East Coast New Pickles

My son was bewildered by the cucumber “pickles” he was served all through his freshman year at his small college on Long Island, New York. “They aren’t sour at all,” he complained last summer. “There’s no taste of fermentation, no vinegar. I think they’re just cucumbers in salt water!”

I was puzzled, too. New Yorkers I know love to brag about their city’s traditional fermented pickles. How could a Long Island college serve unfermented cucumbers in salt water and call them pickles?

I forgot about this discussion until a few weeks later, when I got an email message from a woman named Sheila. Sheila told me about a small restaurant chain in Rhode Island, named Gregg’s, that for twenty years has served something “that’s not quite a pickle”—a cucumber that’s salty and dilly but not noticeably tart. Sheila’s husband wanted her to make some of these near-pickles, so in The Providence Journal she found a recipe, submitted by a reader, for “Taste Like Gregg’s Pickles.”

The recipe starts out like one for a small batch of traditionally brined pickles: You combine cucumbers, salt, spices, garlic, and water in a two-quart jar. But then you leave the jar out at room temperature for only an hour before refrigerating it for a week. At the end of the week the cucumbers aren’t fermented, but they’re ready to eat.

Ready to eat?  Could they be pickled at all, after just a week in the fridge?

Gregg’s wouldn’t talk about its recipe, so I consulted Mike, the sales guy at Pickle Guys, a business started by former employees of the famous Guss’ Pickles when, in 2002, Guss’ left its old site on Essex Street, on the once mostly Jewish Lower East Side of Manhattan. Pickle Guys—which makes truly kosher pickles, under the supervision of a rabbi—sells a product like Gregg’s, Mike said, as “new pickles.” Mike explained that new pickles “are pretty much the least pickled, more like a salty cucumber, pickled anywhere from one to ten days. After that they will become a half-sour pickle.” Pickle Guys sells a lot of new pickles, some of them heavily seasoned with chile.

I’d already started my own batch of new pickles, adapted from the “Taste Like Gregg’s” recipe. Here is my version of—

East Coast “New Pickles”

 2 quarts 3- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers, blossom ends trimmed
8 garlic cloves
1½ tablespoon mixed pickling spices
¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
2 tablespoons pickling salt
4 cups water

Pack a two-quart jar tightly with the cucumbers, interspersing among them the garlic, spices, and pepper flakes. Stir the salt into the water until the water clears. Cover the cucumbers with the brine. Tightly cap the jar, and store it in the refrigerator for at least a day and preferably a week.

After their first few days in the refrigerator, my son and I started tasting the new pickles. I found I actually liked these garlicky, salty, dilly cukes, despite their lack of acidity. My son liked them, too, much more than the ones he’d been served at college. They were a refreshing change from either fermented or vinegar dills. Over time they got stronger in flavor, but even after two months in the refrigerator the cucumbers showed no signs of fermentation—no graying of the skins, no bubbling or clouding of the brine. They neither soured nor spoiled before we ate them all.

While gardeners throughout the rest of the country drown in cucumbers, I wait for the first of mine to grow past cornichon stage. Never before this weirdly cool summer have I felt such a hunger for cucumbers. In a week or so, when I start bringing in cukes by the armload, I think I’ll make some new pickles. I doubt they’ll get as old as a week before we devour them all.

 

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About Linda Ziedrich

I grow, cook, preserve, and write about food in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
This entry was posted in Fermented foods, Pickles, Vegetables and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to East Coast New Pickles

  1. Just picked a small load of cucumbers and will try this recipe. I have the full sour crock pickles and the half sours already in the process. All from you fabulous book I might add.

    Thanks for this.

  2. Maureen says:

    Linda, do you think this would work with other veggies? I have never liked the acidity and sourness of vinegar pickles, but I love salt! I would love to be able to preserve green beans, beets, carrots and red bells like this.

    • That’s a good question, Maureen. I think I might like bell peppers and carrots prepared this way, but beans and beets might taste too raw. Why don’t you do some experimenting and let us all know the results?

      • Maureen says:

        This is why they made Labor Day weekend! I will let you all know what I come up with…

      • Maureen says:

        I tried carrots, green beans, beets, radishes and jalapeno peppers, in addition to the cucumbers. I blanched the beets and the green beans first, but left everything else raw. I haven’t found a good way to use the peppers yet, but I have tried all of the other pickles. I love them! They are salty and spicy and garlicy! I have found pickles that I can eat :) I will be putting these on sandwiches and relish trays for the rest of my life. THANK YOU!!

  3. Krista says:

    As a Rhode Islander, I am quite familiar with these pickles. I sort of consider them their own entity; kind of like pickled eggs are no longer eggs…

  4. Eugenia says:

    I make these (or a version of them) all summer long, but I keep them about a day on the counter, just until fermentation bubbles start to rise in the jar. They’re still not quite NY new pickles. I suspect they throw in a bit of sour brine to hasten just a bit of fermentation, but of course, no one’s talking.

  5. Marty says:

    Thanks for posting this recipe Linda! I love the New Dills, but did not know how to make them. I’ve got a gallon started right now!

  6. Sheila wrote to tell me that Gregg’s pickles are always sliced about 1/4 inch thick (whether they’re sliced before or after brining I don’t know). Sheila also said that she has never seen or tasted hot pepper in Gregg’s pickles.

  7. Marie says:

    I tried your recipe. Its delicious and my friends from New York agree that they’re great! Thanks.

  8. Pingback: New New Pickles

  9. Ana Lisa H. says:

    Thank you for posting this recipe! As a NY’er living in Texas I can’t find new pickles anywhere and they are the ONLY ones I really like. I even considered mail order pickles but that seemed a bit extreme for a pickle. My local farmer’s market has the Kirby cucumbers out now so I’m going to try this! I’m very very excited that I may be eating my favorite pickles again very soon!
    One question… are you using a two quart jar in this recipe? I’m sorry, first time pickling!

  10. New pickles are my husband’s favorite. I made your recipe a couple of times last summer and have just made another batch today. Thank you!

  11. Beth says:

    I tried this recipe, but it was not nearly as salty as I expect pickles to be. 2T salt for 4 cups of water seems like a small amount. I did use pickling salt. Am I missing something? I only had Pickle Guys pickles once on a trip to NYC, but they were so good. Thanks.

  12. Ebony Kain says:

    Thank you for posting this. I grew up on New Pickles, and after moving across the country I was disappointed to discover that the only pickles you can get over here are pretty much the vinegar kind. There is one small store about an hour away from me that actually sells the fermented pickles, which are better than the vinegar kind, but just aren’t the taste of home. I can’t wait to try your recipe and see how close they are to what I grew up with.

  13. Linda says:

    I’m new at this. Made the pickles, it’s been about 12 days in the fridge and they are starting to bubble….are they still safe to eat? How long can these keep in the fridge. I tasted one and it was still nice and crisp. Used the recipe exactly.

    • Linda, your pickles are starting to ferment. That’s not a safety problem, but if you want non-sour pickles you’ll want to eat them sooner rather than later.

      Fermented pickles keep well in a refrigerator for months.

  14. BobS says:

    The new dills we had at the deli I worked at (like 45 yrs ago) were scrumptious. I do recall that they were maybe 2/3 the size of a regular dill pickle and had a characteristic bright deep green-off white speckled color and were crunchy. I have never seen new dills that look taste or crunch like that since, until I ran across “Pickle Guys” site which has a picture that looks like the ones I knew. Is that what this recipe will produce? Any particular type of pickle preferred?

  15. BobS says:

    Excellent – Too Much Cinnamon – Persian Cucumbers Work Fine.

    Tried this recipe, in December, using Persian cucumbers (which are widely available lately at a number of stores – Trader Joe had nice ones). They are slender and generally 5 to 6 inches long. Followed the recipe and 10 to 14 days out they were just right – bordering on awesome!. Very crisp through and through. It took at least a week for the garlicky flavor to get into the pickles. My one criticism is that McCormick pickling spices have, as the first ingredient, cinnamon. which is too powerful; it doesn’t belong here (perhaps just a tad might be alright, but you shouldn’t actually taste it.). Otherwise they tasted very good. I halved the garlic cloves, and added some dill seed. I might invert a head of dill and set the cukes on top of it in my next batch just to get them a bit more dilly. But how can I get rid of this too much cinnamon thing? Anybody use some other brand?

    • BobS says:

      BTW, I meant that I cut the (large elephant sized) garlic cloves in half. Worked fine (I like my dills on the garlicky side. This was not overpowering at all.

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