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May 3, 2010 06:06 AM

Pickles of the Great Lakes!

By request.....

What are the great Pickle producers in the Great Lakes Area.

I know people will slam them because of cost but I am a die hard McClures fan. They recently put out a Bloody Mary mix that I have to find! :)

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  1. I love the "new pickles" from Topor's of Detroit, sold at Meijers among other places. But you have to eat them quick--they go from "new" to half sour to full sour in a matter of 2 -3 weeks, even in the coldest part of your fridge. They also make a great pickle called "Goldens"---sorta like a half sour but with a touch of vinegar in them---but they are really hard to find. I've only found 3-4 times at Salvaggios in the last couple of years.

    They are not really local, but if they still carry them Trader Joes sells a fabulous half sour.

    Bessinger pickles of Aus Gres and Hausbecks of Saginaw make fantastic products but I don't know how far south their distribution goes. I've tried the 2 McClures a couple of times and even with cost aside, I really didn't like them. Although I don't think they add sugar I find they have a weird sweet flavor.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Goldendog

      Growing up in West Bloomfield I knew Vlasic was headquartered there as well. Does anyone know where they were specifically in WB?
      Grew up on Topor's pickles and tomatoes. Still love 'em.

      1. re: Fibber McGee

        Vlasic had a HUGE pickle and sauerkraut plant in Bridgeport (Saginaw). When the kraut was curing you could smell it for miles and miles around town. They had the annual kraut festival and queen--a big tourist draw. Also, all of the the nations Open Pit barbecue sauce was made there. After many mergers and shutdowns in the 80's Vlasic and Open Pit have left Bridgeport and are now headquartered somewhere in New Jersey.

        1. re: Goldendog

          I believe Vlasic was sold ages ago to Campbell's (of soup fame), then a few years after that spun off with some other underperforming brands as Pinnacle Foods. I thought they still had a huge pickle processing plant in Imlay City. I remember a year or two ago being at the Imlay City Blueberry festival where they had a pickle eating contest with the huge jars of Vlasic on hand.
          Did they ever make the pickles in WB or was that just their offices?

        2. re: Fibber McGee

          I can remember the building was 2-3 story brown brick outside and had lower walls that had a skateboarders dream transition from sidewalk to wall. It was on the north side of a east west mile road....that is all I can remember.

        3. re: Goldendog

          After all this talk of Topor's, I hunted down a jar of their New Pickles, but I was disappointed! The pickles were not quite crisp, almost bordering on limp. The flavor was good, but they didn't have that 'fresh' crunch I was hoping for.

        4. I don't care for Vlasic, period. Not their relish, not their peppers... I am always looking for more of the crisp, deli pickle variety along the lines of Claussen. Does anyone know if Cool Crisp pickles are available to the public anywhere? They are out of Lexington, MI and I love their 'hamburger slices'. However, their website only allows food service providers to purchase.

          Has anyone tried Tony Packo's pickle & pepper mix? (of Toledo, OH fame


          JanPrimus - it's not that I don't love McClure's but how on earth do you afford them? I cannot bring myself to make that purchase, EVER. I have tried. My financial conscience just won't allow it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: tokyo

            Just let me say that I do not get them that often....but I enjoy the living hell out of what I do get.

            I think the pickle and pepper mix might be the only good food thing about Tony Packo's. I drove down to Toledo to give the place a try and those hot dogs should play in Traffic some more. I rather hit up a random Detroit Coney.

            Tony Packo's Cafe
            7 S Superior St, Toledo, OH 43604

            1. re: tokyo

              I'm not a big Vlasic fan, myself. Very little distinction with the store brands, so why pay more?
              I like the Packos pickles and peppers. And JP is right, the hot dogs they serve at the restauarnat are nowhere near as good as what is around Detroit. Northern Ohio seems to have their own take on the coney, maybe well inspired by Packo's. There's coney places a pleny around of North of the Lincoln Highway. (US 30). The dogs and chili, not to mention toppings, are as good.

              1. re: tokyo

                Oddly, I just tried Vlasic pickles this week for the first time in quite a while, and I've got to rescind at least part of what I said: these aren't the Vlasics I remember. The kosher dill spears I had were positively *limp*, and the texture had absolutely no crispness at all. What's happened to them in recent years? I remember Vlasic as being at least passable, if not good, but these...these are just unsatisfying.

                Have Vlasics been like this for some time?

              2. It should also be said in this thread...if you mention Mount Olive....

                You get SHOT! Er...I mean Shunned.

                1. I really like Milwaukee brand pickles. Especially the midgets. When I was a kid I know they were made in Wisconsin. I don't know for sure if they are still made there though. Probably now made in New York City.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Sailing77

                    I was crushed when Milwaukee Pickles discontinued their Polska Wyrob Ogorka z Koprem. Anybody familiar with them and whether somebody sells something similar in the region? I'd drive a good ways, maybe even all the way to Pittsville, for a pickle this good.

                  2. The Cool Crisps are, indeed, pretty good. Honeybaked Ham serve their individually wrapped dill spears with their sandwiches, and I've never been disappointed.

                    I guess I'm not averse to Vlassic as some of you are, though I fully admit to being turned off by the use of the food coloring in just about *any* pickle. Really? You need to turn it some kind of "not-in-God's-creation green" in order for it to look like a "proper" pickle? Make the bad man stop, please.

                    I don't think I've had McClure's pickles, myself, but I'll be the first to say that based on their price alone, I can't see them being worth it. That being said, I'm going to be at least *partially* hypocritical and give an absolute lustful thumbs-up to Ozark Pickle Pantry out of Missouri. Their Ozark Sweet Tangy Dill chips, at $6.50 per 16 oz. jar (plus shipping, obviously) might be more expensive than I'm used to paying, but oh, sweet mother of pearl...I think that they're probably the best pickles I've ever eaten in my life. There *may* be better ones out there, yes...I just haven't come across them yet. I actually ordered a case of them for Christmas one year, and gave half of them away and kept half for myself. They were exceptionally well-received. The only reason I came across them is that I was gifted a Pickle of the Month subscription as a joke from a friend of mine; little did she know what joy it would bring me.

                    Their website is I would *totally* be willing to split the cost of ordering a case or two with anyone else interested. That way, we'd save on shipping costs, and we could get exactly what we want.

                    Darn you, JP...DARN YOU! Now I'm dying for these things!

                    27 Replies
                    1. re: boagman

                      For a crisp, deli style pickle it's TOPOR'S all the away. I do enjoy Milwaukee pickles as well. Their pickles remind me of the pickles my mother used to make. I like Milwaukee pickles with a nice cheeseburger. When my mom would make pickles when I was a kid I would always take them out of the brine before they were bottled and eat them. At that point they tasted just like TOPOR'S!

                      1. re: boagman

                        Pickle of the Month Club?! Yes, please!!!

                        Has anyone ever seen Topor's available up north (Petoskey, Gaylord, Cheboygan, TC, etc.)?


                        1. re: boagman

                          Boagman, last year the McClures folks had a table at the RO farmers market with samples. We almost bought a jar, but my DH balked at the price...but he LOVED the pickles.

                          I read they are making bloody mary mix, might spring for that.

                          1. re: coney with everything

                            Stay tuned...I am working on my home made pickle recipe that will taste like McClures...I've just got to make a few tweaks to what I did last year and I will have it mastered....keep an eye on my blog for it. It's an easy pickle to make, and you can make your own for less than $1 per jar.

                            1. re: momskitchen

                     are the wind beneath my wings! :)

                              1. re: JanPrimus

                                JP, hopefully I will get it right...I think I will. I was pretty close last year. Can't wait for summer this year...

                                1. re: momskitchen

                                  I hope so too....I just bought a entire flat of Pickle plants! :)

                                  1. re: JanPrimus

                                    Sweet! This will be the summer of the pickle...

                                    1. re: momskitchen

                                      Okay, my pickles came out great.....check out my blog at and search for "pickles" and you will find the technique to make pickles that taste like McClures.

                                    2. re: JanPrimus

                                      That's awesome! I have a pickle recipe that tastes just like Topors. Actually better than Topors. But I guess you are more of a McClures fan.

                                      1. re: Rheta

                                        It has been a loooong time since I have had Topors but I do not remember it grabbing me like McClures does.

                                        On a side note I was at the Royal Oak Farmers Market this morning and tried the Bloody Mary Mix from tasted like the Pickling Juice from the Spicy Pickles added into a tomato sauce. So instead of getting the mix I just got another jar of Spicy. I will mix up my own. It was good...but I think I tasted how it is done and I already have a good stock of the spicy juice in my fridge.

                                        Trying to get that flat into the ground this weekend, but tomorrow may have a few thinsg going on today and today's prioroty is ornimental grasses and the last of the tomatoes (6 Varieties). I still have to turn more dirt for the pickles if I want that to happen tomorrow.

                                        1. re: JanPrimus

                                          I'm envious of your garden and your six varieties of tomatoes. And you flat of pickle plants. I have too much shade for anything but impatiens. I do have a patch of almost full sun on one side of my house where I have a big barrel pot that I grow herbs, mostly basil in. How I would love all of those tomatoes and cukes!

                                          1. re: JanPrimus

                                            Funny, Jan, I did the same thing you did and ended up buying a jar of the Bloody Mary mix, but it was too intense on its own. I'm going to dilute it with straight unsalted tomato juice (the mix is very salty, IMO). I do like the flavor though, but a whole glass of it (with Stoly!) was too much.

                                            1. re: coney with everything

                                              So I was doing my grocery shopping tonight and there they were....Toper's Golden Dills and the Nathan's New York Kosher Spears.

                                              The Topor's has a good crunch...I am sure the inconsistency is a issue of rotation and can not blame the company. I got what looked to be a fresh bottle. The taste is pretty damn good. It is not smacking me up side the head but it does have a great taste.

                                              The Nathan's (made by Don Herman's) was just as crispy but had a more pronounced Garlic flavor. Of the two I likes this one better. I would put this pickle into a solid second place for my taste. Like I said...I like to be beaten up by my flavors. So if your not like me...don't listen to me. :)

                                          2. re: Rheta

                                            Do share....Topors are a fermented brined dill pickle, the McCklures are fresh packed...different styles, both good.

                                            1. re: momskitchen

                                              I can't share...I have eaten them all :)

                                              My wife even asked me the other day....whats up with all the pickles. In the last few weeks I have had 10 different pickle jars in the fridge. Down to just a few...the kids can have them.

                                              Although I am now saving the Spicy Pickle brines....

                                  2. re: coney with everything

                                    after lunch at bastone in royal oak, i stopped at holiday market just to find some mcclures pickles. i bought two jars, garlic and hot. nearly $17 for two jars. what the hell am i doing? i didn't have a chance to try them last night. but looking forward to it. holiday has the bloody mary mix, too. its about $6 for a jar slightly smaller than the pickles.

                                    1. re: xman887

                                      Ooh, next time I'm at Holiday I SO am getting some Bloody Mary mix...

                                      1. re: xman887

                                        Well I was in the Lansing area this afternoon and picked up a jar of Mandingo's for $7.25

                                        The difference between the McClures and the Mandingo's jar wise....McMclure's looks to be about twice as big.

                                        I think if your a fan of food that likes to smack you like a red headed step child....McClures is your brand.

                                        If you like a well balanced and crispy pickle than Mandingo's is for you.

                                        I like to leave my table bruised and battered.

                                        1. re: JanPrimus

                                          tried both of them last night. the garlic was unexpectedly strong and more sour than i was expecting. completely different than the $3 jar of natahan's i have in the fridge. but i liked it. and i really liked the hot version even better. that is some serious spice, welcome and not overpowering.

                                    2. re: boagman

                                      So, um, not to be blunt or anything, but does anyone local want to go in on a case or two of Ozark Pickle Pantry pickles with me? I'm probably going to end up getting some anyway, but just wanted to check. Let me know!

                                      1. re: boagman

                                        If I give you a $20 will you get me three bottles? All but the bread and butter.

                                        1. re: JanPrimus

                                          You want one of each kind *except for* bread and butter, correct?

                                          1. re: boagman

                                            Correct....have them shipped to my Sherwood address...that or just give me a call.

                                      2. re: boagman

                                        The ozark pickles are more than McClure's!!! Ozark is 16oz...McClure's are 32oz --double the size! what's in the ozark ones? -- I'm a fan of McClure's because of the quality of the product.

                                        I think you have to realize that when shopping at a store you are going to be purchasing a product that has been marked up and a lot of the money you've spent is not going back into the manufacturers pockets. I worked in retail grocery for years, and seeing some of the margins on goods that manufacturers make very little on is gross...then the manufacturer gets the brunt of feedback that their product is too expensive -- it's something a lot of consumers don't get or realize.

                                        You can easily make a less expensive pickle at home, but I think a small company has to worry about employees, insurance and a slew of other things that make their cost of goods higher than a larger company like Topor's or Vlasic. Volume drives down prices for consumers...Like WAL-MART...and increases the company's margins so they are making more in the end.

                                        Just my thoughts...

                                        1. re: yellowthumb

                                          "The ozark pickles are more than McClure's!!! Ozark is 16oz...McClure's are 32oz --double the size! what's in the ozark ones? -- I'm a fan of McClure's because of the quality of the product."

                                          Perhaps you didn't see where I said that I was going to be a little bit of a hypocrite above. Indeed, the Ozark Pickle Pantry jars are 16 oz., and if McClure's are 32 oz., then yes: I'd consider them to be more expensive than McClure's. Still, if you're about the quality of the product, and supporting the little guy, Ozark Pickle Pantry is right up your alley, too.