A pickled cucumber is a cucumber that has been pickled in a brine, vinegar, or other solution and left to ferment for a period of time.
Pickled cucumbers are often part of mixed pickles.
The term “pickle” is derived from the Dutch word pekel, meaning brine.
Cucumbers were probably first pickled 4400 years ago in Mesopotamia.
New York Food Museums’s Pickle History section points out the archaeological evidence of cucumbers native to India being pickled and exported to the Tigris Valley of Iraq in 2030 BC.
The pickling process was also known to the Ancient Greeks.
Aristotle is reported to have praised pickled cucumbers, around 850 BC, for their healing effects.
Julius Caesar’s soldiers ate pickled cucumbers as health aids and many other brine-soaked foods were part of daily life in Ancient Rome.
During the Age of Exploration, many sailors on transoceanic voyages suffered from scurvy, a nasty but all-too-common disease caused by a deficiency of Vitamin C. On his storied expedition to the New World, Christopher Columbus reportedly rationed pickles to his sailors, even going so far as to grow cucumbers in Haiti to restock for the rest of the trip.
It is interesting to note that Amerigo Vespucci, America’s namesake, was a pickle salesman. He was the main pickle supplier to many ships.
The first large-scale commercial production of pickles did not take place until 1820, when Nicholas Appert began selling pickles in jars.
Over the years, the pickle production process has become more automated, however the basic pickling methods have changed very little since the technology was first developed.
Today, in the United States, pickles are often served as a side dish accompanying meals. This often takes the form of a “pickle spear”, which is a pickled cucumber cut length-wise into quarters or sixths.
There are many types of pickled cucumbers, varying according to the spices and other ingredients used and the type of cucumber.
The most common are dill pickles, with all forms utilizing the aromatic spice dill weed.
Other aromatic spices that may be used are cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, fennel, cassia, and so forth, for hot spices may be used such as black pepper, ginger, mustard, and capsicum. Such herbs as basil, thyme, and so forth may be used for a unique flavor, and onions and garlic may be included.
Gherkins, or baby pickles, are small cucumbers, typically those 2.5 cm (1 in) to 13 cm (5 in) in length, often with bumpy skin, which are typically used for pickling.
A “kosher” dill pickle is not necessarily kosher in the sense that it has been prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law. Rather, it is a pickle made in the traditional manner of Jewish New York City pickle makers, with generous addition of garlic and dill to a natural salt brine.
Bread-and-butter pickles are a marinated pickle produced with sliced cucumbers in a solution of vinegar, sugar, and spices which may be processed either by canning or simply chilled as refrigerator pickles. The origin of the name and the spread of their popularity in the United States is attributed to Omar and Cora Fanning, a pair of Illinois cucumber farmers who started selling sweet and sour pickles in the 1920s and filed for the trademark “Fanning’s Bread and Butter Pickles” in 1923 (though the recipe and similar ones are probably much older).
Brined pickles are prepared using the traditional process of natural fermentation in a brine which makes them grow sour.
Polish style pickled cucumbers are a type of pickled cucumber developed in the northern parts of Europe and have been exported worldwide and are found in the cuisines of many countries. As opposed to some other varieties of pickled cucumbers, they are prepared using the traditional process of natural fermentation in a salty brine, which makes them grow sour.
Kool-Aid pickles or “koolickles”, enjoyed by children in parts of the Southern United States, are created by soaking dill pickles in a mixture of Kool-Aid and pickle brine.