Whole Kosher Dill Pickles
How we tested
Supermarkets carry a dizzying array of kosher dill pickles, putting us in a pretty pickle every time we stroll the condiments aisle: how to choose the best one? We decided to hold a blind tasting of five national brands to find out.
Before we sat down at the table to taste them, we did some homework. It surprised us to learn that despite the name, kosher dill pickles needn’t be produced according to Jewish kosher law. Applied to dill pickles, the designation “kosher” merely indicates the presence of garlic and this style’s otherwise sour, salty profile. We also learned that kosher dills come either “processed” or “fresh.” Processed are made by brining whole cucumbers in large tanks, where they ferment for weeks or months. During the last stage of fermentation, dill weed is added. The pickles are then rinsed and sealed in shelf-stable jars with vinegar and additional seasonings. Fresh pickles are produced by placing cucumbers directly into jars, filling the jars with seasoned brine, and refrigerating them. Once the pickles have absorbed the seasonings—usually a matter of just a few weeks—they are ready to sell. These pickles, which are sold refrigerated, have a shorter shelf life than processed pickles.
We tasted five national brands, both processed and fresh, looking for the perfect combination of salty, sour, garlicky, and crunchy. With the right snappy crunch and authentic garlicky dill-pickle flavor, the two fresh pickle brands in our lineup trounced the competition. By contrast, the processed pickles were limp and had not a whiff of garlic. When we read the ingredient lists, we saw why: There was neither hide nor hair of it. We did, however, find yellow #5, a synthetic food dye not found in fresh pickles.