Wash cucumbers well and trim off blossom ends (this will help them stay crispy).
Place pickling spice, dill, bay leaf, garlic and peppercorns in the bottom of a quart-sized wide-mouth mason jar.
Stuff the jar with cukes, standing vertically, to fill the bottom. If you have room, lay a few cukes on top. You're going to want to cover them with liquid, but have about an inch of space on top, so stuff your jar accordingly.
Mix brine (water, salt, and whey) together in a measuring cup; pour over cukes in jar. Add more water as needed to cover cukes completely. The top of the liquid should be at least an inch below the lip of the jar. (Fermentation weights are not required but are recommended - see post above!)
Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about three days to let the salt and the probiotics in the whey do their magic. The brine will become cloudy and possibly bubbly; that's perfectly normal. (Airlock lids are not required - see recommended tools in blog post above), but are awesome to use. You could use a regular lid if you want, and burp it, i.e. open/shut it once a day.)
The best way to judge their readiness is to taste them. If they're pleasantly tart and crunchy, they're ready to go into the fridge (or other cold storage area, if you have it.) Enjoy within the next six months!
I use whey to kick-start my ferment – the kind you get when you strain yogurt. (Homemade or store-bought yogurt is fine, as long as it has live cultures.) Whey supplies lactobacilli and acts as an inoculant against spoiling bacteria, allowing lactic acid to be produced and preserve the cukes. Salt alone can do the job, but I prefer to use whey as insurance.Also: the process of fermentation creates a brine that looks very different from vinegar-brined pickles. The liquid will get cloudy and perhaps a bit bubbly. That does not mean anything has gone wrong. In fact, it has gone quite right! The pickles inside will look perfectly normal and delicious.And the best way to tell whether your ferment has gone well is to smell and taste it. If it goes bad, you will know it. It will smell rotten and awful. If it tastes pleasantly sour, you’re good to go! The good bacteria won!