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 (142)Post a Comment

  1. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Looking at the recipe and the crisp photographs of the jars automatically transports me ages back to when my mother (and father) pickled cucumbers. They chose small and even cucumbers, added garlic, dill, salt and vinegar and after sealing the jars put them out on the kitchen balcony that faced south and left the jars in the sun (not sure for how long). Every day I would go to check and see whether they are ready and whether they have changed color.

  2. I made your dill pickle recipe with my daughter and granddaughter Sunday. It brought back memories of my Mom making them in a crock! Today is Wednesday and I couldn’t wait for them to cure any longer! I opened one jar, and your recipe is as good as my Mom’s but oh so much easier! I did put lots of dill and garlic in the mix, and I chilled the cucumbers to make them really crisp and they are fabulous! Thanks Oh, and they were sooooo easy!

  3. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    These look great. I’m going to try them since my husband & daughter love Kosher Dill Pickles. We don’t have a garden this year but lots of cucumbers from a generous neighbor. I love the history with the recipes(also love your other blog). My favorite pickle is Bread & Butter. Would you have a fairly easy recipe? Thanks

  4. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I can’t wait to try making my own kosher dills, I miss living in the Los Angeles area. Southern Oregon is wonderful, but no one here has great pickles or wonderful Jewish food! I’d love to try the lacto-fermented kosher dills, if you would share the recipe. Thank you so much for your wonderful posts!

  5. I too would like to get a recipe for the “barrel” pickles that my Baba used to make in Chicago and keep on the back porch. She used to do pickles, green tomatoes and cabbage quarters in the same barrel, but I never got her recipe before she passed and would certainly like to find one that might be the same. Thank you.

  6. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    My Paternal Grandparents owned two Jewish Delis in NYC and New Rochelle, NY from the late 1800’s thru the mid 1900’s. he and my Grandmother were exceptional cooks and worked hard all their lives…without a day of rest.

    My Maternal Grandfather immigrated from Russia at the age of 9 with his 10 year old Cousin, making their way across Russia to board a ship from from Amsterdam to New York City selling newspapers on the streets, then delivering stacks of papers to news stands to earn money to bring the rest of his family from Russia to New York City and support growing families.

    Some of my most precious memories are family “Foodie” related…including my Father lifting me (at the age of 2&3) to balance ( like a “See Saw”) on the edge of the pickle barrels to inhale the intoxicating aroma of the pickles…half sours were and still are my favorites. Just the thought of the exotic aroma sends me time traveling back and opens floodgates of memory.

    In the Deli my Grandparents made everything from “scratch” ( all types of pickles, mayonnaise, horseradish, blintzes, knishes etc.) often with me sitting at their knee.I wish I still had their original handwritten recipes.

    Some of my most cherished treasures are a few original bottles of Vinegar and Bitters from the late 1800’s from the basement of one of the Deli’s but, sadly, the recipes are gone…except for what remains in my head&heart…which I used to be able to reproduce.

    I carried on the great traditions of preparing my family foods all my life, thanks to my parents love and care to pass on the legacy of Russian&Polish Jewish food from both Paternal&Maternal ancestors.

    Unfortunately, I’m now 68, severely disabled after an accident in 2004, and must live on only memories of the tastes&odors that “take me back” to those simpler, most cherished times.

    My guilty pleasure is collecting Jewish cookbooks, which I “devour” as I read the recipes. Now, they “take me back”.

    Thank you for your love and deep reverence for those whose shoulders have made it possible for us to reach our own heights…And thank you for your creative works (in print&online) that continue to allow me to “Time Travel”.

    Please DO print your recipe for your lacto-fermented (vinegar-less) pickles…especially half sour!

    Rachelle Lenchus
    Benson, VT. (formerly of N.Y.C.)
    [email protected]

  7. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Just about any pickle will do for my taste buds. Dill or bread and butter chips are a tasty addition to the breakfast omelette sandwiches I occasionally make. My first attempt at this recipe wasn’t quite as dilly as I only had the fresh dill, but I soaked the cukes in cold water and the finished product has a nice crunch. Just made another batch with dill seed and some extra pickling spice. They will rest in the back of the fridge for at least a week, maybe.

    1. Forgot to add that I used the garlic blanching water in the pickling brine. I resisted temptation and let this batch age for a week before tasting. As Rachael Ray says, they are “Yumm-oh”

  8. Please send me a recipe for half-sours. I love them and cannot find them where I live now.
    I tried to make lacto-fermented pickles this summer but the taste was slightly off from what I remembered.
    Thank you so much

    1. Hi Deb, I am currently working on perfecting a recipe for half sours. I plan to share on the blog in the future, so subscribe for updates and I will keep you posted.

  9. I love Bread. & Butter, 1 of my sons do also but we’re the minority at my house. My husband & 3 other kids love Kosher Dill. Can’t wait to try these, I think they’ll love them. Can you do these as spears or is it better to keep them whole? Also do you have a similar recipe for Bread. & Butter Pickles? I’d love to make both. Thanks

    1. Deb– I do have a recipe but it’s not posted on the site yet. I will post it at some point though! I prefer leaving them whole as they seem to maintain their crunch better than when they’re cut into spears.

  10. Hi, Tori! I would very much like your lacto-fermented kosher dills recipe(s)! Cabbage, cauliflower et al…all lacto-fermented, please!
    Thank You.

  11. Yes, please send recipe for lacto-fermented kosher dills (no vinegar). This is for people who have candida or prefer salt to vinegar.Thanks.

  12. I heard that a woman should not put fingers/hands in brine during her menses or it will turn the brine and give it a bad taste. Is this an old wive’s tale?

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