Quick Pickles

Quick Pickles #easy #homemade #recipe

A friend of mine grew up in New York surrounded by kosher delis and appetizing shops. One of his favorite childhood memories was walking down to the corner store, where they kept large wooden barrels filled with pickles. His father would give him a boost so he could reach deep down into the bottom of the barrel to retrieve what he called “armpit pickles,” so named because you’d have to reach into the brine up to your armpit to get the best, most flavorful pickles. Though the name might not sound appealing, my friend looks back on armpit pickles as one of his fondest childhood food memories.

Pickling got its start about 4,000 years ago, long before delis began popping up on the East Coast. Pickling began as a way of preserving food. To create a pickle, fresh vegetables or fruits are immersed in an acidic liquid or saltwater brine until they are no longer considered raw or susceptible to spoilage. In the case of pickled cucumbers, saltwater brine is a common choice, which results in lacto-fermentation. Lactic microbial organisms, much like the kind that cause milk to curdle, develop. These organisms turn the naturally occurring sugars of the foods into lactic acid. In turn, the environment becomes acidic quickly, so that it is no longer possible for any spoiling bacteria to multiply. Cucumber pickles can also be made with a salt and vinegar brine, a popular choice for home cooks.

Kosher dills have their own unique history. In Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food, she explains that pickled vegetables were a dietary staple for Jews living in Poland, Russia, Lithuania and the Ukraine. The sharp flavor of pickles paired nicely with the bland bread-and-potato diet of these cold weather countries. For several generations, it was a fall custom for Ashkenazim to fill barrels with cucumbers, beets and shredded cabbage (sauerkraut). They were left to ferment in a warm place for several weeks, then relocated to cool, dark cellars. The pickles would last through the long cold winter until spring, when new crops of fresh produce were available.

Quick Pickles #easy #homemade #recipe

Sunday morning at Orchard and Rivington, New York City immigrant tenement district ca. 1915. Source: Library of Congress.

When a heavy influx of eastern European Jews arrived in New York City during the late 1800s and early 1900s, immigrants introduced kosher pickles to America. The process of “koshering” pickles required a rabbi who would supervise the entire production, ensuring that each step was done correctly and that the equipment was used exclusively for pickle making. Cucumbers were washed, then piled in large wooden barrels along with dill, garlic, spices, kosher salt and clean water. They were left to ferment for a few weeks to several months; shorter fermenting time produced brighter green “half sours,” while longer fermentation resulted in “full sours.” Pickles were sold on pushcarts in the immigrant tenement district of New York City. Over time, a multitude of Jewish owned shops began selling pickles straight out of the barrel from their storefronts. Eventually, pickling became a profitable business within the Jewish community.

Pickles are deeply ingrained in Jewish food culture, as emblematic of the Ashkenazi Jewish diet as matzo ball soup and brisket. Sadly, nowadays it’s much more difficult to find a classic kosher dill. Most of the small-scale pickle businesses have died off, replaced by mass-marketed pickles sold in grocery stores. If you’re searching for real Jewish pickles, your best bet is to visit a kosher deli. The first thing that should arrive on your table is a dish of pickles—a combination of full sour and half sour cucumbers, and sometimes a few other vegetables. In a true old-school deli, one should never have to ask for pickles. Their sharp, salty flavor and crunch is the ultimate counterpoint to a fatty corned beef or pastrami sandwich. Oy, I’m making myself hungry.

Most folks don’t have the time or patience to produce old fashioned lacto-fermented kosher dills. This Quick Pickle recipe is a super easy method for quickly producing yummy pickles. The prep only takes about 10 minutes. They aren’t true kosher dills due to the small amount of vinegar used in the brine, but they are quite delicious, and they pickle much faster than the old fashioned kind. My own blend of pickling spices, including chili pepper flakes for heat, adds terrific flavor. Keep them in the fridge for a couple of days, and voila! Quick pickles.

I recently had a reader request a recipe for lacto-fermented kosher dills (no vinegar). If you are interested too, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to squeeze it into my end-of-summer blogging schedule. What’s your favorite kind of pickle… kosher dill? Sweet? Half sour?

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Quick Pickles


  • 8 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 handfuls handfuls fresh dill
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp dill seeds
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 ¾ lbs. Kirby or Persian cucumbers (small pickling cucumbers, no wax on skin)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp kosher salt

You will also need

  • Two 1 quart mason jars or one ½ gallon jar, funnel, whisk, saucepan
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 48 Hours
Servings: 10-12 pickles
Kosher Key: Pareve
  • Place the sliced garlic in a small saucepan of water and bring to a boil. Boil the garlic for 1 minute, then drain immediately. This blanching process will keep the garlic from turning blue in the pickle jar.
  • Place the blanched garlic, fresh dill, bay leaves and other spices into the pickling jar or jars. If using two jars, divide the ingredients evenly between them, half in each. The red pepper flakes are optional, and will add a little kick to your pickles—if you don’t like spice, feel free to omit.
  • Slice off the tip ends of each cucumber, then place them into the jars, half in each jar. It’s okay if they’re tightly packed, they will shrink up a bit as they pickle.
  • In a saucepan, bring the water, white vinegar, and kosher salt to a boil, whisking till the salt is fully dissolved. Boil the mixture for about 1 minute, then remove from heat. Pour the hot brine through a funnel into each jar, submerging the cucumbers completely in liquid.
  • Let the jars cool completely to room temperature (this will take a few hours). Secure the lids and place pickles in the refrigerator. Your first pickle will be ready to eat in 48 hours; they’ll become more pickled and flavorful as they age. Pickles will keep for up to 2 months.
  • Tip: For crunchier pickles, before pickling you can place the cucumbers in a bowl and cover them with ice water. Soak them in the refrigerator in ice water for 4-5 hours. Drain and proceed with recipe. If you already have pre-mixed pickling spice on hard, you may substitute 4 tsp pickling spice for the spices (if using two jars, divide the spices between jars, half in one, half in the other).


Comments (143)Post a Comment

    1. Hi Sandi, I usually rest the lids on top of the jars to keep them covered, but I don’t tighten them. Once the jars are cooled I screw the lids on to secure them.

  1. real old-fashioned half-sour and armpit full-out sour, just like my grandma made in our brownstone apartment in brooklyn, new york, circa 1944. she had a huge ceramic crock that was always filled to the brim with pickled cucumbers on one layer, sauerkraut on another layer and tomatoes on the last layer. the layers were separated by circles of wood made from slats crossing each other. there was a large platter on top that was kept sunken by a heavy polished stone. i remember the trouble she took to get whatever she wanted from the very bottom, but one crock was what she had.

  2. i would love it if you could find or create a real old-fashioned jewish half- and sour pickle. we never called them dills and the ones that are called that aren’t really the same. i mean the ones that are heavy on pickling spices, especially garlic, and are sold by companies such as ba-tampte.

    we eat them by the barrel load ourselves and with the holidays in sight, that would be a wow!! my own shiksa in my kitchen can’t wait to try it.

    1. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
      BA-TAMPTE garlic sour is the closest to my mother’s recipe. If I could find that I would completely change my garden next year.

  3. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Great recipe, not to mention your fantastic blog. How long will these pickles stay fresh in refrigerator? Would love to see your lacto-fermented recipe as I push the probiotics on my kids these days. Cucumber season is at its height out East (Hamptons, NY) so we have plenty of time for fermentation …:)

  4. hi,
    in Romania most people make their own pickles. out of a variety of vegetables and fruits (cucumbers, cabbage, onions, water melon, apricots etc)

  5. Hi,

    I would like to see the no-vinegar recipe please. I have one on my flash drive that is allegedly the same as Clausen’s, but I haven’t tried it yet.

  6. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Would the taste of the pickles change if you use apple cider? Also, could you post a recipe for Sasha’s pickled onions! I will try in the afternoon, pickled organic carrots it sounds yummy! Why do you cut the tops off the cucumbers?

    1. Hi Mashugana– the flavor will change slightly with cider vinegar, but not much. I cut the tops off because it helps to keep the pickles more crisp/crunchy.

  7. Once, again, Tori, you bring back memories of me and my
    Bobcha making dozens of jars of Kosher “Garlic” Orgorek.
    I must mention that it is important to obtain the ‘course’
    Dill herb not the thin and delicate variety. The ‘course’
    Koper has more of a rich robust flavor that a pickle should
    have when the flavor bursts forth into your mouth as you crunch down on the Solowka Orgorek.
    Thank you, Tori for bringing back good old memories of
    happy productive and educational times with my Bobcha.
    Until, tomorrow the key feeling is for ‘Appreciation’.
    Appreciation of life.
    Bye for Now,

  8. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Yum! A nice big crispy dill with popcorn at the movies! I was so surprised when I moved to Virginia and they didn’t sell pickles at the movie concessions????? I’m going to try making my own with your recipe!!

  9. I have tried the non-vinegar (lacto-fermented kosher dills) twice now and both times the pickles disintegrated. I need a fool proof recipe! Please post one for all of us. Thank you so much for your help.

  10. I love sweet & sour pickes. In England, there’s a company called Mrs Ellswood that makes them and despite being mass produced, they’re still the best pickles I’ve ever had.

    I’d love to recreate them at home…

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