First let me say that since I had never fermented pickles before, I did a smaller batch than my recipe called for. I wish, at this point, that I had done the entire recipe, since they are so great! I started with 5 pounds of small pickling cucumbers which I thoroughly washed. I then removed about 1/4 inch from the blossom end of the cucumber. It is believed that the blossom end contains an enzyme which leads to softening of your pickles over time. I found it easier just to quickly remove 1/4 inch from each end so that I did not have to examine each cucumber carefully. I then layered my trimmed, washed cucumbers in a large glass jar with 2 bunches of fresh dill and 1/3 cup pickling spice. You could use anything large enough to hold your cucumbers as long as it is food-grade and nonreactive.
At this point, I covered my jar with a clean, thick dishtowel and tied it with twine. This allows the mixture to breath which is essential when fermenting, but it also keeps debris out of the brine. It sort of looks like my jar is wearing a head scarf, but it works.
Then came the waiting. It takes three to four weeks for pickles to ferment completely, depending on the temperature in your house. Pickles ferment best at 70-75 degrees F. Any cooler than that and it will take longer for fermentation. Any warmer and your pickles may soften and spoil. Over the three to four week period, your pickles may begin to look a little scary. They will begin to bubble and a white scum may form on the top (or settle to the bottom) of your jar. These are normal effects of fermentation and should not alarm you (even though they scared the heck out of me!). I called the Ball Canning Hotline several times over the course of the fermentation process, but was assured each time that my pickling process was going according to plan. Stick with it, even when it looks unpleasant.
During this time, you should skim the white scum from the pickles daily. Even though they may not look pleasant, the pickles should smell good (like pickles). Pickles with a strange odor or slimey feel should be discarded. Your pickles are finished when they are translucent throughout with no white flesh remaining and taste sour like a kosher dill.
After about three weeks, I removed a pickle and cut it in half thinking it was probably not quite ready. I was feeling brave and decided to taste it. This confirmed my suspicions that it needed more time . Horribly salty. I was thinking something had gone wrong, but did not want to give up yet. I left the pickles in the brine one more week, and sure enough, they miraculously transformed into perfect pickles.
I opted not to can these pickles since it would make them a little softer (less crispy) and would kill the beneficial bacteria created during the fermentation process. Instead I simply replaced the brine with 1/4 cup vinegar, 2 quarts water, and 1/4 cup kosher salt. You could also strain the original brine and use it. These pickles will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months submerged in the brine. They can also be canned.