Pickles From Around the World

Ever craving something crunchy but can't think of anything that will satiate your hunger? Pickles are the perfect solution to your food dilemma. They can be eaten alone, paired with a dish. Cucumbers aren’t the only food that can be pickled, other foods including watermelon, onions, tomatoes, and herring are commonly pickled around the world.

Pickling is the practice of maintaining or expanding the shelf life of food by either anaerobic fermentation in brine or by immersion in vinegar. Vinaigrette (vegetable oil and vinegar) is also used as a pickling tool in East Asia. Usually, the pickling process affects the appearance, taste, and flavor of the food. The resulting food is called a pickle or is prefaced with pickled to avoid confusion. Pickled foods include vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, dairy and eggs.

Most regions have a rich history of pickling. Pickling is thought to have originated around 2400 BCE in the Indus Valley Civilization in northwest India. The Pickle History segment of the New York Food Museums shows archeological proof that cucumbers native to India were pickled and shipped into Iraq's Tigris Valley in 2030 BCE. Indian pickles are primarily cooked in three ways: salt / brine, butter, and vinegar, with mango pickles being incredibly popular.


A commonly known pickled food from Korea is kimchi. A staple of Korean cuisine, kimchi is a famous traditional side dish made with salted and fermented vegetables such as napa cabbage and Korean radish, made with a wide variety of seasonings including gochugaru (chili powder), spring onions, garlic, ginger and jeotgal (salted seafood). The following recipe is for baechu-kimchi, which translates to cabbage kimchi. Baechu-kimchi is made with fermented napa cabbages. Kimchi was traditionally stored in large earthenware in the ground. This allowed it to stay cool during the summer and prevent freezing during the winter. The earthenware kept the fermentation consistent.

Kimchi, like most pickled food, has strong sour and umami notes and is often spicy. The sour taste comes from the fermentation.


For salting cabbage:

6 pounds napa cabbage

½ cup Kosher salt

For making porridge:

2 cups water

2 tablespoons sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour)

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (brown or white sugar)


2 cups radish matchsticks

1 cup carrot matchsticks

7 to 8 green onions, chopped

1 cup chopped Asian chives

1 cup water dropwort

Seasonings and spices:

½ cup garlic cloves (24 garlic cloves), minced

2 teaspoon ginger, minced

1 medium onion, minced

½ cup fish sauce

¼ cup fermented salted shrimp with the salty brine, chopped

2 cups hot pepper flakes


Preparing and salting the cabbage:

If too many sticks out of the cabbage cores, trim it off.

To split a cabbage in half without shredding the densely packed leaves inside, first cut a short slit in the base of the cabbage, enough to get a grip on either side. Then pull the halves gently apart so that the cabbage splits open.

Cut a slice through each half of the heart, 2 inches above the base. You want the leaves of the cabbage to be loose but still attached to the heart. Dunk the halves into a large water tank to get them wet. Sprinkle the salt between the leaves by raising each leaf. Use more salt near the stems, where the leaves become thicker.

Leave the cabbages resting for two hours. To make sure that the cabbages are salted well, turn them over every thirty minutes. Use a ladle to pour some of the saltwater from the bottom of the basin over the top of the cabbages from time to time.

Wash the cabbage halves under cold running water a few times after 2 hours. Give them a good shower to avoid the salt and any grit. As you wash them, divide the halves into quarters along the slits to which you cut earlier. Cut the cores off, and place them over a basin in a strainer so they can drain well.

Wash the kimchi-cabbage.

While the cabbage is salting for 2 hours, you can render the porridge. First, mix the water and the sweet rice flour in a small pot. Combine well with a wooden spoon and require to cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat until it begins bubbling. Add the sugar and stir it for one more minute. Then remove the pot from heat, and place it in a refrigerator to let it cool off completely.

Pour the refrigerated porridge into a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, salted shrimp fermented, and hot pepper flakes. Blend well with the wooden spoon until the mixture becomes a thin paste. Add the radish, carrot, and green onion, plus the Asian chives (or greener onions) and the water dropwort when using. Mix very well.

Make kimchi:

Spread some paste of kimchi over each leaf of cabbage. When each leaf in a quarter is covered with paste, wrap it in a small packet around itself, and put it in your jar, plastic container, or onggi.

Eat right away, or leave it to ferment for a few days.


Pickled herring is a common way to preserve herring by pickling or curing it as food. Many cured herring uses a method of curing in two stages. The herring is initially cured with salt to extract water. The second stage involves removing the salt and transferring the herring to a brine–usually a solution of vinegar, salt, sugar–to which ingredients such as peppercorn, bay leaves, and raw onions are added. Specific flavorings such as sherry, mustard and dill may also be used. Pickled herring remains a popular food/ingredient to dishes in many parts of Europe including Scandinavia, the Baltic, Eastern, and Central Europe, as well as the Netherlands. It is also associated with Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine.

The following recipe is Swedish Pickled Herring. The herring has a very fishy/ briny taste, as well as notes of sweet and sour.


1/4 cup kosher salt

5 cups water, divided

1 pound herring fillets

2 cups distilled or white wine vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon mustard seed

2 teaspoons whole allspice

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

3 bay leaves

3 cloves

1 lemon, thinly sliced

1 medium red onion thinly sliced


Heat 4 cups of water and add salt after the water has boiled. Stir until the salt dissolves. Let the brine cool to room temperature. When it does, submerge the herring fillets in the brine and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Meanwhile, bring the sugar, vinegar, the remaining cup of water with all the spices to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let this steep until cool.

When the herring has brined, layer them in a glass jar with the sliced lemon and red onion. Divide the spices between your containers if you are using more than one. Pour over the cooled pickling liquid and seal the jars. Wait at least a day before eating. Store in the fridge for up to 1 month.

The United States and Canada

A pickled cucumber (commonly known as a pickle in the United States and Canada, and a gherkin in the United Kingdom, Britain, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand) is a cucumber that has been pickled in a brine, vinegar, or other solution and allowed to cure for a period of time, either by immersing the cucumbers in an acid solution or by souring them by Lacto-fermentation.

The koolickle originated in the Mississippi Delta and is a staple in soul food. They are notably tangy, sweet and sour.

This is a Kool-Aid Pickle


1 (32-oz.) jar dill pickle spears

1 packet red Kool-Aid

1/4 c. granulated sugar


Place a strainer over a large bowl and strain pickles. Return pickles to the jar and reserve liquid.

Add Kool-Aid and sugar to pickle juice and whisk until dissolved. Pour pickle juice mixture over pickles in a jar.

Seal the jar and refrigerate for at least 5 days.

Mexico, Central America, and South America

Domestic pig feet are usually salted and cooked in the same way as other cuts of meat, such as hams and bacon. They are usually stored in a fashion somewhat close to home canning and pickled vegetable processes; generally, a hot vinegar brine is used to saturate them. Such methods enable them to be stored until the container is opened, without the need for refrigeration.

This is Oaxacan Pickled Pigs' Feet. Usually, it is the flavor of vinegar that hits most people first, with only a hint of pork flavors. Its taste is infamous for being one that must be acquired.


3 pounds pigs' feet, split

3 1/2 quarts water

3 1/2 cups red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

6 bay leaves

1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced

1 medium poblano chile, stemmed, seeded and diced

1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced

1 medium yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced

1 to 2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Lettuce leaves for serving


Place the pigs' feet, water, 3 cups of the red wine vinegar, the black peppercorns, bay leaves, 1 tablespoon of the salt and the dried thyme in a large stockpot.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the skin starts to pull away from the bones and the meat slips off easily when pierced with a fork, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Set aside to cool completely, then refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove and discard the outer layer of skin and fat from the pigs' feet and discard the bones. Slice the meat and soft cartilage into 1 x 1/8-inch thick strips.

Place the meat, carrot and all the peppers in a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, the remaining 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, the 3/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper and toss well to combine.

Cover and chill for 2 to 4 hours. Serve cold on lettuce-lined plates.