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In a Pickle: Are the Best Pickles American or Israeli?

For some American tourists, the first encounter with an Israeli pickle provokes quite a surprise. While the mild and crunchy kosher dill pickle is popular in the American Jewish and non-Jewish cuisine, it does not prepare you for its strong-flavored, spicy Israeli brother.

Jews in both countries rejoice in their pickles. One is served with any deli sandwiches or hamburgers around the country, and the other can be found in any falafel stand or as a part of a meze table.

But what a difference between the two.

“I know what you’re going to write,” says my husband, while munching on a spicy pickle I made a couple of weeks earlier. “You’re going to say the Israeli ones are much better.” He is still longing for his late grandmother’s Hungarian quick pickles, ready in an hour and basically raw. She used to make hers by slicing the cucumbers very thinly, mixing with salt and letting them stand in a colander to get their liquid out. Then she would mix it with sliced onion, vinegar, sugar and salt and a little water, let it stand for an hour and serve. A very refreshing version.

Yes, I do prefer the Israeli spicy pickles I grew up with, but in the years I’ve been living in America I gradually learned to appreciate dill pickles. You can see why I was surprised to learn both are pickled in almost same brine: water, salt, fresh dill, garlic cloves and hot peppers. Some add spices like black peppercorn, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and others, some add a little vinegar to top the pickle jar, but the basics are the same, and it’s no wonder. This brine is the same one that was used in Eastern Europe for the last hundreds of years. The results, however, are very different.



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