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Dill seed vs. fresh dill for refrigerator pickles

I've tried making refrigerator pickles twice and they both seemed to have this strange sweetness that I'm really not digging. I like really garlicky Kosher dills from Claussen or half sours from the Pickle Guys or Gus' Pickles (in NY). The recipes I used always called for dill seed - but I can't seem to find seeds in any grocery store near me. So I used fresh dill in both times and I think that is what is giving me that strange sweetness. Could I be right? Will dill seed make that much of a difference?

For what it's worth, the second batch came closer to the taste I wanted (minus that weird sweetness): Vinegar, water, salt, lots of garlic cloves, pepper corn, dash of hot pepper flakes, fresh dill

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  1. Fresh dill has no sweetness to it. I would doubt that it is the culprit. I believe that classic Kosher Pickles do not have any Vinegar in the recipe just seasonings and Salt. Does the Vinegar you are using have any sugar in it?
    As you would expect Dill Weed is quite herbal compared to Seed and its flavor is a bit more fleeting. Dill Seed adds a deeper, less bright Dill flavor but is more stable over long storage.

    1. Real NY-Style Kosher dills have no vinegar, at least in theory. Claussens are loaded with vinegar, and I believe I read that both Guss' (not Gus's) and Pickle Guys use a vinegar concentrate, which is why I stopped buying them and started making my own when I lived in that area. But a look at both websites makes it look as if they use no vinegar at all in their traditional pickles.

      Anyway, Dill comes in four forms, generally: Fresh Baby dill, the soft feathery fronds available all the time in supermarkets in my area; Dried Dill Weed in a jar, short flakes similar to Fresh Baby Dill but without the freshness; Fresh Dill weed, the tall woody stalks with flowering heads at the top, usually available only in summer; and Dill Seed, the seeds harvested from those flowering heads, which I see all the time in jars in the spice aisle of most supermarkets. The latter two are used for pickles, the first two are better for snipping over your fish.

      Cannot account for any sweetness based on your recipe, unless you have added "pickling spices" to your mix. They often contain cloves or other sweet spices people use to make sweet pickles.

      Most "refrigerator pickle" recipes I've seen call for ungodly amounts of vinegar and aren't really close to a real Kosher sour pickle.

      Oddly enough, the "Gold Standard" NY style pickle for me is from Canter's in LA. But as they don't ship I've been making my own and I've settled on a recipe that comes out perfect. I make one big batch that lasts a year and stays perfectly crunchy in the fridge until it's gone... then time time to make a new batch. If anyone cares I'll write it up and post it.

      Just noticed this other thread, which contains two very good and similar recipes to mine: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/791701 . You can safely delete the rye bread and bay leaves, and I'd recommend doing so. I have a couple of tricks for keeping the pickles crunchy that I can add if anyone cares.

      Edit: Okay, the link doesn't appear to work but at the moment the thread appears below in the related discussions called "Pickling recipe--half sour?"

      2 Replies
      1. re: acgold7

        Just figured out why the link doesn't work -- it includes the period at the end of the sentence. If you delete the period it works.

        1. re: acgold7

          We fixed this for you. You can use 'report' to flag these sorts of things for us, and we'll get to them faster.

      2. Vinegar!! Every refrigerator pickle recipe I found had part or half vinegar. I never knew that Kosher dills went without. Thank you so much! I know what I'm doing tomorrow.

        3 Replies
        1. re: watermelonsoo

          Right. True Kosher sour deli pickles are not really Refrigerator pickles. The initial fermentation takes place at room temp for up to two weeks. You need to monitor them carefully, keep them fully submerged, and skim scrupulously.

          Keep us posted.

          1. re: acgold7

            So basically, they are chemically different things. In refrigerator pickles, or vinegar based pickles, the sourness comes from acetic acid. In fermented pickles, the sourness comes from lactic acid, so a different taste.

            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

              I'm not arguing with most of this, but I will note that I make both vinegar dill pickles that are sterilized with a water bath, and the same recipe as refrigerator pickles (5:7 vinegar water ratio). The refrigerator pickles definitely taste more like Klaussens, so they are picking up a wild fermentation from somewhere.

              My grandmother made salt/water dill pickles with a grape leaf, and those had yet another taste.

              I suspect the vinegar version is easier to maintain. And I find them quite tasty. (But so were Grandma's!)

        2. Will It hurt to use fresh baby dill if you can't find dill seed?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Erkelly17

            Won't hurt, just will have a different flavor from your typical purchased dill pickle.

            1. re: Ttrockwood

              Thank you!!! Im going to try it! My cucumbers are out of control and I need to do something fast! Lessened learned.... grow dill!!!

          2. Could be. I like a little fresh dillweed. And I find dried dill seed in jars to be a little too harsh for my tastes. The best thing in the world (for me) is green dill seed. I grew some in my MIL's greenhouse, and it keeps coming back every year (to her dismay -- she puts up with a lot from me, though!)

            It seems to be a happy medium. Maybe you can find some at a farmer's market?

            The culture that is causing a little fermentation in your pickles may also have something to do with the sweetness. But there's not much you can do about that . . . .