Half Sour Pickles

If  I could stand on top of a mountain I would yell “I love pickles!”.  I really do.   They’re pretty, they’re crunchy, they’re full of flavor, they hit the right spot in the afternoon when you need a snack, they’re great on a burger, they’re great at 4AM standing in front of the refrigerator.  Pickles, they’re just really good.


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With the cucumber plants in full producing mode right now we have been picking  (and pickling!) quite a few kirby cucumbers.  We currently have 6 mason jars full of pickles in the refrigerator!  If you are in Brooklyn and are in need of a pickle, I’m your girl!  I have been trying to get the perfect half sour pickles after years  of swooning at all the NYC pickle places.  Finally, I got it just right!  

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A few notes about these  half sour beauties:

-These don’t have vinegar in them.  You see I have a fear of the smell of vinegar, I just get freaked out.  So I have been desperately trying to figure out how to make delicious pickles with seasonings to make up for the lack of vinegar. THIS IS IT!  In this one instead  of using vinegar  we use sea salt water! 
-I would leave these  in your refrigerator  at least 4  days before you bite  into one.    After that, good luck not finishing  the jar in a day or 2.  If you have  control of your fingers going in the pickle jar though, these last for weeks.
-Kirby cucumbers are the best for pickles.
-If you don’t have Kirbies, that’s totally ok, but I recommend if you are using big cucumbers to  cut them up  into spears first (they will fit better into the jar most likely too).
-Please don’t skip on the seasonings.  These pickles soak alongside delicious garlic, fresh dill, peppercorns, coriander seeds, mustard seeds and bay leaves.
-This recipe uses a half gallon mason jar.   The ingredients and amount of water to salt ratio in this recipe is for this sized jar.  
-If your pickles are soft and not crunchy when done, please check out Ball Pickle Crisp powder.  It works great to keep that fresh crunch!

Half Sour Pickles
  1. 5 kirby cucumbers (or however many you can fit into your jar)
  2. 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  3. 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  4. 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  5. few pieces of fresh dill
  6. 3 bay leaves
  7. 6 cloves garlic (minced)
  8. 1/4 cup sea salt
  9. 6 cups water
  10. additional whole coriander seeds and peppercorns to add on top
  1. Wash your cucumbers.
  2. Dissolve your sea salt in the water.
  3. Grind up all the dry ingredients (coriander, mustard seeds, peppercorns, 2 bay leaves). If you don’t have a mortar/pestle, throw it in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crush them.
  4. Put the cucumbers in your jar.
  5. Put the minced garlic in the jar, then ground up spices, then pour the salt water mixture on top. If you have any water left, disregard it.
  6. Add a few pieces of fresh dill on top.
  7. Add in your additional coriander seeds, peppercorns and bay leaf.
  8. Make sure your cucumbers are completely covered in water and close the jar.
  9. Put in the refrigerator. Let them sit for at least 4 days before eating.
  10. Enjoy!
  1. This recipe is for a half gallon jar. Please make sure you are using this size as it's important for the salt to water ratio.
  2. For a crunchy pickle add 1/4 teaspoon Ball Pickle Crisp Granules at the end.
Brooklyn Farm Girl http://brooklynfarmgirl.com/
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Fresh kirby cucumbers just picked from the garden!  

One of the yummy herbs in this recipe is coriander seeds.  If you have a cilantro plant and you neglect it, it will turn into coriander seeds. Awesome,  right?   I always  do this every year so I get fresh coriander to last until next harvest season. 

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You can  use a mortar and pestle to crush your dry ingredients  or you can be like me and  just use a tool (I don’t know the name of this so let’s  just go with “tool”) to bash  it all together. A rolling pin works great too.  So does a hammer. 

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Put your cucumbers in the jar, then add your garlic.

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Then your crushed dry ingredients.

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Pick a few  pieces of fresh dill. Doesn’t it smell great?

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Then add your salt water  and fresh dill.

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Keep filling your jar with water until your cucumbers are completely covered.  In  the  jar above, a little bit  of the salt water still needs to be added.

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Beautiful pickles in the making.

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Now it’s  the hard  part.. waiting for a few days to eat them!

But when it’s time… it will be worth it!

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If you are making batches as you harvest, and you use similar jars sometimes it gets confusing to keep track of the ones that have been sitting the longest.  To do this I use chalk or a Sharpie and write on the lid.  #1 = eat first, #2 = eat next, #3 = eat next next.. etc.

Enjoy! :)



Leave a comment
  • I’ve never had pickles without vinegar, these sound great. I too love pickles, crunchy and spicy they are the best. Your kirby’s look wonderful.

  • Question about Dill? I had a ton of dill volunteer in the garden this year and because I think it’s pretty I just let it go to seed. For next year’s purposes and making these gorgeous pickles, if I just keep the dill plants shorter and cut off the top before it goes to seed will I get those wonderful dill fronds like you’re showing? Just wondering! Love your web site!

    • Hi Laurie, that should work. I would recommend you pinch off the buds so the plant continues to get bushy and doesn’t stop growing. Good luck!

  • I love the sound of these fresh herb infused pickles. Hubby and I go through a lot of jars of pickles too and I have been meaning to try my hand at pickling so thanks so much for sharing this Pamela. Definitely pinning to try this :)

  • I LOVE pickles. My fave are garlicky, vinegary, sour dill pickes, but these half-sours look like a nice change of pace. I can eat like 2 or 3 pickles in one sitting. I don’t even want to think about how many I’ll eat when I’m pregnant. Anyway, these look excellent! I still haven’t tried my hand at canning. It really scares me.

  • I’ve never made pickles before. My mom is the pickle queen making no less than half a dozen gallons, a dozen or more of each quarts and pints. So many pickles! I am going to share this recipe with her since hers are all vinegar based (I believe).

  • I am SO excited to try this! I’ve tried to make half-sours, because a friend of mine just raves about them. The recipe I followed wasn’t this easy and they turned out…bad. Like, throw in the garbage bad and that is sacrilege, I know, as a fellow pickle FIEND. (I thought I was the only one who would raid the fridge of pickles at 4 am…)

    Nerdy note – real pickles don’t use vinegar. And vegetables that are soaked in salty brine and not vinegar are fermented, which makes a vinegar like liquid. So, when people use vinegar, they are really making quick pickles, and skipping the best part! So, not only are half-sours better, but they also have all kinds of good-for-you bacteria. Win-win!

    • Let me know if you try these Katie, I hope you enjoy them! They are my all day snack, I can’t get enough of them right now. I ate more than 2 today (number will stay a secret to hide the guilty). :)

      • They are in my fridge right now! I used a little of a pickling spice mixture I got at the coop and added in garlic (no fresh dill….sigh) and the water/salt ratio you wrote.

        Judging by how much salt is in these, I know why my last batch was so bad. Not nearly enough salt and the pickles went bad. Real bad.

  • This sounds delish! I love pickling at home. I’m not a fan of pickles. Actually, bad pickles but I do l0ve it when it’s done at home or served at restaurants. Love the combination of ingredients here Pamela. YUM!

  • Yum, these look so good. I have never done coriander seeds in them before but I grew up with my mum making these delish pickles all summer long. I have had them on my mind for a few days – so your post with a new recipe to try is serendipitous!

    • I hope you give them a try Hannah. The coriander seeds really enhance the sea salt water, I love them (great for soup too!).

  • That tool is an adjustable wrench, often referred to as a “nut rounder” because it often slips on the nuts you’re trying to remove and rounding over the corners of the nut. :)

  • How long can these pickles sit once canned? After the four days do they have to be eaten immediately? Have you done a water bath for them to preserve them, if so has that changed the taste or texture? Thanks again for the recipe!!

    • Hey Jay, I have many batches in my fridge that have been in there for about 4 weeks, and if I add some Pickle Crisp granules before I close the jar it really does help keeping that crunch weeks on in.
      If you keep the cucumbers whole they stay fresh for many weeks. If you cut them into spears, I would give them less time before turning soft. After 4 days, no they don’t have to be eaten right away. You can leave them sit much longer if you’d like. Enjoy!

    • Those are some big cucumbers! You could always cut them up into bite size pieces if you’d like! Thanks for stopping by! :)

  • I’ve been looking for a recipe close to the half sour pickles that they have at Ted’s Montana Grill and what Katie said, “The recipe(s) I followed weren’t this easy and they turned out…bad.” These turned out very close – just what I’d been looking for! Thanks for posting!

    LOL! Also, what Les said, the mystery tool is a “nut rounder.” :)

    • So glad you liked them Karl! They are one of my favorite afternoon snacks!

      Also thanks for letting me know the official term, haha. ;)

      • I used to help make pickles and also canned pears when I was a kid. I remember boiling the mason jars, and then adding some sugar water for pears, and a salty/vinegary/spiced mix for pickles (sometimes other things as well like pepeprs, tomatoes, etc). But I’ve long since forgotten the specific steps and ingredients. I’ve always grown up with a family mentality to just go to the store and buy a jar of pickles. I’ve never really liked those, they upset my stomach with all the chemicals, and also burn my throat. Nasty stuff. I do greatly prefer the half-sour pickles, though, and one of these days I’d like to make some. Your recipe ought to come in handy! I don’t have an aversion to vinegar, and may experiment with varying amounts and do my taste tests. That’s half the fun of preparing your own food! :D

        Oh, and the tool’s “official” name is an Adjustable Wrench, or Adjustable Spanner or Adjustable Spanner Wrench or Crescent Wrench or Adjustable Crescent Wrench. “Nut Rounder”, haha, I have never heard of that term, but I understand exactly what it means. It’s a joke, because these wrenches, although very convenient in a pinch, need to be used with great care. Some (most) brands will loosen up as you use them, or you otherwise bump a finger over the adjuster and loosen it, which happens right when you go to pull it hard to loosen the nut. Similar applies in reverse when tightening, and you need to do the “final torque down” to get it tight. Anyways, if the adjuster is loose in either of these positions, it tends to just grind off the corners of a hex nut, a very unfortunate occurrence called “rounding”. Then you have to take more drastic measures to get the darn thing undone, pliers, specialized tools like, drills, and specialized bolt-out drill bits, blow torches, etc.

  • I have never made pickles before but have a ton of kirbys this year and want to try this recipe… do you need to buy mason jars and seal in boiling water? or do you just lid and put in the fridge? My mom made a batch of dill pickles from my kirbys but they are from the premade pickling spice and are super sour… im dying for a great half sour super cold cruncy pickle!!!

    • Hi Wendy, you can totally do this without canning. Just follow the steps and then put into your fridge directly. They will last a few weeks, if not slightly longer! Enjoy!

  • Oh my God!!! This recipe is absolutely amazing!! My daughter and I made a batch and they are fantastic!!! Thanks for the great recipe – we’ll be making lots more of these! And to return the favor, email me if you’d like a copy of my contest-winning chili; glad to share.

    • Thanks Fred! I’m so happy to hear these pickles worked out for you. I’m about to make a few more batches today! My email is in the contact info above, feel free to send over that chili recipe!

  • I became obsessed with pickles this year
    .. chow chow, Korean Radishes, sweet and Spicy, curried veg, Kimchi, sauerkraut. .. all came out amazing and the larder is stuffed with my obsession. But half sours? Let’s just say after 6 batches of varying degrees of salty and mushy I was ready to give up. Then I saw this recipe and thought if a New Yorker can’t make a good half sour then I really am going to quit. Wow! Amazing. Right crunchy snap. Perfect proportions of salt and tang. I did them in a big batch in a gallon food prep bin weighed down with plates and packed them pretty solidly. After a few days they were ready so I transferred them to big half gallon jars and put then in the fridge. Can’t Stop eating them!

    • Hey Debby, I’m so glad you stopped by to let me know! Nothing makes me more happy than knowing someone else is enjoying some half sour pickles! We are harvesting some more cucumbers today from the garden so I’m sure to be making a few more batches myself! I definitely snack away on them all day… and they are the absolute best on sandwiches! Have a great weekend!

  • Ohh boy…I’m a pickle lover but only want the snap fresh product…how long should/can these be kept in the fridge before bacteria or other problems may arise…thx…byeGeorge,,,(~.-)

    Thx for putting this together…

    • I’ve kept them for over a month and they’ve stayed crunchy and fresh. They don’t last that long in my house as I want to eat them all! ;)

  • I’m getting ready to try making a couple of batches including one batch using an alder smoked salt. One question in advance about the water: do you use filtered water to remove the chlorine, let it stand to dissipate, etc.

    I’m already looking forward to the end of next week so I can crack open a jar!

  • […] Because I always want to add vegetables to every meal, there’s a bunch of kale and carrots in this soup.  I always love the way kale looks and tastes in a brothy soup.    Along with the vegetables there’s garlic and the real star: ginger.  I always think using ginger in dishes really gives it that true Chinese taste.  If you cook a Chinese dish without ginger and with,  it’s always the ginger dish that wins – always!    But don’t worry if you don’t have fresh ginger or fresh garlic, because I have something that is going to help you in cooking year round.  Do you know about frozen herb cubes? They are the best.  I’ve bee using them for years and they have been saving me from the issue of making a dish and then realizing halfway I don’t have fresh cilantro, ginger, parsley etc on hand.  I just open up the freezer, pop out a few cubes and I have fresh herbs.   And don’t stop at soups, I love using the frozen cilantro for salsas in the winter time.  And frozen dill cubes are perfect for adding in Sour Pickles! […]

  • Hi Pamela! I’m a hot mess in the kitchen, and frequently botch things as simple as hard-boiled eggs… but your recipe is quick, easy, and phenomenally DELICIOUS. Really, really good. Just made my second batch! Can’t thank you enough.

  • Hi there,
    Have you ever tried adding a little celery or celery seed to this recipe?
    Do you think that would enhance it?
    Thank you!

  • Hello,

    I have tried two batches of pickles so far using your recipe.
    I have run into two issues and wanted your thoughts on them.

    After my first batch I found I had to half the amount of Sea Salt or the pickles came out so salty you can’t eat them.

    The second batch came out almost perfect except the seasonings did not penetrate the cucumbers very well and the batch ended up more Cuke than Pickle. I let this batch sit in the fridge for over two weeks. They were still crispy but the flavor just did not go all the way through.

    Any ideas?


    • Hi Marc,
      I would recommend lowering the amount of salt. I have found that with some people based on the amount of water they use, the size jar, etc, the salt can really vary in taste if the recipe isn’t followed exactly per water to salt. What size jar are you using and how much water?
      Per the seasoning, go a little stronger on them, especially the bay leaves. I would say these pickles are more about the half sour, tartness, than the seasonings though.
      Good luck.

  • Hi Pamela
    I saw your recipe and got excited. Today I made my first 1/2 gallon in 2 one quart canning jars. This is my first attempt at canning. Will let you know how my 1/2 sour pickles turn out.
    Thanx again

  • I have found that it’s impossible to be sad while eating a pickle. They’re the perfect snack when you’re down in the dumps. I eat one every day. They keep the black dog away.

  • Yummy! The pickles were a big hit on the 4th! I couldn’t find and fresh dill, so I substituted cilantro. I also added a couple of sliced serrano peppers and some bits of watermelon rind.

    Again, I say “Yummy!”

    • Happy to hear these were a success Michael! I just made the first batch of the year myself. Happy it’s pickle season again! ;)

  • When you say “seal up the jar” do you actually mean seal it via a canning method or just close the lid? I”m excited to try this.

  • I just made these this past week, and the taste came out wonderfully, except they were WAY too salty. I put the amount suggested!! Would reducing the amount of salt somehow alter the “pickling” process? I can’t even eat them as-is. The only other half sours I’ve had were at Ted’s Montana Grill, and they were not nearly this salty. I did slice the cucumbers before pickling because they were huge (got them from a friend). Could that have made the difference? Thanks!

    • Hi Mary. I would recommend lowering the amount of salt if these turned out too salty for you. I have found that with some people based on the amount of water they use, the size jar, etc, the salt can really vary in taste if the recipe isn’t followed exactly per water to salt. What size jar are you using and how much water? If you cut them up they will taste more salty due to them being touched directly to the salt water.

  • This is essentially the recipe for Kosher Dills. You can leave them longer to make them stronger. I recommend lots of Garlic, a hot pepper (Jalapeno or Serrano is good) and the tops (ssed pods) from the dill.

  • Most of the recipes I have seen for half sour or full sour pickles involve 4 days to 2 weeks of the pickles being kept in brine at room temperature before being refrigerated. I am wondering if you are getting much if any fermentation in 4 days at 38 degrees F? Do you see any bubbling or other evidence of the fermentation process? My understanding was that once you make a half sour after 4 days sitting at room temp, you can refrigerate them and stop them from becoming full sours. If you want full sours you just leave them out at room temp for 10 days to 2 weeks and then they can then keep at room temp even longer because of the acidification from the fermentation and the salt. Have you ever checked the pH after the 4 refrigerated days to see if any lactic acid has been created? I have not yet embarked on any pickle making adventures and am in the research process before my first attempt.

    • Hi Markas. I have not done any pH tests to the pickles so I can’t help you out there. After just a few days you can definitely see bubbling and fizz rise to the top with this recipe. Have fun!

  • Can I add pickle crisp a couple fo days after I have made the pickles?
    Thank you for the recipe. Just waiting to try them after sitting in the frig for a few days :)

    • If you don’t have the crisp the day you make them you can add a few days later. I’ve done that before if I run out of crisp. Enjoy!

  • As a misplaced born and raised New Yorker living in Colorado I have been seriously missing my half sours. So excited to try these! I’m planning on getting them going tonight, but am worried about the salt! I bought a canister of coarse sea salt, are your measurements based off of a fine or coarse ground? Thanks!

  • Let me apologize in advance for cheating (a little) and changing the recipe by adding 1 spice,THAT SAID …. Absolutely THE BEST recipe I have ever tried !! I used gray sea salt ( I got it as a gift) and I did cheat and just used pickling spice for a part of the recipe (but only 1 tsp, because I didn’t have any coriander seeds, and I knew they were in there, LOL I dumped some on a cutting board and separated them out, along with the bay leaves which I didn’t have either)I think a bit of maybe crushed red pepper might have slipped in there as well, but it didn’t hurt !! I added a couple whole allspice along with the extra peppercorns on the top of the jar as well. I’ll tell ya’ these rivaled may favorite Ba’ Tampte pickles !! But better by a long shot !! Thanks Pamela !!

    • Hi Linda, I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed these pickles! I love the idea of adding some crushed red pepper, I’m going to try that in the next batch! Thanks again for stopping by!

  • So excited to try this recipe tonight! Do I need to boil the jars first? I thought by sealing you meant to do a canning method but in the notes you say that’s not necessary. Any tips appreciated for my first time!! Thx!!

    • Hi Heather, there are 2 quarts in a half-gallon. So if you are only using 1 quart sized jar I would cut everything in half in the recipe.

  • Hi,

    Another Brooklyn Girl here but I live in VT. Just picked cukes form the garden and am psyched. One Q though: I’ve washed my jar but I don’t plan to sterilize it. That ok?

  • Hi,
    You are a genius. These were completely delicious! Thank you!
    One question though – if I want to “can” these rather than making only refrigerator pickles (I have a massive surplus of kirbys) – do I need to alter the recipe at all for purposes of preserving the pickles – or can I just follow the recipe and “can” as I would any other preserved vegetable?
    Thanks so much for any help!

    • Hey Nina, I never canned this recipe (eat them too quick!) so this is my guess. If you substitute the water so it’s one half vinegar, one half water I think you’ll be good to go for storing these in a cabinet once canned. You can also can these with the original recipe using only water but these will need to be canned and stored in the refrigerator (like some store bought pickles are kept in the refrigerated section). Hope this helps!

  • BFG, You are The Goddess! Day 4 and I just opened the pickles: YUM! Thoses puppies are going to be eaten in a wink. (I made 2, 1/2 gallon jars). Do I need to start fresh or can I use the brine more than once?


  • Oops, just figured out how to read all the other commetns so i’m going to amend my question: How many times can I use the brine, or, how long can the brine be kept?

    • Thanks Laurie, I’m so happy you liked them! There’s no concrete answer for this as this depends on how cloudy and also how much spice and taste is left in the brine. Personally I reuse once and find it perfect for another batch of pickles! After that it becomes more cloudy and the seasonings and taste begin to fall off. Hope this helps!

  • Great. Sounds like what I thought. I just made another batch using fresh jalopeno from the garden instead of dried crush red pepper. That was good, I’m hoping the fresh hot will be even better! don’t know if you grow garlic but if you do… I have all my garlic up drying in the barn. I took the last heads from last year, (about 70 heads) put them in a processor and tossed in olive oil and salt. The paste is amazing! I’ve eaten some off the spoon but it’s great to dilute and put in other things too.

  • I was so excited to try this recipe. I had all the fresh ingredients to make two jars full. I don’t know what I did wrong but what I got a week later was a super mushy, way too salty mess! My cucumbers were floppy they were so mushy and I love salty foods but this was way too much salt for anyone to enjoy. So disappointed. Your look delicious! I don’t think any amount of pickle crisp would have saved my sad little cukes.

    • Sorry they turned into mush, as you can see from the comments this is a favorite pickle recipe from many, so why not give it another shot with less salt?

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For more information contact Pamela at pamela@pamelareed.com.