Learn about the different types of pickles that vary in different cuisines around the world and discover how they were enjoyed since the earliest times even by Cleopatra herself.
The word “pickle” is derived from the Middle English word “pikel” which means a spicy sauce or gravy served with fowl or meat”. The word is related to “pekel” – a Middle Dutch word, meaning spiced brine used for flavoring and preserving food. Today, pickles are referred to as cucumbers preserved in a mixture of salt, vinegar, and other flavorings.
Pickles have been around for nearly 5,000 years and are enjoyed across all cultures. They are also prized for their historic importance as it is rumored that pickles were one of Cleopatra’s many beauty secrets. On the other hand, Cleopatra’s love interest – Julius Caesar—along with other Roman emperors used to give pickles to their army in hope that the pickled cucumber would make them strong.
During the Age of Exploration, many sailors suffered from diseases that caused a deficiency of Vitamin C in them. Reportedly, Christopher Columbus restocked cucumber pickles in their ships to help them bounce back to wellness and health.
Even today, pickles haven’t lost their importance despite being around for centuries. It is believed that pregnant women crave pickles with ice cream. Did you know that pickles can be savored in different forms? That’s right. There are different types of pickles in the culinary world and this blog post will cover all those varieties in depth.
Table of Contents
1. Dill Pickles
Dill is a popular variety of cucumber pickles that come into two main types; each of these varieties is discussed in detail below:
Genuine Dill Pickle
Source: Mt. Olive Pickles
When you think or talk about pickles, the first thing that probably pops up into your mind is the dill variety, the most common one being genuine dill pickles. These pickles are whole cucumbers that are entirely packed with real dill seeds. They come in sour flavor with iconic packing – pickles available in vertical slices with the Vlasic seal around it.
They are prepared from a traditional pickling method which is also the simplest one – pickles are covered in flavored vinegar and then stored on a shelf at room temperature. Most people prefer to snack on genuine dill pickles directly from the jar as the flavor is classical. But they can also be added to your juicy burger, hot dog, or can be savored simply as a tasty dip.
Kosher Dill Pickles
Source: Mt. Olive Pickles
Kosher dills have an interesting history. Claudia Roden, in her book, “The Book of Jewish Food”, explains that kosher dills are a staple food for Jews in Poland, Russia, and Ukraine. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, eastern European Jews introduced kosher dill pickles in New York.
Cucumbers were washed and then mixed with dill, spices, garlic, and kosher salt. Then they were left for fermentation that gave the pickles a sour taste. They were sold in pushcarts like hotcakes! In New York, kosher dills can be of two types: full-sour kosher dill and half-sour kosher dill. Full-sour kosher dill is fully fermented and is usually in long spears. It is usually served with a simple club sandwich. On the other hand, half-sour kosher dills are not fully fermented and hence are bright green in color and super crisp in flavor.
Kosher pickles are best served alone to make the most of their salty and crispy flavor. However, at times, they are eaten alongside coleslaw or sandwiches. To enjoy authentic kosher dill pickles, you can follow easy pickle recipes online.
Overnight Dill Pickles
Also known as cukes, overnight dill pickles are covered with vinegar and then kept in brine for a short period of time (one or two days at max.). As the name suggests, this dill pickle needs to be stored for “overnight” to enjoy its really tasty flavor.
Ideally, overnight dill pickles must be stored in a refrigerator for twenty-four or thirty-six hours. They are the type of pickle that is easily found at a deli.
Polish and German Pickles
This type of pickle was introduced in the northern parts of central and Eastern Europe. Owing to its distinct flavor, the pickle is exported worldwide and is an essential cuisine of many cultures such as the United States and France.
Polish and German-style pickle is preserved in wood barrels; however, some of them are sold in glass jars as well. There are two types of pickles popular in Poland and Germany – ogorek malosolny (low-salt cucumber) and ogorek konserwowy (preserved cucumber). The former falls between the half-sour and full-sour pickle while the latter is a sweet and tangy type.
2. Sweet Pickles
As the name implies, sweet pickles boast wonderfully sweet and tasty flavor. Just like other pickles, this pickle type is first marinated with vinegar. In order to add a sweet touch to them, the pickles are mixed in with sugar and other spices like onion, cinnamon, and mustard seed.
Sweet pickles tend to come in the following variations:
Bread and Butter Pickles
Invented by two Illinois farmers – Omar and Cora Fanning, bread and butter pickles are easy to prepare and are a real treat for your taste buds. Cucumbers are first mixed in with ingredients like sugar, salt, white vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and coriander seeds. Then sliced sweet onions are added in the mix to make the pickles sweet and crisp.
What distinguishes these preserved cucumbers from the rest is that they have the perfect combination of salt and sweet in them. They taste great on burgers and sandwiches and can be a perfect sweet-and-sour dip for fried items like spring rolls or fries.
People with a sweet tooth love candied pickles as they are covered with rich and thick layers of sweetened liquid. To make this type of pickle is an easy task as it hardly takes 10 minutes to prepare. All you need to do is cut pickles in thin slices and coat them with cider vinegar and sugar along with mixed pickling spices.
However, the content of sugar is greater than any other ingredient to intensify the sweetness level. Pour into a jar and seal properly. Store it in the refrigerator and flip the jar’s content daily for at least 1 week.
Other types of sweet pickles include sweet/hot pickles and no-salt pickles.
3. Gherkin Pickles
Gherkin pickles are a unique variety of pickles that are eaten both raw and cooked. Native to North America, gherkins are smaller as compared to cucumber pickles. Also known as bur gherkin or West Indian gherkin, gherkin is a part of the gourd family – Cucurbitaceae and is grown for its edible fruit. While these pickles come in a small size, it should be noted that not all small-sized pickles are a gherkin. They may belong to the same gourd family but are from different cultivar families altogether.
Sometimes, they are mistaken for the Mexican sour gherkin (also known as mouse melon). But the truth is, it is not a true gherkin. The vine is grown for its not-so-sweet fruits that apparently resemble watermelons. Gherkins are usually considered as condiment vegetables and are best added to sauces for their strong, impactful flavor. They are also used with mayonnaise or tart is sauce for an impactful taste.
To prepare gherkins, you will need fresh gherkin pickles, sugar, pickle spices, salt, and vinegar. First of all, rub the gherkins with a hard piece of cloth. Prepare the salt mixture and marinate the gherkins with it. Let them soak for 24 hours. Now boil the sugar, vinegar, and spices together. Rinse the salt-covered gherkins with water and pour them in the jars. Let it stand for five minutes. Add in the vinegar mixture and seal the jars. Store the jars for at least a month before using it.
To identify cornichons, you must know that they are about an inch and a half long – about the length of your pinky finger. They are quite flavorsome and crunchy.
They go by the name “gherkin” in the United States while in other countries like France, they are known by their rightful name “cornichons”. It should be observed that cornichons are one of the several types of gherkin plants and are picked when they are not mature enough. They are best eaten when they are young with eggs and sandwiches. While they are similar to cucumbers, cornichons aren’t truly cucumbers. It is also difficult to find this variety of pickles in the United States.
If you are interested to grow this type of pickle, you can consider getting varieties like Fin de Meaux, Parigno Cornichon pickling cucumbers, or Parisienne Cornichon de Bourbonne Cucumbers. Note that these varieties of cornichons are available only in France.
4. Cinnamon Pickles
Popularly known as an ideal Christmas treat, cinnamon pickles are a sheer delight to taste buds. Unique for their bright red hue, these pickles are intense and vibrant in appearance. This variety of pickle is formed after a several-day process which means that the pickles take time to come into its final hot red form. Color and texture-wise, these pickles are similar to red cinnamon apple rings.
The preparation of cinnamon pickles is also quite unique from other pickles as for this pickle you will need to create delicious candy syrup. The pickles are covered in oodles of this tasty syrup before serving them. This enticing syrup is usually prepared by mixing red hot candies, vinegar, water, sugar, sticks of cinnamon, and red food color altogether.
Then it is boiled on medium heat until red candies are dissolved. Once the candies are melted into the syrup, pour the piping hot syrup over your pickles. Cover it with a jar lid and let it rest for a day or two. Over time, the syrup will settle itself onto the pickles and you can move to the next step.
5. Lime Pickle
Surprisingly, in lime pickles, there are no pickles involved; in fact, what is pickled is the lime itself. Prepared from limes mainly, pickles are a popular Indian preserve known as “limbu ka achaar”. Since limes are tangy in flavor, the overall taste of the lime pickle is quite strong yet flavorful.
Owing to its sharp flavor, not everyone develops the liking for lime pickles instantly. It is easy to prepare preserve that involves the pickling of limes and flavoring them. To prepare lime pickles, you will need salt, chili powder, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, turmeric powder, and limes, of course.
First of all, add limes in a jar and mix in white and black salt thoroughly. Now tightly cover the jar with a lid for two weeks. By that time, the limes will turn a light brown shade. Add in the mustard powder, fennel, chili, and turmeric powder.
Make sure to mix them together thoroughly. Heat the mustard oil in a pan and add in the mustard seeds. Turn off the fire and pour the hot oil over the limes. Mix well. Let the pickle rest for a week before serving it.
Lime pickle goes well with a wide range of dishes including plain rice, an Indian flatbread, and parathas. Lime pickles complement well with less flavorful dishes as they help elevate the overall flavor of the food.
6. Hungarian Pickles
Pickles are such an essential part of Hungarian cuisines that their pickles have got their own distinct name “Hungarian Pickles”. Did you know that pickles are considered to be the second side dish in Hungary? The world-wide famous Hungarian pickles are found at several vendors in Budapest Market Halls – a great market hall in Hungary. People in Hungary have this tasty pickle side for dishes like Nokedli and Porkolt. Typically, it is served with savory and spicy dishes or fried/baked sausages.
In Hungary, vinegar-pickled cucumbers are eaten most part of the year; however, during summers, people have leavened pickles (kovaszos uborka) which are made without vinegar. To prepare this kind of pickle, cucumbers are placed in a jar with spices like garlic or dill. Salt and water are added into the mix. A few slices of bread are placed at the top and bottom of the mixture. The jar is covered by a lid and is left out in the open for a couple of days. The bread produces yeast and elevates the fermentation process.
Hungarians also like pickled cabbage which is made from the mixture of vinegar and spices (salt, pepper, cinnamon, etc) and added into wood barrels. Also known as sauerkraut, this type of pickle serves as a great side dish. Generally, it is served alongside cabbage casserole or cabbage rolls with the rice and ground meat.
The sour taste of the pickle balances well with the smoked meat and other content. This traditional meal is made via lactic fermentation and the reason why it is an essential dish in Hungary is that it is super healthy. It is widely believed that sauerkraut supports gut bacteria, protecting against a wide range of illnesses.
With so many different types of pickles that are packed with unique flavors and ingredients, it is not at all surprising that pickled cucumbers are greatly enjoyed all over the world.