.

Edit: I found a physiology study that supports this: the perception of saltiness is reduced by sourness (acidity).

Accordingly, the magnitude of the chorda tympani response to NaCl is enhanced at alkaline pH and inhibited at acidic pH, i.e., in mixtures of NaCl with weak organic acids

The chorda tympani is the nerve that carries signals from the tastebuds at the front of the tongue to the brain. As the cucumbers develop more lactic acid, the acidity will reduce the perceived saltiness.

Edit 2: Some more information is available on the Gustatory System Wikipedia page for salt and sour.

Saltiness is perceived primarily by an ion channel in the taste cell walls. An ion channel is a type of protein that allows ions to flow across cell walls. The particular protein for salt perception is called ENaC. Sour perception is facilitated by 3 proteins, one of which is also ENaC.

Re Question 1: I'm pretty convinced that your first question should be something more along the lines of "What are ideal salt/lactic acid ratios for lactic fermentation?" It appears that you have two variables to play with:

  • How much salt you put into your pickling brine
  • How long you ferment the pickles for (controlling how much lactic acid develops)

I'd venture to guess that there may be several different sweet spots for a good balance, but that generally 'too salty' can be offset with more fermentation while 'too sour' can be offset with more salt (and an immediate halt to fermentation).


I am not sure there is an ideal concentration. There is a range. Beyond that, it is personal preference. Sandor Katz, in "The Art of Fermentation" suggests a 5% solution. That's about 3TBS per Liter, so, slightly lower concentration than yours. He also references a suggestion for "half-sours" at 3.5%. So you may want to make an adjustment. Though not specified in Katz, several other references I have state that "if the pickle tastes too salty, they have not fermented enough", which lends credence to a positive response to your second question.


I once experienced the same problem when making lactofermented sauerkraut. Then I acknowledged that if I could use sea water it would work perfectly.

So I bought sea salt and the problem ended. Commercial salt and non mineral water kills lactofermentation so it ends salty.

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