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Pickle terminology


JAZ
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I've recently started making pickles and am interested in trying my hand at fermented pickles. The trouble is, I've never lived in an area with good delis or other shops with pickle barrels, and so I have no first hand experience with them. I don't even (gasp) really know the difference between sours and half-sours. Can someone give me a crash course, or point me in the direction of a good site?

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"Fermented pickles" as I understand it is a very large category. If you're looking to reproduce the New York Jewish deli pickle, what you're going to want to focus on is "refrigerated pickles." It's the snappy texture that really distinguishes this kind of pickle from the flaccid "canned" specimens in the supermarket. (In most any supermarket, the good pickles are all in the refrigerated foods section -- usually the kosher section -- and not in the actual pickle section.) You might want to start here in order to acquire some search terms:

http://www.ilovepickles.org/articles/coldone.html

In terms of sourness, it's a continuum. A sour pickle, as I understand it, has simply been in the brine longer than a half-sour.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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JAZ...I made refridgerator pickles for the first time last summer when I had a bumper cucumber crop. They turned out great and so much easier (and IMO tastier) than water-bath processed pickles. I'd be glad to share some recipes with you. Just PM if you are interested.

Lobster.

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Thanks for the information, but I guess I should have been more specific in my original request.

The pickles I've been making are "refrigerator pickles" -- they're not boiled in a water bath or sealed or any of that. They start with a vinegar-based liquid with various flavoring components, which are typically heated and poured over the vegetables. I've got some good recipes and new ideas for that style of pickle, and have had great results from my experiments so far.

What I'm interested in is pickles that are packed in brine, without any vinegar -- the ones that, like sauerkraut, result in a lactic acid fermentation. I have a recipe for fermented "half-sours" which, since it's from the book I've been using, I'm sure will work well. But I have never figured out the relation of half-sours and sours -- is it just the time spent in the brine? Is it just a matter of letting the pickles sit in the brine until you like the result, or is there some other element I'm not aware of?

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My mother used to make those in giant crocks in our garage. According to her, the longer they cured, the more sour they got....nothing else. Since we liked half-sours, we would remove most of them from the brine at a certain point and refrigerate them. The ones that stayed in the brine got really sour which is how my grandmother liked them. But I am not an expert!

Edit to say that the texture also changed dramatically the longer they cured.

Edited by IrishCream (log)

Lobster.

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JAZ, the longer you leave them in the brine, the more sour they will get. That's the only difference!! Full sours can take up to 4-6 weeks. I have also found that the smaller the pickling cucumbers you can find, the better they are suited for pickling-- very crisp inside. Here's a simple recipe-- let us know how it turned out!!

Half Sour Pickles

I think sauerkraut is a bit more complicated, requires "skimming" often.

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Apparently not. They sell something like a gazillion jars of them a year. But I personally do not find them nearly as delicious as the crunchy refrigerator varieties.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The crunch of the refrigerator style pickles is what makes it for me. Moishe's from Montreal or Strub's is what I can find in Ottawa.

Sometimes I'll drop by Nate's* and buy a single huge Strub's from their service area. They always tell me to just buy a bottle, it's cheaper. But the guys they have in their pans are about half the size of a bottle and when I want that, it's what I want.

*Nate's is a famous deli in Ottawa. Very very treff though. Bacon, pork sausages etc.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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The softer pickles that come in a jar can have great flavor, but they fall flat when it comes to texture. As a result, they're mostly useful -- in my opinion -- as ingredients and garnishes. They're nice when sliced thin and placed on sandwiches, they form the basis of good relish, etc. But for straight eating, I just don't think there's any competition: refrigerated pickles rule.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The crunch of the refrigerator style pickles is what makes it for me. Moishe's from Montreal or Strub's is what I can find in Ottawa.

Sometimes I'll drop by Nate's* and buy a single huge Strub's from their service area. They always tell me to just buy a bottle, it's cheaper. But the guys they have in their pans are about half the size of a bottle and when I want that, it's what I want.

*Nate's is a famous deli in Ottawa. Very very treff though. Bacon, pork sausages etc.

I'm a Strub's man myself.

Rock on, Strub brother, rock on.

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The softer pickles that come in a jar can have great flavor, but they fall flat when it comes to texture. As a result, they're mostly useful -- in my opinion -- as ingredients and garnishes. They're nice when sliced thin and placed on sandwiches, they form the basis of good relish, etc. But for straight eating, I just don't think there's any competition: refrigerated pickles rule.

Yes, it's the taste I love, but the texture doesn't bother me at all. I get weird about texture here and there, though. Maybe I have no taste.

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  • 6 months later...
I bought this book, The Joy of Pickling, last summer. I' made three different things and they all turned out good, especially the pickled beets. She has very good instructions for making fermented pickles, and I'm going to attempt that this summer.

I actually started the fermented pickles today. I used the recipe from the Joy of Pickling. Is there anything special I should look out for? Supposedly they will be done in about 10 days.

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HWOE and I have this debate periodically, such as when we hit a deli like Katz's or Second Avenue. And right now, while we still have most of the gallon jar of Schorr's "New Half Sours" that FG left after the potluck here. Now, to me, that is an oxymoron: NEW pickles are just that: still bright green, very crisp, and not very pickled yet. HALF SOURS are already on their way, pretty well-pickled but not totally sour, still with bite but already somewhat soft.

In any case, these are pretty damn good, with knock (pronounced "k-nok") and decent flavor even if they need more garlic.

MASS MARKET "KOSHER DILL" :angry::angry::angry::angry:

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It's the snappy texture that really distinguishes this kind of pickle from the flaccid "canned" specimens in the supermarket.

It really helps to start with ultra fresh cukes, and get them on ice as soon as you get them in from the garden or home from the farmer's market. If the cuke is flacid, the pickle will be flacid.

It would follow that a refrigertor pickle; one that hasn't been subjected to a boil in a jar to seal would be crisper. I wonder what effect vinegar has on the texture of the pickle?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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