I Need to Make Homemade Pickles

I Need to Make Homemade Pickles


ON THIS WEEK’S episode of Dinner SOS, test kitchen director and host Chris Morocco brings in contributing editor Amiel Stanek and co-owner of Zingerman’s Deli Ari Weinzweig to assist Jenny in recreating the half sour pickle of her dreams.

Jenny went to Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan on a work trip almost ten years ago and had a half sour pickle that she can’t stop dreaming about. She has chased the experience ever since, by buying half sour pickles from local delis, grocery stores, and even making her own. Nothing has come close to the bracingly fresh and crunchy, faintly sweet-and-sour, briny perfection from Zingerman’s, a beloved Jewish deli in the college town that is also home to the University of Michigan (and well worth a detour if you are anywhere nearby). While Zingerman’s ships many of their specialty products, they don’t offer shipping on their pickles.

Chris calls Ari Weinzweig, the co-founder of Zingerman’s, to weigh in on what makes their half sour pickles so great. Ari explains that pickles have played a big role at Zingerman’s since he opened the deli in 1982 with his business partner Paul Sagan. The team has been buying pickles (as well as their corned beef and pastrami) through the same company in Detroit since the day they opened: Topor’s Pickle Company. The half sours specifically remind Ari of a fresh cucumber, intensified—there’s a light brine, not a lot of sugar, a satisfying crunch, and a lot of salt.

Chris also asks for advice from Amiel Stanek, who’s a half sour pickle and home fermentation enthusiast. While they chat virtually, they simultaneously eat the famous Zingerman’s pickles. Amiel explains that there are two different ways that most pickles are made—lacto-fermented pickles that start out in a salt-water brine or vinegar pickles—and he guesses that the Zingerman’s half sours are brined in a three percent brine (which means three grams of salt to 100 grams of filtered water).

Chris and Amiel suggest that Jenny start with this brine ratio and throw in a few peppercorns, a cracked garlic clove, and maybe a sprig of dill into a jar with cucumbers before refrigerating it for three days and starting to taste from there. Amiel says that by starting this pickle in the fridge, you will draw out the fermentation process and be able to monitor their transformation, with less risk of letting the pickles go too far. Chris also mentions that it’s peak cucumber season—kirby’s are particularly great for this application since they have thicker skin and are ideally sized to fit into jars.

Listen now to hear how Jenny’s pickle experiment goes and whether she’s able to recreate the magic of her Zingerman’s pickle experience—without having to drive to Michigan.



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