Pickles…people either love them or hate them. Pickling is one of those magical preservation methods that not only extends a food’s shelf life but also takes its flavor profile to interesting and delicious places.
Today, pickles are referred to as cucumbers preserved in a mixture of salt, vinegar, and other flavorings.
Pickles have been around for nearly 5,000 years and are enjoyed across all cultures. With so many different types of pickles that are packed with unique flavors and ingredients, it is not at all surprising that pickled cucumbers are enjoyed all over the world.
Most pickles are produced by one of three methods: refrigerated, fresh-pack, or processed (also called “cured” or “fermented”). Each of these methods creates distinct flavors and textures. Also, during production, a variety of flavors are achieved by adding different herbs, spices, and seasonings to the pickle liquid. Then, each variety is generally packed whole or cut in halves, spears, sticks, chips, chunks, relish, or sliced lengthwise for sandwiches.
Varieties of Pickles
Dill is the most popular variety of cucumber pickles. Herb dill or dill oil is added to impart a distinctive and refreshing flavor. There are many types of dill pickles, including:
- Genuine Dill – These dill pickles are made by the slow “processed” method. Dill weed is added to the tanks during the last stage of fermentation or to the jar after fermentation. These pickles usually have a higher lactic acid flavor than other varieties.
- Kosher Dill – Genuine “Kosher” pickles are those that have been manufactured and certified in accordance with Jewish dietary laws, and made with dill and garlic added to the brine. The flavor is more robust than regular dill pickles.
Kosher also refers to a specific flavor of pickles that has nothing to do with the Jewish laws. These pickles are sold as kosher dills but do not carry the seal of certification as kosher food.
- Overnight Dill – Cukes are placed fresh into the brine (which may include a slight amount of vinegar) for a very short time – one to two days. The entire process takes place under refrigeration, and they stay refrigerated when stored and shipped. The bright green pickles taste like fresh cucumbers accented with dill flavor. They are the kind of pickle you usually find at a deli.
- Polish Dill – The term Polish is used to describe its flavor, not the country of origin. Polish dills contain more spices and garlic than either traditional dill pickles or kosher dill pickles. These pickles tend to be peppery and may be flavored with mustard seeds. They are prepared using the traditional process of natural fermentation in a salty brine, which makes them grow sour. There is no vinegar used in the pickling of a Polish-style pickled cucumber
- German-style – Most German pickles have a sweet-sour flavor because a little sugar is added in the pickling juice.
Half Sour/Sour pickles are pickles made in a brine that doesn’t contain vinegar. Half sour pickles are a pickle that is fermented instead of canned for its classic sour taste. As they sit in a saltwater solution they begin to ferment, becoming increasingly sour with each day. They are both brighter in color and crispier than vinegar-brined pickles.
Sweet pickles are packed in a sweet mixture of vinegar, sugar, and spices. Here are some variations:
- Bread & Butter – Savory and sweet, thinly-sliced pickles made from cucumbers, onions, and chopped green or red peppers. They have a distinct, slightly tangy taste.
- Candied – These pickles are packed in an extra-heavily sweetened liquid.
- No-Salt Sweet – These are a newer variety of sweet pickles to which no salt has been added.
- Sweet/Hot – These are made by adding hot spices and seasonings to pickles for a delightful spark of spicy flavor.
Pickles stand out as flavorful, low-calorie vegetables and are high in vitamin K. Unfortunately, pickles are also high in sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure. But, don’t skip the pickles. If you watch your serving sizes, pickles can be a delicious part of well-balanced diet.
When you think about pickles, do you imagine them as a snack, sandwich side, hamburger topping, or hot dog relish? Pickles are versatile. You can chop them up and mix them into all sorts of dishes to boost flavor. In addition, pickle juice is a tasty ingredient. They add a pleasant crunch to elegant appetizers, a tangy element to your main dishes, and even a surprising bite to your cocktails.
Pickle Flavor Fun
Incorporate pickles into your everyday recipes. Hummus is the perfect base to add a fun flavor like pickle. Add pickles to dip, and it will be begging for a bag of chips. A dill pickle cheeseball will come together in no time. Try dipping dill pickle chips in this hummus for an extra tangy snack. Make cheeseburger soup! Topped with lots and lots of pickles. Add pickles to a grilled cheese sandwich. Use pickle juice as the liquid in bread dough. Did you know you can use pickle juice to brine chicken? Pickle juice includes both acid and salt, making it an ideal substance for tenderizing and marinating meat. Put a new spin on meatloaf by hiding pickles in the center. Add some pickle juice to homemade salad dressing or vinaigrette. Add pickles to salad to add some zing.