Kosher Dill Pickles

Friday, 27 March 2009 | Tags: , , , ,

Nutritious and easy to transport, pickles make great stand-alone snacks and complement burgers, sandwiches, and salads. Their long shelf life has made them a valuable food commodity for thousands of years. We find out what makes a pucker-perfect kosher dill pickle.

The Basics

  • According to expert pickle-makers, a good pickle makes you pucker.

  • The label “Kosher” is meant to indicate processes that follow Jewish dietary laws. However, many Kosher pickles you find at the grocery store are really just “Kosher-style”, meaning it contains lots of garlic. Look for “certified Kosher” information on the label if you want true Kosher pickles.

  • Most commercial dills start out the same way: the raw cucumber is packed in a brine solution and the shelf-ready varieties are heat-processed, whereas the refrigerated varieties are not.

  • There are three main pickle flavours to choose from:

    • Dill pickles, the most popular, are traditionally flavoured with dill weed, though commercial producers often use dill oil as a shortcut. Varieties include Kosher dill (with lots of garlic) and zesty dill (with hot peppers).

    • Sweet pickles, the second most popular, have more sugar added to the brine. Varieties include bread & butter pickles (fairly soft and mild) and sweet & spicy (with hot peppers).

    • Sour pickles are either fermented longer or have more vinegar in the brine. Varieties include half-sour (only half as tart as full-sour) and sweet and sour (with added sugar).

  • The way pickles are processed affects their flavour and texture.

    • Choose refrigerated pickles if you value crispness and freshness above all else, and go through jars of pickles quickly. They are also virtually preservative- and additive-free. Buy them from the cooler at your local deli or grocery store deli counter.

    • Choose “fresh-pack” pickles if you only eat them occasionally and want crispy but not sour. Buy them in the condiment aisle at the grocery store.

    • If you like a tender, sour pickle, look for “naturally-fermented” pickles at your local deli or specialty shop. They may be difficult to find.

  • Look for top quality ingredients on the label like dill, fresh garlic, dehydrated garlic, and identifiable spices for a livelier, less musty flavour. Processed pickles that use cheaper dill oil use vague terms like “natural flavours” or “spices and seasonings” on the label.

  • Or, turn the jar on its side and look for real herbs and spices floating in the brine:

    • Dill weed has long thin stems with small flowers at the tip.

    • Fresh garlic should be whole or crushed into non-uniform pieces. Perfectly cut cubes of garlic is likely machine-cut dehydrated garlic.

  • The processing of pickles factors into their shelf life:

    • Fermented pickles can be stored for up to two years.

    • Fresh-pack pickles last 18 months

    • Refrigerated pickles last up to 6 months.

    • Check the instructions and best-before dates for individual brands.

  • Remember, refrigerated pickles must always be stored in the fridge, as must other types once they’re opened.

Other Considerations

  • Pickled and fermented foods have probiotic benefits that help to foster the body’s good bacteria and kill off bad bacteria.

  • Pickles are low-calorie and low-fat, but very high in sodium. A baby dill-size pickle contains about 10% of your daily recommended sodium intake.

Be Aware

  • Many pickles contain polysorbate 80, an emulsifying agent derived from animal products. Vegetarian versions do exist, so look for “certified Kosher” on the label, which means no animal products were used. Some research has linked consumption of polysorbate 80 to infertility.


We invited patrons of a New York deli to help us test a selection of certified Kosher pickles:

  • Vlasic Garlic Baby Kosher Dill Pickles (fresh-packed): $5.09 / 1 L
  • Bick’s Premium Baby Dill Pickles (fresh-packed, certified Kosher): $5.38 / 1 L
  • Strub’s Organic Kosher Dill Pickles (refrigerated, certified Kosher): $6.99 / 750 mL
  • Bubbie’s Pure Kosher Dill Pickles (refrigerated, certified Kosher): $6.39 / 1 L

Taste Test

  • The Vlasic had a good crunch. Some people found it had a strange aftertaste, but others liked the flavour.

  • Bick’s were described as nice and sour, not too vinegary, and very crunchy.

  • Testers said that in a bite of the Strub’s pickle you can taste more of the garlic and dill. They were crunchy, salty, and sour. everything you want in a pickle. 33% of vote

  • Bubbie’s pickles were also crunchy, garlicky, and salty.


In the end it was a close match. Every pickle had its supporters, but we can definitely say the refrigerated kind were more popular. We asked our testers to pick just one favourite (we had to twist their arms), and the Strub’s pickles won with 33% of the vote. 

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