I would like to find the man (or woman) who invented the so-called half-sour pickle and hurt them. Severely. Maybe jam half-sour pickles up their nose, or something like that.

The problem with "half-sour pickles" is that they're really not pickles at all. It's like you take a cucumber and wave it NEAR a jar of pickle juice, and then toss it on the plate. Tada - half-sour pickles. They don't taste as good as a cucumber, and they definitely don't taste like pickles. More like partially embalmed cucumbers, pickled enough to stay crisp for a few more days than a fresh cucumber, but not enough to taste yummy like a pickle. What, are they LAZY? In too much of a hurry to make the pickle a proper pickle?

Worse, they seem to be a trend. Lots of sandwich shops these days serve half-sours with their sandwiches instead of real, honest-to-goodness, yummy pickles. Argh?!! Can't I just have my damn pickle?

I was recently loaned a book titled "The Joy of Pickling" and I'm in love. So far I've pickled cucumbers 4 different ways and green beans two ways. If you want to pickle something, this is your book. But wait you're thinking... I came here for a recipe, not a book review. Yes, yes, let me get to that.

A few weeks back I had 30 pounds of pickling cucumbers, several heads of garlic and fresh dill from the farm I've been working at this summer. So I perused this veritable pickling bible and decided that the first recipe I used would be the "Half Sour by the quart" recipe.

These pickles are so ridiculously easy to make. Half-sour pickles are quickly fermented in a low salt brine. They are "half-sours" because they are not fully "sour". I know, duh. All pickles are sour, but that sourness frequently comes from vinegar. These do not use vinegar. John Thorne, author of The Dill Crock describes half-sours as "cucumbers still, not pickles-little cucumbers who have died and gone to heaven." I have to agree with him, they are truly delicious and so easy to make.

Let's get down to business shall we?

Use the freshest, firmest cukes you can find. This is important. Your pickles will only be as good as the quality of your ingredients. If you use crappy cukes, you'll end up with crappy pickles. So get them as fresh as you can. You must use canning or pickling salt. Most other salts have anti-caking agents in them that will either discolor or give the pickles an off-flavor. The grape leaves that are listed as optional are highly recommended. The tannic acid in the leaves helps to keep the pickles firm. You want a good pickle, right? Use the grape leaves. The recipe calls for a quart jar, but I use a two quart jar so that I'll have enough headspace, or space from the top of the pickles to the mouth of the jar.


  • Glass quart jar or crock
  • Sealable freezer bag
  • Knife
  • Tongs


  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, chopped coarsely
  • 1 quart 3- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers (about 5-6 cucumbers)
  • 1-2 dill heads
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, sliced in half lengthwise or 1/4 tsp dried chile peppe
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pickling/canning salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 Grape leaves (optional)


  1. Thoroughly, but gently wash the cucumbers. Remove at least 1/16" from the blossom ends. The blossom contains chemicals in it that hasten ripening and if not removed will cause soggy pickles.

  2. Put the peppercorns, coriander, bay, and garlic into a clean quart jar. Pack the jar with the cucumbers, adding the dill head and chile pepper.

  3. Add the salt to the water, and pour the brine over the cucumbers, leaving 1 1/2 inches headspace.

  4. This part is a little bit tricky. The idea is that you want to create a somewhat ghetto airlock. You want the bubbles from fermentation to be able to escape easily, while also removing the air exposure to the brine. So, push the empty freezer bag into the mouth of the jar, and then pour the remaining brine into the bag. Seal the bag. Place the jar on a plate or dish Keep the jar at room temperature, with a dish underneath otherwise the seeping brine might do damage to whatever it's sitting on.

  5. Within 3 days you should see tiny bubbles rising in the jar; this means that fermentation has begun. If scum forms on top of the brine, skim it off daily, and rinse off the brine bag. If so much brine bubbles out that the pickles aren't well covered, add some more brine made in the same proportion of salt to water.

  6. After a week, when the tiny bubbles have stopped rising they will be ready. Skim off any scum at the top of the jar. At this point you can cap the jar and refrigerate them or you can strain them a bit to remove any scum that sunk to the bottom. I like to strain them. I remove the pickles from the jar, pour the pickle brine through a fine mesh strainer, saving the spices and herbs in the strainer. I rinse out the jar, rinse off the herbs and spices and put them back into the jar. Then, I put the pickles back in the jar, dump the clean brine from the freezer bag in and pass the already strained pickled juice through some cheesecloth. Then pour the strained brine back into the jar being careful to leave the last little bit of brine in the bowl. You'll notice that the scummy bit will be more cloudy than the rest of the brine. Put the lid on and store the pickles in the refrigerator. After 3 days in the refrigerator they should be olive-green throughout. They are best eaten within about 3 weeks. Beyond that I can't vouch for quality or taste.

  • Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich
  • Ball Blue Book of Preserving

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