Cooking

Brine of the Times

Our favorite pickle recipes, from spicy Korean rounds to salty dill spears
Our Favorite Pickle Recipes
Photos: Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table

Pickles make us human. That may sound a little overzealous, but we're not ashamed. We're totally obsessed with all things pickle. And we're not alone: Practically every culture around the world has its very own traditional pickle, rooted in a need for preservation. And though we might have refrigerators now, our love for pickles goes on.

Whether it's ranking our favorite grocery store brands or discovering a newfangled way to use the juice in cocktails, to us, pickles are all about the brine. So we've decided to take you on a trip around the world with four recipes inspired by some of our favorite flavor profiles.

First, the control group: the classic dill pickle (see the recipe), with tips from Jacob Hadjigeorgis, pickle aficionado and owner of Jacob’s Pickles, a pickle-focused comfort food restaurant in NYC.

According to Hadjigeorgis, "balanced flavor" that's "layered and bold" makes the perfect pickle. Here are his key tips for making pickles at home.

① "Taste your brine before pouring over your vegetables." If you love drinking pickle juice as much as we do, you'll love this quality-control checkpoint.

② "Use high-quality ingredients, especially produce. Freshness is a must." Hadjigeorgis uses Kirby cucumbers exclusively, because their thick skin allows them to stay crisp after pickling for the perfect snap.

③ "Drink beer, not wine, while pickling. Kidding, but that was definitely my move. Just have fun as always with cooking. If you enjoyed making pickles the first time, keep exploring and layering flavors."

We took that last piece of advice and landed on the following global recipes. Get out the canning gear, because it's time to brine it on.

Make It Korean

Inspired by the classic banchan, these quick pickles don't require any brine. Instead, salt and sugar pull the moisture out of the cucumbers to pickle them in their own juices. Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) add the heat that makes these pickles go perfectly with Korean BBQ.

1 lb Kirby cucumbers, halved lengthwise and cut into ¼-inch half moons + 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar + 1 tbsp gochugaru + 1 tbsp granulated sugar + 2 tsp kosher salt + 1 tsp sesame oil + 1 garlic clove, smashed

Place all of the ingredients in a sterilized quart jar. Shake to coat evenly. Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, shaking every 30 minutes, until enough liquid releases from the cucumbers to make a brine. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Make It French

Who isn't irkin' for a gherkin? We love French cornichons, so here we've recreated a brine that tastes like the French countryside to eat with our French dips. Less sweet than traditional pickles, the vinegary brine is laced with mustard seeds and herbes de Provence for a true taste of France.

1 lb Kirby cucumbers, quartered + 1 c water + ½ c white wine vinegar + 3 tbsp sugar + 2 tbsp salt + 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds + 2 tsp herbes de Provence + 1 tsp black peppercorns + 2 bay leaves

Place the cucumbers in a sterilized quart jar. In a small saucepan, bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer over high heat. Pour over the cucumbers. Seal closed, let cool completely then refrigerate for 48 hours before enjoying.

Make It Middle Eastern

We don't know about you, but when we go out for falafel or shawarma, our favorite part isn't the main ingredient but the topping bar of pickles for garnishing. These slices are seasoned with ras el hanout, cumin and turmeric for a vibrant pickle we're throwing on pita and everything else.

1 lb Kirby cucumbers, thinly sliced + 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced + 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced + 1 c water + ½ c distilled white vinegar + ½ c granulated sugar + ¼ c kosher salt + 1 tsp ras el hanout + 1 tsp cumin seeds + ½ tsp ground turmeric

Place the cucumbers, garlic and onion in a sterilized quart jar. In a small saucepan, bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer over high heat and pour over the cucumbers. Seal closed, let cool completely then refrigerate for 24 hours before enjoying.

Make It Indian 

Achars are Indian condiments often made from pickled ingredients like  mango or cauliflower. Inspired by these layered relishes, we apply some of our favorite flavors to the ol' Kirby by seasoning the brine with fenugreek seeds and garam masala. We'll be serving these pickles up alongside a jumbo-sized dosa.

1 lb Kirby cucumbers, diced + 1 c water + ½ c distilled white vinegar + ½ c granulated sugar + ¼ c kosher salt + 1 tbsp garam masala + 1 tsp fenugreek seeds + 1 dried red Kashmiri chile

Place the cucumbers in a sterilized quart jar. In a small saucepan, bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer over high heat and pour over the cucumbers. Seal closed, let cool completely then refrigerate for 24 hours before enjoying.

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