Small Batch: Half Sour Pickles / by Anthony Michael Contrino


Living in NYC has it's pros and cons.  One of the biggest advantages to living here is the New York deli.  Until you go to a "delicatessen" outside of the city, you really can't appreciate just how amazing a pastrami sandwich really is.  One of my favorite places to hit up is actually in New Jersey.  Harold's Deli does everything over the top and larger than life.  Sandwiches and cake slices tower over the table.  The matzo balls are softball-sized and protrude from the broth.  The turkey platter can make your Thanksgiving offering look weak.  You get the picture.  

But, my favorite part is the self-serve pickle bar.  It's straightforward and nothing fancy.  Just some bread (so you can make normal-sized sandwiches from the mountain of meat being served) and some pickled things for topping.  My go-to is the half sour pickle.  Their vibrant green color makes them stand out from the rest of the spread.  Plus, you know, they're tasty AF.

If you're not familiar with this variation, it's because you won't find them in the pickle aisle at the supermarket, but rather the refrigerated section, probably near the cole slaw.  Because they are in a salt brine and not fully "soured" with vinegar, the shelf life is shorter, but they'll last a good couple of weeks in the fridge.  Sometimes I add the slightest bit of sugar for a hint of sweetness, but if you're looking to avoid excess sugar, omit it.

Half Sour Pickles //  Makes 1 Quart Jar

2 cups distilled water, divided, cold

2 tbsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. sugar, optional

4 cloves garlic, with peel, smashed

2 large sprigs fresh dill

3 allspice pods

1/2 tsp. coriander seed

1/4 tsp. black peppercorns

1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds

1 fresh bay leaf

4 thick kirby cucumbers, tips removed, cut into quarters to make spears

  1. Place 1/2 cup of the water in a small saucepan with the salt, and sugar, if using.
  2. Cook over medium heat until the salt and sugar are fully dissolved.
  3. Pour the warm salt water into a pitcher and add the remaining cold water.
  4. Place the garlic, dill, spices and bay leaf in a sanitized quart-sized mason jar.
  5. Add the cucumber spears.
  6. Pour the brine into the mason jar, filling almost to the top, being sure to cover the cucumber completely.  There may be some leftover brine.
  7. Secure the lid onto the mason jar and refrigerate.
  8. The pickles will be ready to eat in as soon as 5 days.   They should be consumed within 2 weeks afterwards.  (The longer they stay in the brine, the more their flavor will intensify.)