I have been thinking about pickles a lot lately, since the growing season has begun. So, I am trying to deconstruct the flavors of pickles (of all kinds, not just cucumber. Kraut, kimchi, chutneys, etc are all included).

I propose there are three flavor components in each pickle, which I call Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary (wow, inventive!). My goal is to break down flavor profiles and ratios to invent new kinds of pickles :smile:






Sharp (mustard, wasabi, horseradish)

Who has more? Cause when they are cataloged we can do things like: 60% acid, 30% herbaceous, 10% spicy. Then assign ingredients, such as citric acid, rosemary and thyme, and a Serrano pepper to add to radishes.

One important note
I am not advocating that these are recipes. Pickling spices will still probably need to be used in almost all of them.

This is rather a brainstorm of the most dominate flavors in a pickle to be used as a starting point to devise recipes.


Here is an interesting page.


@xeni !!!


So let’s start simple. What makes a good dill pickle… Good? I think there are three styles.

Style one, the Sharp ‘Cool’ Dill
This is what I think of when I taste a store bought dill. Tons of acidity, a lot of bite, some herbaceousness, perhaps some heat or perhaps not.

Style two, the Salty, Briney Dill
Naturally fermented pickles in a manner similar to traditional kraut. A touch of mouth feel from lactic acid, a strong salt presence, vegetal and herbaceous.

Style three, the Umami, ‘Warm’ Dill
Sweeter than the others, but with a more aggressive mouth feel from different kinds of acids (think rice vinegar or malt vinegar), very light on the vegetal flavors, a tad salty, and the dill plays a supporting but not dominate roles.

So, next post, how do we improve their flavor?

Style one, Sharp and Cool
I am going to list flavors in primary/secondary/tertiary form. And ratios should be assumed to be in descending order.

White vinegar, cut with 50% water to adjust pH

Herbaceous, dill flowers
Citrus, lemon zest

Tertiary: (very small amounts)
Aromatic, mint
Aromatic, tarragon

Style 2, Salty, Briney Dill

These contain amounts of both acetic and lactic acid due to natural fermentation. This gives them a rounder acid profile, and usually taste more like the vegetable itself than other pickles.

5% salt brine, natural fermentation. Acetic and lactic acids.

Vegetal: use the best tasting produce possible, it will be the second strongest flavor
Herbaceous: dill flowers

Bitter: cucumber skin
Tannic, wood: add toasted oak chips to the fermenter

Style 3, Umami Warm Dill

Unlike style 1 what this is trying to achieve is a slightly sweet, Umami, rounded sour dill. The sweet and Umami can’t overpower the dill, but they should be solid supporting actors.

Acid: 30% white vinegar, 30% rice wine vinegar, 40% water

Herbaceous: dill
Sweet: rice wine vinegar

Umami: mushroom infused salt
Umami: kombu

(More to come, and as a warning these ‘recipes’ are thought experiments at this time. I am pulling them directly from muh keister)

I don’t want any keister pickles, thanks.


Aren’t fermented foods supposed to be left to brew in a COOL dark place?

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Sweet Pickles

These present a problem, even though I love them. And again, while we will branch out into other vegetables soon let’s stick with cucumbers for the time being.

There are two flavors that dominate sweet cucumbers, acid and sugar. But there is one interloper that is naturally there in the skin and seeds–bitterness. Vegetal, herbaceous, floral all go fine with bitterness, but sweet does not.

So are the options.

Japanese style pickles
These have skin and seed removed, then sliced into half circles. They are then seasoned with rice wine vinegar

Young cucumbers
Gerkins arguabley make the best sweet. While the ratio of flesh to skin is still not ideal, they haven’t had a chance to become very bitter yet. They should be about an inch long if you want the whole. Larger cukes may be sliced.

Larger Cukes, Leaching/blanching
This can be used for all cucumbers, but is essential for large ones. For large cukes use a peeler to remove strips of skin, pierce with a fork, then let soak in a salt vinegar brine for several hours. Discard the brine and proceed as normal. If they are hollow, they won’t make a good pickle.

So how do we improve their flavor?

Yikes, this is good stuff. You have me reminiscing about the best damn pickles I ever had some years ago, recipe long since forgotten. Friend of a friend of a friend gave me some and I can only remember some of the ingredients, perhaps the missing ingredients will make sense in the light of your categorisations?

Whole baby cucumbers/gherkins, strong, complex acidity (rice wine vinegar? but also something really sharp) chillies (not too hot but had a scotch bonnet or two in there, birds eyes maybe) mallow and either cardamom pods or capers or maybe both. Garlic. Something stalky and stringy. There was floating particulate in the jar as well, maybe cumin or something?

Anyway, I very rarely pickle anything other than the occasional batch of eggs but this is inspiring!

I love pickled eggs, and I will get around to them. I have… Ideas :smile:

(Anise and tarragon eggs, pickled eggs in beef broth, horseradish and wasabi pickled eggs, etc.)

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Would the use of bile be a totally idiotic suggestion?

This must happen.

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Interesting idea… It is really bitter and in small quantities might go well with savory pickles. I’m thinking eggs, pigs feet, that sort of thing.

A jar of pickled pigs feet might be one of the most interesting objects a kitchen could ever contain! :smile:

Plus, they would be green!!

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Bile pickle some of these with ginger and horseradish and the world will never be the same


Japanese Style Sweet Pickle

The wonderful thing about these dudes is they are so quick and easy. They can be serves in an hour. The basic process is to peel a medium size cuke, cut in half length wise, remove the seeds, then cut into C shaped slices. Combine with salt, sugar, rice wine vinegar, and perhaps some julienned onions and marinate for 1-6 hours. Done, and served.

But they can become insipid since they tend to taste like… Vinegar, sugar, and salt. So what do we do, without sacrificing the pale green color of the pickle?

Rice wine vinegar

Sweet: caster sugar
Citrus: lime zest, very very fine (or lime oil)

Sharp: wasabi
Aromatic: grated lemon grass
Aromatic: kaffir leaves added to the brine, but removed before serving

Young Sweet Pickles

Gherkins and cornichons are prone to shriveling, so follow a good recipe. This only discusses the flavor profiles.

Most store bought sweet gherkins taste like candy. They lack depth beyond the initial, “oh boy that is sweet” phase. So how do we make them more interesting?

Since these are largely candied, I will put on my confectioners hat.

50/50 mix of white distilled vinegar and fresh pressed granny smith/crab apple juice.
A touch of citric acid concentrate.

Sweet: caster sugar

Spicy: ginger root
Astringency: a few tablespoons of an oaked chardonnay