9 Types of Pickles You’ll Want to Munch on Right Now
Pickles: Pregnant women crave them, athletes swear by their juice and some say they can even reduce stress. Of course, they’re also delicious straight out of the jar, and known to improve everything from hamburgers and fried chicken sandwiches to cheese platters. For these reasons and more, we’ve rounded up nine types of pickles you’ll want to munch on right now. Enjoy.
How Are Pickles Made?
Have you ever pondered what goes into the making of a pickle? Well, it’s actually a fairly straightforward process that consists of preserving vegetables in an acidic solution, or brine, to prevent spoilage. Pickling begins and ends with a brine that’s made of either pure salt water, or a combination of vinegar and salt. Once the veggies are sealed up and left to soak in the brine, microbial organisms start to feast on the natural sugars in the food, creating lactic acid in the process. As such, a highly acidic environment develops—one in which spoilage bacteria cannot thrive—and, over time, the food begins to ferment. The longer the fruit or vegetable is left to ferment, the more pickled (i.e., sour) it will be.
Pickling is a breeze to do at home with little more than a mason jar and the brining ingredients mentioned above. That said, your kitchen is not a completely sterile environment, so the introduction of bacteria is always a possibility. As such, your own pickling project will not be shelf stable like the pickles you find at the store, which are pasteurized (i.e., heated to high temperatures) to kill off any harmful bacteria that may have snuck in at some point in the pickling process. Still, home pickling is a fun and easy way to preserve veggies and there’s no risk in giving it a shot—provided you keep the finished product in the fridge and consume it within a few weeks.
1. Dill Pickles
Dill pickles are the most popular pickles of the bunch and, as you might have guessed, they get their name because of their distinct dill flavor. Indeed, a generous amount of the herb is always included in the brine—be it dried, fresh or as seeds—and the result is a pickle that tastes like, well, dill. If that’s up your alley, you’ll have no trouble finding these guys, whole or pre-sliced, at the grocery store.
2. Bread and Butter Pickles
Some recipes for bread and butter pickles are basic while others include a variety of seasonings for good measure. However, the one thing all bread and butter pickles have in common is that their vinegar brine includes a touch of sugar, resulting in a more mellow flavor than that of the traditional sour pickle. If Goldilocks were tasting pickles instead of porridge, these ones would be just right.
3. Sweet Pickles
Sweet pickles, much like bread and butter pickles, are made with a brine that contains both vinegar and sugar. (Sliced onion is often in the mix as well.) Slightly more sugar is used for sweet pickles as compared to bread and butter pickles, but they still aren’t cloyingly sweet. In other words, sweet pickles won't make you pucker quite as much as the other pickles on the list, but the sweetness is subtle, nevertheless.
4. Gherkin Pickles
Gherkin pickles, sometimes referred to as baby dills, are made from a specific cucumber variety (of the same name) that’s smaller and bumpier than other cukes. Due to their petite size, gherkins are always pickled whole and can easily be found at the store. (You can also buy yourself a gherkin cucumber plant and pickle your own.)
Fun fact: Cornichon is just the fancy French word for gherkin. These two types of pickles are actually one in the same: Tiny (i.e., less than two inches), bumpy and downright cute.
6. Sour Pickles
Sour pickles, unlike most others, are not pickled in vinegar. Then how are they so sour, you ask? These guys are brined in water, spices and pickling salt—a combination that effectively ferments the cukes in question and results in a seriously tart pickle. Think of these guys as one-note wonders—there’s no acidic bite and certainly no sweetness; they’re just plain sour.
7. Kosher Pickles
This might seem a little confusing, but kosher pickles are not necessarily prepared in accordance with the Jewish dietary laws of the same name. Some kosher pickles are indeed kosher, some are not. (Hint: If you keep kosher, you can find a variety of pickles that fit the bill by looking for the certification on the label, or by ensuring the deli you buy them from is overseen by a rabbi.) With that in mind, kosher pickles owe their name to the fact that kosher salt is a key ingredient used in the pickling process, along with garlic and dill for extra flavor. Overall, these pickles have a lot in common with a standard dill pickle but are set apart by the addition of garlic.
8. Refrigerator Pickles
All you need is a mason jar and some vinegar to preserve any veggies you have hanging around at home. This fast and easy pickling method produces ‘refrigerator pickles’ and can be used on cukes or any other type of produce that you’d like to turn into a briney condiment. To make the brine you just fill a jar with vinegar and spices of your choosing, add the veggies and you’re done. That said, this is not a professional canning method so, as previously mentioned, the finished product is not shelf stable like the pickles you buy at the store. That’s where the refrigerator enters the picture: Refrigerator pickles must be kept in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge at all times and used within a few weeks.
9. Kool Aid Pickles
If you’re looking for another fun home pickling project, try turning a jar of regular store-bought pickles into a colorful, sweet and sour snack known as Kool Aid pickles, or Koolickles. To make them yourself, simply empty a packet of Kool Aid (any flavor is fine, but cherry is popular) along with one cup of sugar into a large jar. Then, pour the brine from your gallon jar of store-bought pickles into the jar of Kool Aid and sugar, and stir to combine before returning the syrupy liquid back into the pickle jar. Store the pickles in the fridge and munch on the brightly-colored snack whenever you please.