Pickles have been enjoyed as a delicacy and snack for more than 5,000 years, but they don't grow on trees or in the ground. To make traditional pickles, soak cucumbers in vinegar and salt, though you can add other flavorings to suit your palate. This will also change the type of pickle you're creating, so choose wisely. You can also pickle other vegetables for a similar taste and feel if cucumbers aren't your jam.
Types of Pickles
There are myriad ways you can prepare a pickle, so let's explore six of the most popular types of pickles. You'll be craving one in no time!
Don't be startled by the bright red color of cinnamon pickles. They are made using candied syrup to get their distinct color – a mixture of red-hot candies, red food coloring, vinegar, cinnamon, sugar, and water. Once the mixture is prepared, pour it over the pickles and let it marinate for 24-48 hours before eating.
Cinnamon pickles almost taste like red cinnamon apple rings and are commonly used as a Christmas treat worldwide.
Dill is the most common pickle, soaked in vinegar with real dill seeds for added flavor. They can be whole or cut in vertical slices. These are often snack pickles, eaten straight from the jar, but they can also be used to garnish burgers, hot dogs, and more.
Kosher dill pickles are similar but prepared with kosher ingredients to cater to dietary needs. The cucumbers are seasoned with dill, garlic, kosher salt, and other spices, left to ferment. This gives the pickles a sour taste, though you can get them full sour or half-sour based on how they are prepared. Full sour kosher dill pickles have been fully fermented, often served in long slices. Half sour are not fully fermented, so they are not as sour, featuring a crisp flavor and bright green color.
Overnight dill pickles – or cukes – are only brined in vinegar for one to two days to enhance their natural flavor. They should be refrigerated for up to 36 hours for best results.
Lastly, Polish and German pickles are another type of very popular dill pickles. They are often preserved in wood barrels, giving them a richer taste, though you'll usually find them being sold in glass jars. The ogorek malosolny is a low-salt pickle that lies somewhere between a full-sour and a half-sour pickle. In contrast, the ogorek konserwowy is a preserved cucumber that is sweet and tangy in flavor.
Lime pickles are, quite literally, pickled limes. Unlike the other pickles on this list, they have a very strong, sharp flavor. Pickled limes are made by marinating limes in salt, chili powder, turmeric powder, mustard seeds, and fennel seeds. It's a multi-step process that takes up to three weeks to finish.
Due to lime pickles' strong taste, they go well with plain dishes like rice, flatbread, and parathas.
Bread and butter pickles are often used on burgers and sandwiches because they have the ideal mix of sweet and salt that perfectly complements most meals. They were first invented by Omar and Cora Fanning, two Illinois farmers. Bread and butter pickles mix sugar, salt, white vinegar, coriander seeds, celery seeds, and mustard seeds. Sweet onions finish off the mix to give these pickles their sweet and crisp flavor.
Candied pickles are thin cucumber slices topped with a lot of sugar and pickling spices coated in cider vinegar. It takes minutes to prepare and is ready to eat after a week in the refrigerator.
Gherkin pickles are smaller in size when compared to other types of pickles, but they pack a flavorful punch. It must be derived from the gourd family to be considered a true Gherkin pickle. They are used as condiments and added to many sauces and side dishes to enhance the flavor. Gherkin pickles are made with sugar, spices, vinegar, and salt. Once prepared, store for at least a month before eating.
Cornichons are a type of gherkin pickle, and they're only about the size of your pinky finger. They're crunchy and flavorful and picked when they aren't quite ripe. They aren't technically cucumbers, and while cornichons are popular in France, they are difficult to find in the United States. Many smaller pickles are confused for gherkins, including the Mexican sour gherkin. However, this is actually part of the melon family. These gherkin-like pickles resemble small watermelons and are grown on a vine.
During the summer months, Hungarians prefer to eat kovaszos uborka, which are leavened pickles that are made without vinegar. Instead, they are seasoned with garlic, dill, salt, and water. They're topped off with slices of bread, covered, then left to marinate for several days—the yeast from the bread speeds along the fermentation process, similar to vinegar.
Sauerkraut, or pickled cabbage, is also a popular side dish in Hungary and eastern Europe. Stored in wooden barrels, it's seasoned with vinegar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and other spices, for a sour taste. Many even think it has medicinal properties, helping support gut health and treating many different illnesses. It's considered to be healthy because it's made by lactic fermentation.
Historical Significance of Pickles
Pickles have a long history, prized by many historical figures as a wonder. Cleopatra credited pickles as essential to her health and beauty, while Julius Caesar thought pickles would strengthen his army. Christopher Columbus would give pickles to his sailors who suffered from various illnesses, including a vitamin C deficiency. After eating them, his crew would be back in fighting shape and ready to explore the world.
It's no wonder that pickles have stood the test of time with a historical significance like this. When paired with the many ways they can be prepared, pickles make a great condiment, snack, and main course.