Garlic Half Sour NYC Delicatessen Pickles (Fermented = probiotics!)

For anyone who ever thought making your own pickles sounded way too daunting, this post is for you.

So first and foremost, I am an NYC girl, born and bred. And as such, there is nothing, I mean nothing, like a good, real deal half-sour deli pickle. The real stuff. Not the sweet gross things you buy at the supermarket. Those are soaked in vinegar which completely undoes all the probiotic dreaminess of fermented food (plus I don’t think they taste good anyway). So, I love me some real New York pickles ala Stage, Katz, and Carnegie Deli. Or Fine and Schapiro’s. Or all the other lesser known delis and diners in my city where I no longer live.

So back in the day it was all about the taste, and nothing more. But I have come full circle in my exploration on health through whole foods. I’ve learned, as just about everyone has, that probiotics are good. But why?
They supposedly promote healthy flora and brings balance to the gut, especially for anyone who may be suffering from diseases like celiacs, crohn’s, other autoimmune diseases, and anyone with gastrointestinal distress, as well as simply for overall wellness. A healthy and balanced gut may not be a place where disease can thrive.

Well, I don’t have dairy anymore so what are my options?
Fermented foods. So now I’m thinking kimchi, kombucha, and kefir and these really interesting kinds of foods/drinks that I am excited to start making, but low and behold I come across something so simple: pickles. Pickles are fermented foods if they are not the cheapy fake ones. So all these years, when I would love a good sour or half sour pickle and loathe those fake neon green spears in the store, it was not just a preference for sour over sweet as I had always thought as a kid, it was about a real fermented pickle or not. And so once again, my healthy journey has me reaching back to pull something from the past because…well, I guess there was a reason for it in the past. Everything old becomes new again…

So I decided to start my foray into fermenting foods with a simple childhood favorite. I looked over a few recipes that seemed very complicated – don’t get me wrong, not that I don’t respect the process of artisans who take the craft really seriously – but after reviewing a few of them, once again, I said the hell with it and just did it my way. Read: the least complicated way possible. Or, okay, you can call it the laziest way possible, too. But a great site that gave me a crash course in fermentation is from fellow New Yorker, Sandor Katz.

During this ferment, lactic acid bacteria on the skin of the cucumbers feed on the sugars in the cucumber and multiply. The sea salt acts as a preservative, allowing this good bacteria to thrive. Contrary to popular belief, keeping the cucumber submerged under the brine is what creates the anaerobic environment needed, not a tightly sealed lid. Many strains of this bacteria may populate the product, but I believe in the end, we end up with lactobacillus plantarum.

How to make easy real-deal NYC half-sour pickles!!

*Steralized a spaghetti jar. (Super hot cycle in dishwasher)
*Bought a pack of organic mini cucumbers (no waxed skin)
*Filled the jar about 3/4 of the way with filtered water
*Added 2 1/2 tbspn sea salt and stirred until dissolved
*Added about 5 cloves of organic garlic into the water (peeled and smashed)
*Threw in some whole pepper corns (I remember seeing peppercorns floating in the jars at the deli)
*Packed in the cucumbers whole. Pushed them all the way down, ensuring they were fully submerged in the brine. The last cucumber wasn’t going to fit so I sliced that into quarters (ie, pickle spears) and wedged those in, too.

I put on the lid and screwed it a bit, but not to a complete seal as their would be pressure pushing out and I did not want the jar to explode. Then I put it in the back of the kitchen cabinet where I store pots and pans.

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And after 4 days, I had yummy, garlickly, half-sour pickles chock full of good bacteria. I even saw the brine bubbling when I opened it. It’s alive!!

It had dripped a little in the cabinet so the pressure inside did push out! Definitely don’t seal all the way and maybe put a towel or a dish underneath.

Lastly, I’ve read the grape leaves or even oak leaves can help keep a crunchy pickle due to the tannins. I didn’t have either so did without. They still came out crunchy like a good pickle but maybe the leaves would have kept them crunchy like a cucumber? Not sure. I’ll have to give that a try sometime, but nevertheless, I’ve exactly replicated the good ol’ half-sour NYC deli pickle from my childhood, so my inner child is happy. Plus, I’ve got all that happy bacteria magic doing its thang so the grown-up is happy, too.

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