Pickled cucumbers. Whole, sliced, or cut into strips, we can never seem to get tired of this popular snack and side dish. While many fruits and vegetables can be pickled, when we say “pickles”, we refer to pickled cucumbers.
- Amerigo Vespucci earned the title that translates to “Pickle Dealer” because he helped supply Christopher Columbus with much-needed necessities, including pickles.
- In 1809, French chef Nicolas Appert began the practice of pickling cucumbers using bottles, deviating from the earlier practice of using barrels to pickle cucumbers.
- By the 19th century, producers of pickled cucumbers used paraffin wax to seal the jars of pickled cucumber.
- The mason jar – a popular container of choice for pickles – was patented in 1858 by John Mason of Philadelphia, a glass container that could withstand high temperatures during the canning process.
- It was at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair when H.J. Heinz and his pickle pins helped make pickles an in-demand commodity and later, a commercial success. Heinz also played a key role in the creation of the Pure Food and Drug Act which passed on June 23, 1906, and the creation of the Food and Drug Administration.
Pickle Buying Guide
If you are buying pickles, you can find them in the produce section of the supermarket or the aisle with shelves that display canned, pickled, or preserved foods.
Pickles are available in big supermarkets and grocery stores in Texas. H-E-B, an American privately held supermarket chain based in San Antonio, Texas, sells different pickle brands. Walmart stores in Texas, like the one in Bentonville, also offer pickles. If you can’t go to the farmers market or do groceries, you can also order pickled beets online via different e-commerce websites like Amazon.
When buying pickles, we recommend you go local! There are many small, local, artisanal businesses that make small-batch pickles like Marilyn’s Pantry. These businesses use their surplus cucumbers from their farms or backyard gardens.
There are also restaurants in Texas making their pickles and serving these to customers who rave about it and keep coming back for more. The Pickle House, a pickle-themed restaurant in Austin, Texas, is proof of the love affair of many Texans with pickles. If you want to make sure they serve pickles, the name of the restaurant is already a hint. Chicken N Pickle in San Antonio and Grand Prairie; The Green Pickle in Glen Rose; and Stacked Pickle in Houston want to make it obvious you can expect pickles on the menu if you eat here.
When buying a jar of pickles, check the packaging. Make sure there is no damage or anything that suggests the contents inside have been compromised and rendered unsafe to consume. Check if the plastic seal is intact. Inspect the contents inside (jars are usually transparent or see-through, allowing you to see the contents of the jar).
Pickles are available all year long, so there is no need to buy more than what can be consumed until the next grocery day.
Pickle Production & Farming in Texas
Texans love pickles! Cucumber harvest season in Texas happens twice a year – summer harvest and fall harvest. Harvested cucumbers are either sold directly to the market as fresh cucumber or sent to food manufacturing companies for canning. There are also many local small businesses that make pickles.
Here are some recommendations if you are looking for local businesses selling pickles near you:
Such is the passion of Texans for pickles that many took the time to be innovative in their pickle business. For example, T-Rex Pickles in Dallas uses craft beer to make brine for the pickles, while The Purple Pickle Factory in Houston makes eating pickles a unique experience because they make candy-flavored pickles.
If you are looking for local pickle brands, visit your local farmers’ market. There are many vendors here selling pickles, like in Braeswood Farmers Market in Houston and The Local Farmer in Mansfield. Check out local stores too, like Gooding’s Specialty Foods in Katy.
Aside from buying directly from these businesses in their physical or online stores, you can also find pickles in farmers’ markets and similar venues that feature local vendors selling homemade artisanal products.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals
A jar of pickles may contain these additives.
- Sodium benzoate is added to improve the shelf life of the pickles.
- Alum is used to make the texture of the pickles crispy. This food additive is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
- Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are used to help preserve the pickles inside the glass bottle.
- Sodium chloride is used for preservation and to improve the taste of the pickles.
- Citric acid is used to boost the acidity or the sour flavor of the pickles.
Pickles have left a worldwide imprint, from India where historians believe cucumbers originated, all the way to China, Europe, and the Americas.
The people of Mesopotamia living in the area that is now eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and Iraq pickled cucumbers by soaking them in acidic brine, with the goal of preserving the cucumbers. This has been happening around 2400 BC.
India was the source of cucumbers that were pickled by the people living in the Tigris Valley.
European explorer Christopher Columbus brought pickles to America and started a love affair that is going strong until today. In order for Columbus to restock on his supply of pickles, he had cucumbers grown in what is now Haiti.
In what is now Brooklyn in New York, immigrant Dutch farmers started growing cucumbers in 1659, providing the much-needed supply that will start and sustain the pickles industry here.
In the US, Florida is the top producer of all types of fresh cucumber, but Michigan is number one when it comes to producing cucumber varieties ideal for pickling. US-grown cucumbers also come from other parts of the country including California, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. The US also imports cucumbers from countries like Canada, Mexico, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic.
The US is among the top producers of cucumbers in the world, along with China, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Mexico, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Spain, Japan, and Poland.
In the US and Canada, pickled cucumbers are simply referred to as pickles, despite the fact that there are other vegetables and fruits that are pickled. In Britain, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, they don’t call it pickles or pickled cucumbers, but gherkin.
In Hungary, there are two ways Hungarians make pickles – savanyú uborka is made using the regular process that involves the use of vinegar, while kovászos uborka is made without the use of vinegar, just water, salt, dill, garlic, and – believe it or not – bread! The yeast found in bread is important in the fermentation process.
Pickles are sold in glass jars or plastic bottles. Store-bought jars of pickles should have a safety plastic seal. It should be intact. If this is broken or damaged, the product may have been tampered with and the quality and safety have been compromised. Do not buy pickles if the jar has a damaged safety seal, or if there are other signs of damage like cracks on the glass.
An important part of the packaging is the label, which contains important information for the consumers, including the name of the manufacturer, expiration or best-before date, ingredients, nutritional information, storage instruction, etc.
You can eat pickles straight from the jar. Pickles have a sour, vinegary taste with a hint of spices used in pickling the cucumbers. Bread and butter pickles, as well as pickles labeled “sweet”, imparts a sweet flavor because of the use of sugar, differentiating it from sour pickles.
Pickles are eaten as a snack, a side dish, or as a companion food. In southern England, it is common to find people eating fish and chips with gherkins.
If you have a medical or health condition that requires a low sodium diet, be mindful of what pickles you eat and how much you consume daily. It is not uncommon for pickles to have a high sodium content, sometimes higher than the American recommended daily limit of 2400 mg. Make sure to consult with your physician regarding pickles and sodium. If you are simply avoiding high sodium food because that is the healthy way to go about one’s diet, try sweet pickles, which contain significantly less sodium than sour pickles.
While eating pickles is good for you, always remember to eat in moderation. Anything that is excessive is bad, and the same goes with eating pickles. Excessive eating of pickles can cause stomach-related discomfort and problems.
For unopened jars of pickles, it is safe to store them at room temperature. After opening the jar, make sure to keep it refrigerated.
Avoid storing jars of pickles that are past the expiration date. While a jar of pickles stored well is generally still safe to eat a few days or weeks after the indicated “best before” date on the label, a jar of pickles expired for a year or longer may not be safe to eat. So always check the pickles on your pantry, cupboard, or refrigerator and make it a habit to consume the pickles before the “best before” date indicated on the label.
Pickles are ready to eat and require no cooking.
Pickles are great in hotdogs, hamburgers, sliders, grilled cheese, and sandwiches. It goes well with pork chop and other grilled, pan-fried, or roasted meat. Slice pickles into smaller pieces and you can use them as toppings for pizza, or use them as an ingredient when making potato and egg salad, macaroni salad, soups (like rassolnik, a soup that is common in Russia and Ukraine), sloppy joe, or meat roll-ups.
You can try making tuna salad on pickles, pickle sushi, pickle pops, fried pickles, pickle chips, pickles in a blanket (pickles instead of pork), breaded pickle sticks, or bacon pickle fries.
You can use pickles to make your own relish, spread, dipping sauce, or salsa.
Pickles are also used in making cocktail drinks like Bloody Mary.
Jan Davison, in the book entitled Pickles: A Global History, wrote: “In recent times, the health-giving properties of pickles has come to the fore… The dietary benefits of pickles have been known since classical times.”
The benefits of eating pickles have been established many years ago, from the claims that Cleopatra herself included pickles in her diet, to Roman soldiers eating pickles to sustain strength in battle, to seafarers eating pickles to cure or avoid scurvy. Like the Roman soldiers thousands of years ago, US soldiers at the battlefront in World War II were also rationed pickles, meant to help sustain their strength, health, and overall physical condition.
Modern science and medicine have discovered that eating pickles gives the body a dose of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, and potassium. As a result, you will have stronger teeth and bones, improved vision, immunity, and blood clotting performance, healthy nerves, and cells protected from damage. Eating pickles will help lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes, macular degeneration, heart disease, minimize cell damage, and help in weight loss.