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Jan 3, 2012 12:29 AM

Local half sour pickles?

Is there anyone making them? Claussen and Batampte doen't count because all they taste of is salt.

This site has the best description

" It’s worth pointing out that half-sours aren’t half-done or half-ready; they’re cured quickly in low-salt brines. "

In The Dill Crock (1984), John Thorne describes half-sours as “cucumbers still, not pickles-little cucumbers who [have] died and gone to heaven.”

When I lived in Boston, there were lots of half-sours. i forgot how much i liked them.

So any local artisans selling jars of half-sours/

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  1. Happy girl kitchen does when cucumbers are in season
    I could teach you to make ferment them - really easy - just have to locate some fresh pickling cucumbers that are nice and firm....hard to find any this time of year around here...

    2 Replies
    1. re: takuhead

      I am not a fan of the Happy Girls. I have not found a proper half sour in the Bay Area. I grew up just outside of Boston, so I think I share the taste memory of what one should taste like. Honestly, I think Batampte comes closest, but only if it is a very fresh jar. They should only be purchased at a place that has high turnover on them. Of course a quick trip to LA works too.

      1. re: jillyju

        What brought this to mind was some pickle slices at Wood Tavern which tasted like half sours. However, you only get two slices with a sandwich. When their sandwich shop, Southie, re-opens, I think i might stop by and see if I can convince them to sell those pickles as a side order.

    2. What I know of as "half-sours" are what are served at Kosher style delis, and what seem to be described on your linked page. Europa Express 2 on La Playa St in the Outer Richmond has them in buckets (and imported from Brooklyn I think). Fill up your container, weight it, pay for it, and return to the bucket to fill the container with brine. They taste mostly of salt, but that's the dominant flavor I remember from NY. The only improvement of this style are the spicy "new pickles" by Pickle Guys on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a product that's not available in the Bay Area.

      Pickle Guys sells something called "half-sour" that are far less cucumbery than my expectation for a half-sour pickle. Pauline's Pickle's "half-sour" are a similar product, but they're even less cucumbery than Pickle Guys. They're an excellent pickle but not what I'm looking for in a half-sour. Hers are $8 at the Bernal Heights location.

      Europa Express 2
      728 La Playa St, San Francisco, CA

      1 Reply
      1. re: hyperbowler

        Great tip on Europa Express 2. Thanks.

      2. The "manhattan -style" ones by Alexander Gourmet are decent. The Bowl stopped carrying them but Andronico's, Piedmont Grocery and that store I despise, Whole Foods carries them.

        We also have been making our own. A breeze once you perfect the brine.

        3 Replies
        1. re: fruti

          I'm a former New Yorker.. and Alexander Valley is the closest to pickle barrel pickles that I have found in the Bay fact due to this thread I have gotten major mouth watering which means... a pickle excursion is sure to follow....Whole Foods, Golden, and Falettis...all here in SF carry Anderson Valley.

          1. re: ChowFun_derek

            Not half sours, but regular pickle barrel pickes are sold at Sonoma Market if you are up that way. There is actually a large pickle barrel that you use tongs to pick them out. They are by Boars Head and surprisingly good and mouth watering.

          2. re: fruti

            Alexander Valley has re-branded as Sonoma Brinery, though I'm still finding AV-labeled pickles on store shelves.


          3. I wonder whether Saul's sells their half-sours by the jar. They fit the "cucumbers who [have] died and gone to heaven." description pretty well.

            Saul's Deli
            1475 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

            4 Replies
            1. re: ernie in berkeley

              That definitely wasn't my experience at Sauls...not the pickle..which was tasteless and flacid and not the corn beef sandwich...How can this place still be in business? I try it every few years HOPING that something had changed and I am disappointed every time! (last time was just a month ago)

              1. re: ChowFun_derek

                Saul's does a limited number of things very well. They have good but $$$ whitefish. They have good basic pickled herring, but the herring in cream is horrid. At Thanksgiving they have great roast turkey for take-out and some nice sides. If I'm eating out on turkey day, I always stop by at Sauls so i have turkey 'leftovers' the next day. Good stuffing too.

                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                  I can attest only to the pastrami, latkes and half-sours, which I found to be just fine, as of a couple of weeks ago. But we already have a Saul's thrash-topic.

                  1. re: ChowFun_derek

                    i had a delicious crunchy half-sour last week at Saul's. the pastrami, on the other hand, was really dry.

                    off-topic: i was told you can ask for a taste of the pastrami when you arrive and can also specify fatty / juicy to the server when you order.

                2. New World Market on Geary has great inexpensive half-sour pickles. They're in plastic containers; not sure if they make them in house.

                  Cinderella Bakery also has good pickles.

                  Cinderella Bakery
                  436 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94118

                  New World Market
                  5641 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Windy

                    Europa Plus on Geary has what I suspect are the same ones. I've never done a side by side comparison between the aforementioned Outer Richmond half-sours, and wouldn't be surprised if they're all from the same supplier.

                    1. re: hyperbowler

                      There's more than one pickle supplier though. The ones at New World are different from the ones from Cinderella. Haven't tried the ones from Europa Plus, only their breads at the branch on Irving.

                    2. re: Windy

                      If New World Market, Europa Express 2, and Europa Plus all have them, there's a good chance Euromix does, too.

                      Europa Express
                      1342 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                      Europa Plus
                      5350 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA

                      Euromix Deli
                      4301 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

                      New World Market
                      5641 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                      Europa Express 2
                      728 La Playa St, San Francisco, CA

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Just curious, Robert. Are those pickle slices at Wood Tavern half sours? I have a cold going so my taste might be off, but half-sour leaped into my mind as soon as I took a bite.

                        1. re: rworange

                          I guess in New York terminology you'd call them half-sours. They're house-made, without vinegar, and they don't sit around long enough to ferment completely.

                      2. re: Windy

                        I second the pickles at New World Market. Awesome! They're crunchy and just a little bit salty. And a large deli container of them is usually about $3.00.

                        1. re: Windy

                          Yes! The ones at New World Market are great. In the back of the store on the left, in the fridge compartment they have quart size containers.

                          If any of you out there remembers The Squire Deli from Great Neck, New York, these pickles are a dead ringer for those. I had a total Proustian madeleine moment the first time I tasted them.

                          1. re: pauliface

                            Yes, and Squire's is my standard for pickles too. Now if only I could find cole slaw like the Rascal House.

                            1. re: Windy

                              Ah it is good to know there are others who remember Squire's with the same regard.

                              BTW New World ALSO has really good sour cherries in the same case. These have the same flavor as the old-style Jewish cherry blintz fillings.