There was a reason he was referred to as “the uncle” among our group of friends. While part of the designation was thanks to his Selleck-like facial hair in his early teens he was an uncle for his random spitting of useless facts.
“You know most of the world’s diner pickles go uneaten,” he opined, a sliced dill wobbling to break loose of his meaty digits.”Except when this guy is around.”
He was wrong about his facts—usually coleslaw goes wasted—but right that I’d eat just about any pickle put on my plate.
Jewish delis in New York City were the pioneers in plopping pickles alongside sandwiches, believing the acidity allowed eaters to fully appreciate the taste of the usually salty sandwich.
Pickles have long been a favorite of mine, not just with sandwiches and on burgers, but for side snacking during refrigerator raids. With years of dills on my resume, I thought a quick list of the best pickles you can find at the grocery store was in order. But before snapping into the list, a quick overview of the pickle and the process.
Types of Pickles
Most pickles are produced by one of three methods: refrigerated, fresh-pack or processed (this process is also referred to as “cured” or “fermented”). Each create distinct flavors and textures in pickles. It’s during this production that different flavors are achieved—usually by adding assorted herbs, spices and seasonings right into the pickle liquid—then the product is packed whole or cut into halves, spears, chips and other sizes.
Dill is the most popular variety of pickle. Herb dill or dill oil is added to the soaking liquid to impart a distinctive and refreshing flavor. There are many types of dill pickles but the three most popular are genuine, kosher and overnight.
Fresh cucumbers are placed into a seasoned brine to make sour or half sour pickles, and the brine doesn’t include vinegar. The containers are stored in refrigeration until shipped. The longer they remain in the brine, the more intensely sour the the cucumbers become. Half-sour pickles are usually crisper than their full sour brothers and retain their green cucumber color.
Sweet pickles are packed in a sweet mixture of vinegar, sugar and spices and come in variations like bread and butter, hot and sweet and candied.
Here are the best grocery store choices sitting in the pickle aisle:
Vlasic Kosher Dill Spears
Vlasic has been pickling since 1942. They’re the Yankees of cucumber doctoring as they’ve been there since almost the beginning.
These kosher dill spears are the legit, real deal, everyone recognizes them pickles. The pickles that come on the side with a sandwich at the deli and get set out on the table of a family barbecue. Each pickle holds in the juice while still maintaining that snap that comes with a good pickle.
Krakus Cucumbers In Brine
These cucumbers in brine are the “almost pickle,” removed from the process before becoming full-on dill. These are great with sweeter sandwiches (anything with a caramelized onion or anything with a heavy balsamic dressing).
Farmer’s Garden Zesty Garlic Chips
A real highpoint to these chips is their thicker cut. Most pickle chips are cut to the size of a poker chip or slightly thicker. These Zesty Garlic Chips are double in size, soak in more flavor during the pickling, and really stand out in a sandwich. These are amazing on burgers or pulled pork sandwiches.
B&G Deluxe Kosher
These pickles have it all—the snap, the taste, the reminder that pickles are a damn fine addition to any plate. Also great for late night fridge raids when you just need something but don’t want anything too heavy.
Mt. Olive Bread & Butter Chips
I’m a big fan of the bread & butter variety but too many brands go way to heavy on the b & b and slightly overpower the pickle. These Mt. Olive Bread & Butter Chips are just the right ratio, and they taste otherworldly on a tuna sandwich or a Reuben.
Mt. Olive Sweet Petite
These are the perfect salad pickle—just the right size and flavor to add into a boring garden salad or chop up into a tuna salad. The smaller size brings double the snap and crunch than their larger spear brethren.
Famous Dave’s Signature Spicy Pickle Spears
Famous Dave’s Signature Spicy Pickle Spears offer just the right amount of pickle to heat. The spice doesn’t kick in until around the fourth bite. Perfect for BBQ sandwiches or along with meats off the grill.
Best Maid Bloody Mary Pickles
These pickles get the biggest reaction from people. I let out a mumbled “what?” when I spotted them on the shelf. No one who tasted them was disappointed and I’ve found myself snacking on them almost daily. An awesome addition to any brunch menu unless you like your Bloody Mary’s the old fashioned way—in a glass.