Friday, August 10, 2012

Half-Sour Pickles

Half-Sour Pickles

Half-Sour Pickles are an East coast deli item. I grew up in St. Louis and ate lots of pickles in my youth, but I never encountered a half-sour until I moved to the Boston area. They are my favorite pickle now, and are very easy to make. The pickles remain crisp and firm, much like a “raw” cucumber, but they are slightly pickled and pick up the flavors of the dill and garlic in the brine.

The recipe I use comes from the Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash, which is now out of print but is the bible for using vegetables from the garden. Use pickling cukes 3-5 inches long (ideal is about 4 inches) and thoroughly clean them. They can be left whole, or halved or quartered into spears. Prepare enough to fill the crock you have. Remember the crock will have to fit in the refrigerator, so select your crock appropriately. The one shown above is 5 inches in diameter.

In the crock put 1-2 large cloves of garlic, 6-8 sprigs of fresh dill weed, 1 teaspoon of pickling spices, and 1/4 teaspoon of dill seed (or a dill seed head if you have one). If you can’t find fresh dill weed, use 1 teaspoon of dill seed. Make a brine from 1/4 cup of kosher salt, 1/4 cup of white vinegar (I actually use cider vinegar), and 2 1/2 quarts of water. Bring the brine to a boil and boil for a couple of minutes. Pour the hot brine over the cucumbers, adding enough to cover the cucumbers at least one inch. Cover the cucumbers and weight them down to keep them under the brine. Leave the crock on the counter overnight. The next day, cover the crock and place in the refrigerator. Pickles are ready to eat and should be consumed within a couple of weeks, if they last that long. They will continue to pickle slowly in the brine, picking up more garlicky flavor and becoming a little softer.

This is my go-to version of “refrigerator” pickles. What is your favorite pickle recipe?


  1. It really is a partial variation of the refrigerator dills but does a partial ferment (guess that is the "half sour"?) before the refrigeration. I have that victory garden cookbook and use it often.

    1. That's right. They aren't left out long enough to ferment and sour so a small amount of vinegar is added to provide a little sourness. But garlic and dill are the predominant flavors and the pickles remain bright green and crunchy. That jar is now finished and I will be making a second batch today.

  2. I make bread and butter cucumbers every year and I just love them. Mine are spiced with dill, chilli & mustard seeds and I just love the combination. Having said that I haven't tried these, yet...I sowed cucumbers on the weekend and I hope this will be a good year for them.


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