New York Deli-Style Pickles


Tangy and crunchy, these are a cinch to make at home!

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When the cucumber matures to a pickle, the white interior flesh turns a waxy and translucent color as the air is forced from the cells. The half-sours usually look mottled: the translucent flesh of the pickle mixes with the fresh white flesh of the cucumber. Full-sours are fully translucent inside.

Recipe Type: Appetizer
Author: Kirsten Shockey
Serves: 1 gallon


  • 20 pickling-type cucumbers (not waxed)
  • 15 cloves garlic
  • 1–2 dried red chiles
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice, or 1½ teaspoons mustard seed, 1 teaspoon dill seed (or, better, 2 fresh dill seed heads), and 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 gallon Cucumber Brine (¾ cup unrefined sea salt to 1 gallon unchlorinated water)
  • Grape, oak, or horseradish leaves, enough to top the jar or crock (optional)


  1. Scrub the cucumbers in water. Trim off the stems and scrub off the blossom ends, as they contain an enzyme that will soften the pickles.
  2. Lightly mash the garlic cloves with the back of a knife, just enough to break them.
  3. Pack the cucumbers, incorporating the garlic, chiles, bay leaves, and spices as you go, into four wide-mouth quart jars or a 1-gallon jar or crock. Pour in enough brine to cover them. Tuck the grape leaves, if using, or a piece of plastic wrap over the cucumbers. Cover the jar loosely. Store any leftover brine in the fridge (it will keep for a week; discard thereafter and make a new batch, if needed).
  4. Set aside on a baking sheet to ferment, somewhere nearby, out of direct sunlight, and cool, for 3 to 6 days. During the fermentation period, monitor the brine level and top off with reserved brine, if needed, to cover. You may see scum on top; it’s generally harmless, but consult the appendix if you’re at all concerned.
  5. The cucumbers begin a vibrant green — the colors look almost larger than life. As the cukes start to ferment, they turn a drab olive, the result of the acids interacting with chlorophyll. The brine will become cloudy as lactic acid is produced. In 3 to 4 days you’ll have half-sours; in about 6 days you’ll have full-sours. Taste until the pickles are as sour as you’d like them to be.
  6. When the pickles are ready, cover with fresh grape leaves, if you have some, screw on the lids, and store in the refrigerator. These will keep, refrigerated, for 1 year.

Excerpted from Fermented Vegetables, © by Kirsten K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey, used with permission from Storey Publishing.

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