A bit of a boom in artisanal pickles

A bit of a boom in artisanal pickles
Scott Daniels

Use whatever is on hand to keep the pickles submerged in the brining liquid.


Some collections of objects are intentional. FDR very carefully collected stamps and model boats. Some people collect figurines or Teddy bears, famous autographs or thimbles. These are the things to which you take a fancy and then set about tracking down interesting examples to take up space and time in your life.

Then there are the collections you gather without realizing it until one day you discover, like a forehead slap, you have amassed a great deal of something quite unintentionally. Books often fall into this category. You’re scouring secondhand listings for bookshelves, and it hits you that you have an awful lot of books because this is about to be bookshelf number 14.

I’ve been given to understand that cleaning out the fridge is a thing you should do now and then, and in a recent clean-out of leftovers and empty jars, I stood in front of the open refrigerator door and came face to face with an addiction: An entire shelf of our cold storage is given over to pickles.

There has been a bit of a boom in artisanal pickles in the last few years, a sure indicator of how many people have found themselves unemployed and in need of a money-making project. Pickles are, as they say, trending, though the real boom hit about two years ago. I’m not alone in my pickle fixation.

The labels are often hard to resist, and if they look interesting and don’t cost a stupid amount of money, I usually pick them up. They’re usually scattered through any grocery store, placed in the aisle with the rest of the pickl-ey things, in the deli case and somewhere among the refrigerated section.

I’ve got several of the common old Vlasic varieties of dills, sweet and bread-and-butters. Then there are the cold storage fresh ones, the ones with interesting names or labels or abundant spices, and a few Amish ones, which are surprisingly good. I didn’t trust the label of the Amish brand that said “zesty.” People for whom ketchup is an ethnic spice don’t know zesty from plow bolts. But they are indeed pretty spicy and delicious.

My own creations live in there somewhere, and the clean-out turned up a jar I’d forgotten about long enough ago to not risk eating them. I try to finish the pickles I make myself within a week or two, not because I don’t trust them, but because I don’t trust me to get storage right for the long haul. There also is the plastic tub that once housed some excellent kosher dills, which disappeared quickly, and now the juice has a few sliced shallots floating in it. Someone on TikTok, a famous chef, suggested doing this, so I tried it. Don’t do this.

I tried a batch of brined kosher pickles a while back, and the result was pretty good. I’ve been trying to get an end product that comes close to the house-made kosher pickles in Jewish delis, and there is no shortage of recipes out there.

The dilemma I encountered wasn’t in making the pickles themselves. You just mix up a flavorful brine solution and let them soak until they ferment, then allow them to rest in the juice a few days further. The longer they’re in the juice, the more sour they will be. My problem was in storage: Do you just leave them in the brine to get more sour or replace the pickling brine with something else? I never turned up a clear answer, so I just left them in the brine in the fridge. They were gone in a few days anyway.

If you try these, you’ll need some kind of container. The original recipe called for a plastic tub, but I used an oversized bean crock.


2 tablespoons pickling spice (find it in most bulk stores)

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste

3 cloves garlic

Either several small Persian cucumbers, whole, or fresh, unblemished larger cucumbers, sliced thick

1 bunch fresh dill weed

16 ounces distilled water

2 tablespoons kosher salt

Add the salt to the water in your container and mix or shake thoroughly, then add the spice and pepper flakes and mix again. Add garlic cloves, then the cucumbers until the container is full and the cukes are submerged. Lay the dill on top and weigh the cucumbers down so they stay under the liquid. Cover loosely and leave out on the counter for a week before tasting. When sour to your liking, pack them into glass jars and refrigerate.

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