What is a Pickled Cucumber?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 26 February 2020
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A pickled cucumber, often just called a "pickle" in the United States, Canada, and Australia, is a cucumber preserved by anaerobic fermentation in salty water called brine, or by marinating in vinegar. The brining process converts sugars into lactic acid, providing a sour taste. Pickled cucumbers have a much longer shelf life than fresh cucumbers. There are many different varieties of pickled cucumber.

Pickling spices are added to the brine or vinegar in which pickled cucumbers are marinated in order to add flavor. Sugar may be added as well to make a sweet pickle. Bread-and-butter pickles include more sugar in the brine than other varieties, and the cucumbers used to make them are often sliced before the pickling process. Bread-and-butter pickles are often eaten on sandwiches or hamburgers.


Polish style pickled cucumbers are made without vinegar, and rely solely on fermentation for the preservation and sour flavor of the pickle. The naturally occurring Lactobacillus bacteria on the skin of a freshly picked cucumber is essential to the process, and must be artificially added if freshly harvested cucumbers are not used. Polish pickles are made in a glass, ceramic, or wooden vessel, and a selection of natural spices are added to the brine, such as whole dill, garlic, mustard seeds, horseradish, bay leaves, and dried allspice berries. The water used in the brine is first sterilized by boiling. The container is sealed with cloth, and stones may be used to keep the cucumbers submerged.

Because of the lack of vinegar in Polish pickles, a film of bacteria forms on the top of the brine and is removed before serving the pickles. The lack of vinegar also results in Polish pickles having a shorter shelf life than other varieties. Polish pickled cucumbers are available in half sour and full sour varieties. The more salt in the brine, the more sour the final product will be.

Kosher dill pickles, another sour pickled cucumber variety, are not necessarily strictly kosher, or prepared according to Jewish dietary laws, but are made in the traditional manner of the Jewish community in New York City. This type of pickled cucumber features a lot of garlic in the brine. This type of pickled cucumber is traditionally served in New York delis. Lime pickles are soaked in lime instead of brine for 24 hours, giving them a crisper texture. The lime is rinsed off, and vinegar, sugar, and pickling spices are added to the pickled cucumbers.


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Post 6

Are cornichons considered sweet or dill? They smell sweet but taste sour or dill?

Post 4

@burcidi-- Pickling lime is added to the brine to keep pickles crisp. It's also called calcium hydroxide or hydrated lime. You can add a half cup to a quart of brine while making pickles.

You might want to be careful about where you get your pickling lime though. I've heard that some brands are impure and are dangerous to consume. If you decide to use it, go with a trustworthy product.

I don't usually have trouble with my pickles as long as the cucumbers are fresh. But if my cucumbers are not fresh, I do add some pickling lime to the brine. It's also very good when making pickled green tomatoes, it keeps them hard and crisp.

Post 3

My aunt said that ever since she started using pickling lime in her pickles, they've been coming out great.

What's pickling lime and how do I use it?

Post 2

@anon334352-- I'm sure that someone else can explain this better, but it's just the vinegar and salt acting on the cucumbers.

As far as I know, salt pulls out some of the water from the cucumbers which is why cucumbers become smaller when they are pickled. And the vinegar preserves the cucumbers. I guess it protects the cells that make up the cucumber from breaking down. That's why pickles are softer than cucumbers but they're not mushy.

I personally think that the whole brining process is very cool. We use a vegetable that loses nutrients, shape and texture very quickly and turn it into something that's durable and tasty. I love cucumber dill pickles. I could eat them everyday.

Post 1

Why is it different from normal fresh cucumbers? Like in its texture?

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