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From Bubbies to Vlasics: What makes a good pickle?

Art by Karen Lin

Cucumbers are good, but pickled cucumbers are pickles, which are really good. Similar to cucumbers, pickles come in many variations. Some are delicious, others are less delicious. I tried five seemingly similar pickles to see what’s what.

Pacific Pickle Works - Mother’s Puckers

All photos taken by Izak Menta

My first bite was poorly executed and some vinegar went down the wrong pipe. My second bite was cleaner, and I noticed that even though the ingredients don't mention jalapeños, the flavor hints at spiciness. The pickle is definitely sour, not too salty, and has a solid crunch. There’s also a tinge of sweetness, but it’s complementary to the overall flavor and isn’t overpowering. The aftertaste is oddly creamy, but fades quickly. I could feel the acid as it traveled down my esophagus. Although the pickles are slightly vinegar heavy, I enjoyed them.

Cleveland Kitchen - King Kosher

The King Koshers look appetizing in the jar; however, they were significantly less appetizing when in my mouth. They lack the ideal crisp snap and are almost difficult to bite into. The vinegar is overwhelming, nullifying the spices, garlic, and dill that the ingredients claim are present. Personally, I couldn’t hold the pickle in my mouth for more than five seconds, although in that brief amount of time I confidently determined that I did not enjoy them.

Vlasic - Kosher Dill

Vlasic is one of the most popular pickle brands in the US, and has been pickling cucumbers since 1942. It seems that they’ve perfected their formula and condensed it into a single fluid, because that was the only thing present in the jar other than the pickles themselves. Despite the fact that their dill must come in the form of “natural flavor”, these pickles are solid. The flavor is one-dimensional, but inoffensive. Their signature crunch is definitely crunchy, and they aren’t overly salted. A crowd-pleasing pickle.

Bubbies - Kosher Dill Pickles

Bubbies have been a mainstay in my grandmother's fridge for at least a decade, and for good reason. These dill pickles have a satisfying sourness, a punch of garlic, and just enough salt. Unlike the three previous pickles, Bubbies doesn’t include any vinegar in their recipe, just dill, garlic, salt, and spices. Similar to the Mother’s Puckers, Bubbies have a degree of spiciness, albeit subtle and brief. The texture is consistently crunchy except on the rare occasion that a pickle has been jammed against the side of the jar to the point of bruising. Bubbies have been and will probably continue to be my favorite pickles on the market.

Don Hermann - Kosher Deli Garlic Wholes

Don Hermann pickles are your classic deli pickle in that they’re only enjoyable as a sandwich side. When taken alone, they’re much too salty and lack any distinctive flavor other than a trace of garlic. The aftertaste is that of an unpickled cucumber, and the texture is consistently mediocre. I didn’t detect any dill despite it being included in the ingredients. Overall, it’s a boring pickle with nothing interesting to offer other than an absurd amount of salt.

Ultimately, it seems that a good pickle is one that strikes somewhat of a balance between its flavorings, or at the very least doesn’t use an ungodly amount of vinegar or salt.

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