Near endless in variety and versatility, pickles can easily be a dish’s tastiest bite. Pickling — the process of brining vegetables in vinegar or a salty solution to ward off bacteria and extend a food’s shelf life — has been prevalent for over 4,000 years; as long ago as 2030 B.C, local cucumbers were brined and consumed in India’s Tigris Valley.
Kosher dills are the forebearers of all the pickle styles North Americans have come to know and love . These so-called “kosher” dills — cucumbers fermented in a distinct salt brine — were brought to New York City in the late 1800s by Eastern European Jews, who’d made pickled vegetables a staple of their culinary culture in a part of the world known for humble, starch-heavy cooking.
Nowadays, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to pickles — from tiny, crunchy gherkins to giant Polish-style dills. In fact, options are so abundant, it’s often hard to navigate the pickle shelf.
Here to help: our favourite pickles — and how we like to use them.
Crunchy, juicy, salty and sour, dills are traditionally made with garlic and herbs (dill included, of course) in a vinegar or salt brine, and can also come spicy or packed with garlic. Koshers — the pickles that acclimatized North American palates to the joys of fermented veggies —are also part of this illustrious category. Dills are great on hamburgers, or on their own accompanying meaty deli sandwiches. Here are a few of our favourites.
Vlasic Original Dill Whole Pickles
The platonic ideal of a simple dill, these Vlasic’s are big, juicy and pack a great crunch. Enjoy them on their own or use the brine to deck out homemade Bloody Caesars.
Bick’s Mini Crunch’ems Garlic Rush Pickles
These tiny brined cukes, made by the biggest name in pickles, pack a garlicky punch and, if the name didn’t give it away, are benchmark crunchy. Chopped into spears, they can do wonders to liven up homemade chicken wraps.
President’s Choice Hot and Zesty Deli-Sliced Dill Pickles
A spicy take on the classic dill, these pickles come pre-sliced and are ideal for sandwiches or wraps. With these slivers, add some crunchy heat to a lamb burger.
Farmer’s Garden Kosher Dill Spears by Vlasic
This artisanal creation from pickle giant Vlasic fills a handsome mason jar with cuke spears, carrots, peppers and garlic. If you’re willing to put forth the effort at home, these are perfect to use for a pub classic: deep-fried pickles.
No Name Polski Ogorki Dill Pickles
Sometimes considered a breed apart from the traditional dill pickle, these Polish-style iterations are sour, sharp and dill-heavy. Chop them up and enjoy with smoked cheese and a dark beer.
Bread and Butter Pickles
Sweet and tangy bread-and-butter pickles are often thought of as inferior to their dill relatives, but the truth is, it all depends on your palate. Brined in a saccharine solution that frequently swaps out white vinegar for cider vinegar, bread-and-butter pickles are great for adding crunchy sweetness to a spicy sausage in a bun. They’re also perfect in a bowl at your next backyard BBQ. Here are a couple we recommend.
Vlasic Bread & Butter Pickle Chips
These crinkle-cut pickle medallions have all the great crunch you’d expect from a Vlasic, as well as a nice, subtle sweetness. They’re great for build-your-own-sandwich picnics.
Bread & Butter Deli-Sliced Pickles
Like all bread-and-butter pickles, these come pre-sliced for maximum flavour and utility. Try a few slices on a homemade beef burger with melted aged cheddar.
So addictive it’s hard not to just eat them on their own, bite-sized, flavour-packed gherkins (also referred to as cornichons) are actually wee, baby cucumbers, they’re the crunchier smaller cousin of the pickle (and only three calories a pop). Here are a few we can’t live without.
Maille Crunchy Gherkins
The quintessential gherkin, these luxe French creations are crunchy, acidic and slightly tart. Enjoy them on a cheese plate, a charcuterie board or chop them up when making steak tartare or sauce gribiche, an herbaceous, egg-based dressing that goes great on grilled asparagus.
Classic Sweet Gherkins
A sweet take on the traditional gherkin, these crunchy versions go great with an appetizer of rich, creamy pâté.
Maille Cornichons with Cayenne Chili Peppers
Maille’s exceptional spicy gherkins add chopped cayenne chili peppers with great results. Slice them lengthwise and add them to a Cubano sandwich for piquant, crunchy goodness.