Pickle Primer: A Glossary Of Pickles And Pickled Peppers

If Peter Piper were around today, he would be proud of the proliferation of pickle and pickled pepper products! When combining all the basic types, varieties and cuts of pickles and pickled peppers, there are hundreds of styles from which to choose a favorite (or favorites!). 

Today, in addition to the pickle and pickled peppers that we've known and loved for years, pickle manufacturers are following America's demand for more flavorful - mostly hotter and zestier -- and convenient products. Now there are sliced-lengthwise-for-sandwich pickles, which are available in flavors including zesty, fresh kosher, dill -- soon there will be Cajun flavor! Another new pickle "shape" is the small pickles created specifically for snacking out of hand. These new pickles are made from small, miniature cucumbers and can be eaten in two to three bites. They're already available in a Cajun flavor, as well as in kosher dill and bread & butter. 

Most pickles are produced by one of three methods: refrigerated, fresh-pack or processed (also called "cured" or "fermented"). Each of these methods creates distinct flavors and textures. Also during production, a variety of flavors are achieved by adding different herbs, spices and seasonings to the pickle liquid. Then, each variety is generally packed whole or cut in halves, spears, sticks, chips, chunks, salad cubes or relish, or sliced lengthwise for sandwiches.

Here is an overview of the various kinds of pickles and pickled peppers available:

Dill
Dill is the most popular variety of cucumber pickle. Herb dill or dill oil is added to impart a distinctive and refreshing flavor. There are many types of dill pickles, including:

  • Genuine Dill - These pickles are made by the slow "processed" method. Dill weed is added to the tanks during the last stage of fermentation or to the jar after fermentation. These pickles usually have a higher lactic acid flavor than other varieties.
  • Kosher Dill - True "Kosher" pickles are those that have been manufactured and certified in accordance with Jewish dietary laws, and made with dill and garlic added to the brine. The flavor is very popular, more robust than regular dill pickles, so much so, that the name has stuck and kosher dills are the ultimate accompaniment to an overstuffed deli sandwich.
  • Overnight Dill - Cukes are placed fresh into brine (which may include a slight amount of vinegar) for a very short time -- one to two days. The entire process takes place under refrigeration, and they stay refrigerated when stored and shipped. The bright green pickles taste like fresh cucumbers accented with dill flavor. They are the kind of pickle you usually find at a deli.
  • Other types of dills include Polish and German style.

Sour/Half Sour
Fresh cucumbers are first placed into a seasoned brine which doesn't include vinegar. The containers are then refrigerated, and remain refrigerated when stored and shipped. The longer the cucumbers remain in the brine, the more sour they become. Half-sour pickles are extra crispy and keep their fresh cucumber color.

Sweet
Sweet pickles are packed in a sweet mixture of vinegar, sugar and spices. Here are some variations:

  • Bread & Butter - Sweet, thinly-sliced pickles made from cucumbers, onions and chopped green or red peppers. They have a distinct, slightly tangy taste. Available in smooth- or waffle-cut chips or chunks.
  • Candied - These pickles are packed in an extra-heavily sweetened liquid.
  • No-Salt Sweet - These are a relatively new variety of sweet pickle to which no salt has been added. Usually available as chips.
  • Sweet/Hot - These are a "hot" new kind of pickle. They're made by adding hot spices and seasonings to pickles for a delightful spark of piquant flavor.

Pickled Peppers
Made in the same way as cucumber pickles, there are more than fifteen varieties of pickle peppers available, ranging from mild to hot, hot, hot. These are some of the most popular pickled peppers:

  • Jalapeno - Thanks to the growing interest in Mexican and southwestern foods, this type of pickled pepper is hot - literally. Fiery jalapenos are packed in brine and come whole or in rings.
  • Banana Peppers - Long, shiny, yellow peppers that come both hot and sweet , and are banana-shaped. They're available whole or in rings.
  • Cherry Peppers - Shaped like cherries, these pickled peppers are available in red or green and both hot or sweet versions. They're most popular whole or in rings.
  • Pepperoncini - These pickled peppers are available whole or as green Greek or Italian. Mildly hot, these peppers are popular in antipasto or Mediterranean-style salads.

Specialty Products
Not only are pickles and pickled peppers very popular, but there is a wide variety of pickled vegetables on the market today. Some are found nationally, others regionally. They include pickled asparagus, beets, cauliflower, cocktail onions, green tomatoes, okra, sauerkraut, sweet mixed vegetables, sweet pickles with raisins, and more.