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, let it sit at room temperature for an hour, and then 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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49 thoughts on “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. 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.

    1. 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?

      1. 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!!

        1. Maureen,
          A nine years belated “thank you!” for spending Labor Day 2011 pickling. You’ve encouraged me and I’m going to try pickling various things from our Wisconsin garden.

  3. 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. 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. 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. Pingback: New New Pickles
  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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.

  12. 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?

  13. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. I realize this is an older post, but in case you are still looking, the Bernardin mixed pickling spice doesn’t contain cinnamon. Ingredients: mustard seed, black peppercorns, dill seed, cardamom, cassia, ginger, coriander, allspice, chilli pepper, cloves, bay leaves.

  14. Bob, I agree about cinnamon; it’s best for sweet pickles. I rarely use premixed spices. In my cucumber crocks I usually use only dill, garlic, peppers, coriander, allspice, and black pepper.

    1. Brian, you can use whatever spices you prefer, but I suggest 1 1/2 teaspoons each dill and coriander seeds plus a heaping half-teaspoon each black peppercorns and whole allspice.

  15. I understand that they do not make their pickles. They buy them from a distributor, and I am in pursuit of that now, as I can’t get them to taste exactly like Greggs.

    1. Nancy, do you mean that the people at Gregg’s don’t make their pickles? My son told me that the non-pickles served at his college came from Sysco. Could Gregg’s possibly be serving Sysco pickles?

  16. Linda – thank you for this recipe! I love new dills and haven’t been able to get them in years. I have a batch in the fridge now, I’ll let you know how it goes :)

  17. They served new pickles at the diners (Greek) all over Long Island. They’d give you a big bowl of them mixed with half sours before you got your order. Sadly, most of those diners are not run by the Greeks any longer & the quality has gone downhill & many other places closed.

    The supermarkets had Ba-Tampte (Jewish) brand in the refrigerated section, but not the new pickles, only half sour or garlic dill. If you get the half sours right away they are pretty good, bu once they sour, I don’t like them. They are still located in Brooklyn so they get to Long Island quickly.

      1. No, I think the pickles were a Jewish product for their Jewish delis – they made a great Jewish rye bread & are known for their Reuben sandwiches.

        The Greek diners have such a broad menu that I’d imagine much of it was purchased & the Greek items were made by them – gyro, souvlaki & baklava (yummy).

        Immigrants went to NYC first, set up shop & everyone could easily purchase from other immigrants who were the best at their own ethnic food.

        Some moved out to the island for the suburbs & started businesses there & then their kids continued the business. So we really had the best food made by those with decades of experience.

  18. I’ve made this recipe before and loved it, but they fermented in the fridge this time around. Any idea why that could have happened? I made several jars and really don’t like the sour taste :(

  19. A friend of mine who grew up Jewish in Los Angeles–another city that had Jewish delis–calls new pickles “green pickles.” Hers aren’t quite as green as those that my recipe makes; she ferments hers for 3 to 5 days.

  20. Can someone with experience making these speak to storage? I would like to give some as gifts, but how long will they remain safe In the fridge? Can they be stored safely longer than a few weeks? New to pickle making and don’t want to kill anyone! Have lots of cucumbers and would love to make several jars, but will end up with more than we can eat. Thanks!

    1. Trish, I think the only danger is that the pickles will ferment and get sour. Just in case, check for mold before you give away a jar. Tell the recipient to store the jar in the refrigerator.

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