In A Pickle

pickle fixin's

There are two rules that seem to be constant in my life.

One is that I, like most bakers, crave anything with salt and vinegar. I’m sure it’s working around sugar and chocolate all the time that does it to me, but nine times out of ten, if it’s salty and if it’s sour, I want it.

The second constant of my life in Paris, is that whatever I’m looking for, they’re sure to have everything around what I’m looking for. And I mean, absolutely everything—but the one and only thing that I’m specifically in dire need of.

At the end of last week’s Paris chocolate tour, I was craving pickles. Specifically the half-sour spears offered in New York delis. You know, the kind that aren’t the least bit soggy, and have that salty, sprightly refreshing crispness. So I turned to Arthur Schwartz, who’s pretty much the guy that everyone turns to nowadays for all-things Jewish. And New York-ish.

His newest book, Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking, has a recipe for “Kosher” Dill Pickles accompanied by a stunning photo of the homemade wedges themselves, generously packed into a dish with other marinated goodies, although I never managed to find the appeal of those pickled green tomatoes which only old Jewish men seems to enjoy. (Maybe in a few years I’ll “get it.” But for now, I’m sticking with regular spears.)

Since it was Sunday, I sleuthed a basket of small Kirby-ish cucumbers at my market and a big bunch of fresh dill. But since it’s best to use white salt for pickles—grey will make them cloudy; I stopped in my local supermarket, which I knew had just started opening on Sunday. But only in the morning, though.

Off course they had all kinds of salt on the shelves; fine salt, sea salt, flavored salt, fleur de sel, and three kinds of grey salt…except there was a barren spot on the shelf, underneath which read: “Gros sel”, large white crystals of salt. When I asked where it was, and if they had any more in the back, the clerk frowned and shrugged, “It’s Sunday…what do you expect?”

I guess the moral of the story is not to plan on pickling anything on Sunday in Paris. Dejected, I lugged my shopping basket home, loaded down with cucumbers and dill, and resigned myself to being stranded until later in the week.

Once I find a box, I’ll began. So like me, you’ll have to wait until they get around to re-stocking the coarse salt before I share the recipe and the results.

More to come

Never miss a post!


  • May 11, 2008 9:09am

    Grocery stores not open on Sunday?? I’d forgotten that it isn’t de rigeur to be open 7 days a week and 24 hours a day. I’m so spoiled these days that Sunday is my main shopping day. I don’t think I could run a household without Sunday shopping anymore.

    Wish you lived closer. I have several kinds of yummy dills in my fridge right now.

  • PicklesFirst
    May 11, 2008 9:25am

    If the recipe uses vinegar, (and my hunch is Mr. Schwartz’s recipe will not use vinegar), can you find white vinegar in Paris? Much like modern day pedigreed salt, a little balsamic will not be “to order”.

  • May 11, 2008 10:20am

    on a chocolate tour and craving pickles….are you pregnant?

  • May 11, 2008 1:32pm

    Or, you can do something not really parisian but from other parts of france : go ask your neighbours for some gros sel :D

    (I say ” not really parisian ” because of what happen once when i was i search of two eggs to make a cake, spending some time at a friend’s appartement in Paris. His neighbours looked at me as if – asking for two eggs because shops were closed – I was Saddam Hussein in person, and some not even answered before slamming their doors o_o … glad i did not ask for vanilla or something more exotic, phew :D)

  • May 11, 2008 2:48pm

    I know what you mean, I also crave pickles!
    especially when it is warm out.

    I did some quick bread and butter pickles for the Friday blog on American food that Judith in Umbria is organizing!

    For a quick fix!

  • elarael
    May 11, 2008 4:15pm

    Glad you named the pickle variety in your photo, because they look like exactly the variety I would like to plant, and I was immediately curious! Gorgeous. My mom was a bread and butter pickle’er also, god they were good.

  • May 11, 2008 4:49pm

    I think it’s more Murphy’s Law than Paris — there’s always a “definitely need” ingredient missing at my local grocery, as well. It forces me (oh the trauma!) to go to a store I am far too unsafe to be shopping at (read: “Can’t leave without over-buying”).

    So, the pickles will wait … the Kirby’s look beautiful, though!

  • Susan
    May 11, 2008 5:28pm

    Those look like those yummy thin-skinned Middle East-type cucumbers rather than Kirbys. When I saw the photo I immediately wondered whether they make good pickles, too–with that tender membrane you might not get that same squirt of juice with the first bite. Attention, they go bad much more quickly than Kirbys, so don’t wait too long to buy your gros sel.

  • May 11, 2008 6:54pm

    I hope you find your salt soon – I’m very curious about homemade half-sours.

    Whenever I’m baking I get cravings for pickles, too, though usually the spicy Korean pickled peppers and garlic. They’re like an antidote to all the sugar and flour I feel like I’m absorbing through my skin.

  • May 11, 2008 7:03pm

    You must love kim chee then! Can’t wait to see how these come out. I made Zuni’s pickled red onions last year – highly recommend that recipe.

  • andrea
    May 11, 2008 8:40pm

    Next time you are in the states try Herr’s Salt and Vinegar chips. They have a really wonderful pucker to them.

  • May 11, 2008 8:49pm

    Waiting for Sunday dinner and a tasty, yummy dill!
    I know exactly how I would feel without tht sweet-sour-crunchy fix. Sorry…

  • May 11, 2008 8:59pm

    Just finished my first batch of pickles last week. So good……….

  • signe
    May 11, 2008 9:06pm

    Funny, last Thursday I went to meeting of our local CHEW group and the guest speaker was a man named Jerry Apps who recently published a book called “In A Pickle” which is a novel about country life in Wisconsin in 1955 when most farms had a small pickle patch (an acre or three).

    The author managed the local “pickle factory” in the summers, which was where you would take the cucumbers picked on the farm and where they were stored in huge cypress vats in a saline solution until they were transferred to train cars and taken to the real pickle factory. We would dump our gunny sacks full of pickles into a big machine that would shake as it conveyed them up the machine where they would drop into graduated slots into wooden boxes below.

    The boxes were weighed and the weight recorded and then you were paid on the spot for the cucs you hauled in – with the highest price paid for the smallest ones (“number ones”), and almost nothing for the big ones (“number fives”). You tried to pick number twos and threes since number ones weighed little and if you missed pickles by not picking clean and they grew to be number fives, the plant wouldn’t produce as much. I grew up picking pickles, getting 50% of the profit with my dad – the farmer – getting the other 50%. It was back-braking work.

    My brother and I picked all morning and then we biked to the lake to spend the afternoon swimming. We made quarts and quarts of pickles, from kosher dills to bread and butter pickles, using the “summer kitchen” for canning so as not to heat up the main kitchen since we had no air conditioning. I picked pickles every summer from the time I was ten until I left for college at 17! Most small towns had their own “pickle factory” in those days but then the pickle companies took over and made farmers sign contracts to plant 20 or more acres and use the seed and the migrant labor they provided, etc.

    That was the end of the local farmers’ pickle patches and the local “pickle factories” where farmers brought their “pickles” – which is what we called the unpickled cucumbers. Agribusiness, the great spoiler.

  • May 12, 2008 2:10am

    Susan: I think you’re right, but these were the closest I could find to small cucumbers. They may be Zeina’s. They’re called in French: mini concombre.

    The skin is pretty thin, so if you’re right, I will have to eat them fast!

    Once I make them, that is…

  • Sandra
    May 12, 2008 6:43am

    Mmmm,crunchy Noo Yawk pickles. I can understand that after all the chocolate sweetness, the opposite taste of the pickles is just absolutely the right thing to want to eat. Since you live near the Marais, don’t any of the stores there have anything remotely like an American kosher salt.

    I’m particularly interested in Arthur’s recipe as I haven’t found any that are decent and misplaced a recipe of my husband’s maternal grandfather that made the best pickles in Vermont. And now it’s planting season for cukes etc here in the northeast…..

  • Eileen
    May 12, 2008 9:36am

    Brings back memories of my mother making pickles every summer and how our kitchen smelled of vinegar.

  • May 12, 2008 10:20am

    Sandra: Rule #3 is not to go to the Marais on Sundays. Oy, the mobs!

    Krysalia: Oh, les parisiennes! I’ve never met my neighbors, even though we’ve lived side-by-side for about 5 years.

    Alice Q: Yes, those are great. Really great. (Anyone who wants to give them a try, the recipe for is here.)

  • May 12, 2008 11:08am

    I remember really craving pickles when I lived in Paris. I would go to the guys on the rue de Roisier and buy them out of a barrel and eat them on the street!!! I never got around to making my own, though.

  • Poulette
    May 12, 2008 12:07pm

    You hit it right on the head: sometimes a cornichon is NOT what you need. Salt brine pickles, now those are good! For dilly, vinegary, garlicky pickles, you might try the grocery store at Porte Maillot in the Palais des Congres: they have Russian pickles which come pretty close. It’s all I’ve found, anyway.

    How pathetic can those cravings get? I actually bought jars of pickles in Prague and brought them back to Paris… *sigh*

  • Joan
    May 12, 2008 12:22pm

    I was going to say the same thing as Rebecca: I would have gone to the shop (can’t remember the name) practically opposite Jo Goldberg and had a few fished out of the barrel!

  • May 12, 2008 3:21pm

    If anyone has found anything resembling a dill pickle in a jar in France, please do post the brand name. My husband craves them, and I’ll have to make some for him soon if I can’t find them anywhere. Right now I’m up to my ears in cherries and don’t want to mess with pickles!

  • May 13, 2008 10:28am

    ooh, I can’t wait to see them! I just made a Polish soup with Polish-style pickles that are preserved in salt with dill. It was delicious. I too crave anything pickly or salty, they are my favourite snacks because they are so low fat and so moreish. Not so great on the salt side of things but who cares?

  • Kim
    May 14, 2008 10:45am

    I have a jar of Rosoff New Half Sour pickles in my fridge right now. They are wonderful – crisp and salty. I picked them up at our big box wholesale club. When I’m in Mexico, where they do not pickle cucumbers, I appease my pickle craving with fresh Kirbys, peeled and sliced into spears, covered with fresh-squeezed lime juice, salt and ground chile.

  • Jane
    May 15, 2008 9:23pm

    Are you sure you’re not pregnant?

  • robert e. peterson
    November 11, 2008 1:19pm

    new half sour pickles are the best pickles i have ever ate . WHERE IN OHIO CAN I BUY THESE PICKLES 44634/9741 OR CAN YOU SHIP ME A CASE FROM FLA? please say you can thanks

  • November 17, 2008 4:57am

    It sounds great !!
    After all the chocolate sweetness, the pickles is absolutely the opposite taste. In a matter of fact, when I saw the photo I immediately wondered if you make good pickles !!
    Now it seems you do – nice !
    thanks Melanie slots