Thursday, May 04, 2006

Recipe: Half Sour Pickles

So I became an addict sometime around 1970. In Miami, on Collins Avenue, at the coffee shop lunch counter of the Eden Roc. It was a glorious day.

You see, in those days, all the class hotels along Millionaire’s Row served up all the half sour pickles you could eat, for free, 24 hours a day. Bowl after bowl after bowl, the entire length of the counter, on every table, at every booth. These wondrous, pale green inside, brilliant green outside, incredibly crunchy, manna from heaven, half sour pickles.

I’d grown up with dill pickles, and had met many a sour pickle, and even some sweet pickles were actually pretty good under some circumstances. But I had never before met a half sour. And when I did, I knew I had found pickle perfection.

Unfortunately, since Goldi’s Deli closed about 10 years ago, there has been no source of half sour pickles in this part of the world. Occasionally, a jar of BaTampte half sours would show up at the grocery store, but then months would pass without another. I suffered as long as I could. Now I make my own.

These are not yet pickle perfection; I’m still ‘in search of,’ on that journey. But they are certainly Pretty Good Pickles . . .

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/3 tsp. whole coriander seeds
1/3 tsp. brown mustard seeds
1 or 2 whole allspice
1/3 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 tsp. black pepper corns
¼ tsp. dill seeds
1 – 2 Tbsp. dill weed
2 or 3 pieces broken dried bay leaf
4 – 6 cloves garlic
¼ cup pickling salt
4 cups water
8 or 9 pickling cukes

Here’s how you do it.

First, buy some pickling salt. Look for salt that specifically says “pickling salt.” That’s because pickling salt is simply plain, pure salt. No iodine, no additives to ‘ensure free flow,’ no nothing. Just salt, sodium chloride, NaCl, that’s all. Even Kosher salt, these days, usually has additives (presumably Kosher additives, but still . . .) For a pickling brine of any kind, just plain salt is best.

Second, a word about the Pickle Police (with thanks, or apologies, to Emeril). This is a cold, fresh-pack approach to pickles. No heat, no boiling, no sterilization in the autoclave, or canning in a boiling water bath, no antisepsis of any kind other than normal kitchen cleanliness. In other words, against all the rules promulgated by the FDA and every other official food agency. So if you want to stay out of the hospital, be scrupulous in your cleaning.

The process itself is pretty simple. Dissolve the salt in the water. Grind up all the dry ingredients except the dill weed and the bay leaf in a mortar. Chop the garlic. Wash the cukes and pack them in the jar. Dump in all the dry stuff, all the garlic, and pour in the salt water to cover everything. Wait. Chill. Pickles.

Too quick? Ok. One more time . . .

While you’re gathering and measuring and grinding and chopping, let your cukes soak in a sinkful of ice cold water. And be sure to snip off any little stem parts that are still attached. The stems are very bitter and can ruin an otherwise great batch of pickles.

Go soak a pickle

The amount of salt, and the other ingredients, will, of course, depend on the size of your pickle jar. Mine holds about 8 or 9 cucumbers and takes nearly 4 cups of salt water to cover the pickles. So all my measurements are based on my jar. You’ll need to adjust based on your jar. Also, remember that even though I’ve offered specific amounts for the ingredients, I measure them all in the palm of my hand – well, except for the water and the salt . . .

Half Sour Pickle ingredients

When you grind up the dry ingredients, don’t turn it to dust. You just want to release some of the flavors and let them blend for a minute or two. I usually watch the brown mustard seeds, and as soon as I see them becoming a yellow powder, I’ll stop. The allspice are usually still whole at that point, as are the peppercorns. (In fact, I’ll often just add the peppercorns at the end, without even putting them in the mortar.)

Grind up the dry ingredients

The salt and garlic will be providing most of the noticeable flavor for your pickles, so getting the garlic quantity right is a critical step. Since I didn’t understand that at first, I erred on the side of caution. I urge you to err on the other side. And keep in mind that smaller cloves are often more strongly flavored than large ones. If your garlic cloves are the size of your thumb, use 6 (or 8 or . . .)

Whack up some garlic

When you pack your cukes into your jar, try to leave an inch or two of headroom above the pickles. If the pickles are not completely covered in the brine, they’ll just rot, and you’ll be calling those Pickle Police. So push and shove a little to get them in with some room to spare.

When the pickles are packed, pour in the contents of the mortar, the chopped garlic, the dill weed, the bay leaf, and anything else you decided not to grind earlier. Then fill the jar with the salt water, right up to the top.

Assemble your pickles

Now they get to sit for a few days, somewhere cool and dry (and clean!) Do not tighten the lid while the pickles are sitting. You want the natural airborne beasties to get into the jar and help the pickles start to ferment. Leave them at room temperature for at least 48 hours – I usually wait 72 hours – and then screw that cap on tight and put them in the refrigerator. Oh, and that little ‘diaper dish’ under the jar is a really good idea. Some of the brine is guaranteed to spill out as the fermentation gets going; catching it in the bucket is better than wiping it off the table!

Pickling underway

(And, no, that line around the upper part of the jar is not the fluid level – it’s just some gum from the original label on the jar. My pickles are most definitely completely submerged!)

As I said, these are not yet Pickle Perfection, so if, in your experiments, you stumble across the path to perfection (or already know it), please share. Half sour pickle lovers across the globe will thank you for it . . . In the meantime, enjoy these . .


  1. Sounds absolutely amazing. And I have that very same marble mortar and pestle! =)

  2. Hi fiber! Great to see you back again. One of these entries, I promise to link to
    You have a wondeful touch with vegetables (and glorious light in your kitchen!)

    I found the mortar and pestle at a TJMax for $6 and couldn't resist. But I think the next one will come from a laboratory supply house - won't be as pretty, but will have a 'better' unpolished interior.

    Keep on cooking!


  3. Mmmm your recipes look delicous!
    you have Great blog from Jeena :)

    visit jeena's kitchen healthy recipe blog

  4. Anonymous3:49 PM

    How long in the fridge before they are ready to munch on?

  5. Well, I guess that depends on the temperature of your refrigerator, your preference for pickle warmth, and/or your patience. I usually have a new batch started before the old jar is empty, so mine are always icy cold, just the way I like. But even at room temperature, a good half sour is crunchy and delicious!



  6. Your half sour recipe looks great. I was looking around for one and since you know ba tampte, you must know your half sours! Gonna go out today and get my ingredients, cukes waiting for me! Thanks.

  7. Anonymous7:25 PM

    Why do you use separate spices, unless you prefer a specific ratio? There is ready made up "Pickling Spice" available by McCormick. I'm originally from NYS, so I'm definitely a fan of half sours.
    My dad always made them in an old earthenware crock and kept them in the "back room". I'll look up a couple in my recipe files and maybe send them to you. I also use only real pickling cukes, not small salad cukes.

  8. Anonymous1:51 PM

    I tried this recipe and the garlic turned bluish-green, is this normal? Maybe I didn't add enough vinegar?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Hi all,

    With regard to using separate spices rather than a mix, it's a flavor thing. All the 'pickling spices' blends I've ever tried have been way too 'dilly' for my tastes in general and for my 'vision' of a half sour. So I tried to put together a combination of quantities of flavors I thought would work. And after a bunch of tries that rated 'close but no cigar,' I settled on the combo in the recipe.

    But, hey, if you like a different combination or emphasis or overall character, go for it! I've discovered that 'pickles is very personal,' and I've always been a proponent of playing with your food. So have at it and let us know what you find out, what you like, what you don't like and especially, how to do it!

    Thanks for your comments,


  10. And as for blue-green garlic, well, all I can say is, "Blechhh."

    I don't know. The recipe does not call for any vinegar. This is a 'fresh pack' recipe. I've never tried adding any vinegar, and have no clue what might happen if you do. Maybe the acetic acid leeches enough green out of the dill weed to color the garlic? Or maybe the garlic was just getting old? Or . . .?

    Since 'rotten' garlic is dangerous stuff, I'd probably toss any pickles with blue-green garlic and start over. Your mileage may vary . . .


    1. The blue/green color results from using garlic which isn't fresh. I'm told it won't hurt you, or mor importantly, your pickles!

  11. Anonymous6:33 PM

    I've been making dill picles for 35 years and the garlic often turns blue-green and I eat it and I'm here to tell you about it.

  12. Anonymous12:04 AM


    Your recipe is going to the test tomorrow at our country fair. I've reduced the salt by 33% from by first batch. The great spices were overpowered by the saltiness.

    The one thing I'm worried about is that I am in the same category as bread&butter--not exactly a fair comparison.

    I'll let you know what color ribbon I win.

    1. Anonymous8:45 AM

      I am wondering about entering my half sours in our local fair, as they do not have these where I live. Will they hold up for a few days without refrigeration and be safe? I could start the brining process, just before the entry date!

  13. carolynch12:30 PM

    Hi! This recipe sound great but some of the pickles in my garden have gotten kind of large, (still nice and green, though.) Can I cut the pickles into slices or spears for this recipe?
    Also,why is spoiled garlic so bad, other than the taste?

  14. Hi all,

    Wow, who'd a thought pickles would be such a hotbed of culinary comments! What a delight!

    I got to wondering about blue garlic, so did a little research. Turns out, Mary has the right idea, and her 35 years of pickle wisdom is to be admired.

    The blue is, apparently, copper sulfate. The garlic comes with the sulfur - that's part of its tasty charm. And copper shows up frequently in drinking water, among other sources. Put the two together, and you've got a lovely blue or blue-green color going on.

    So fear not the blue garlic.

    And while I was looking around for blue, I also turned up some clarification on the 'dangerous' garlic issue.

    I had remembered from somewhere in the back of my head that garlic could grow botulism somehow. And botox treatments notwithstanding, I've never been fond botulist anything.

    Turns out that memory fragment was only partly right. Yes, garlic can grow botulism, but only, apparently, if stored unrefrigerated, and without air. Here's a link to an FDA memo about the issue.
    Garlic in
    Oil Mixes

    And as for the question of cutting the cukes before pickling, sure you can. They just won't stay as crisp, as long, as if they were whole. But several times, I ended up with a cuke or two that I just could not cram into my jar. So I cut them into pieces to make them fit. Worked fine, tasted great, just not quite as crunchy a week or so down the road.

    And if Anonymous wins a ribbon of any color, well, Congratulations! But even if not, at least you'll have some pretty good pickles to munch on!

    Pickle on . . .,


    1. I've been using this recipe with a few of my own variations for several years now, so let me say thank you. The only difference is I only use the smaller fancy gourmet cucumbers and I always slice them first, about an inch thick. This way they're ready to eat in just a couple of hours and they stay fresh and crisp for 1 to 2 weeks (they never last that long. Also, as soon as I finish a batch, I just slice up some more and toss them in the same brine and the next batch is ready again soon.

  15. Anonymous2:09 PM

    I followed your recipe precisely, let them sit at room temp for 3 days, then into the refrigerator for a day, then opened them and they were mushy soft - so soft that they must have been rotten, so we threw them. I wonder what I did wrong? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  16. I'm sorry your first batch of pickles turned out so poorly; I hope you'll try again, because if you can get them to work for you, they really are 'pretty good pickles.'

    I'm not sure what might have caused yours to turn to mush, but I'm glad you threw them out! I certainly don't want anyone getting ill from my food!

    I do know that if the pickles are not entirely submerged, they will get mushy - a couple of my batches have had an errant cuke that stuck up above the brine, or a cut piece or two on top that didn't quite get covered with liquid, and those were not nearly 'crisp.'

    I also once had a batch where the original cukes were a tad on the soft side, and that entire jar of pickles was far less than crunchy. And that was a winter batch, when my tap water will turn your hands blue in a few seconds (a deep well), so the cukes got about as crispy as they could in the water bath before I packed them in the jar.

    So other than fresh, hard pickling cukes (not salad cukes) to start with and making sure that they are all submerged in the brine, I'm not sure what else to suggest to avoid mushy pickles.

    Perhaps your next batch should sit out for only 36 to 48 hours before going into the fridge; or if your tap water is heavily chlorinated, maybe try using bottled water for your brine. And, if the dry stuff didn't mix well, maybe sprinkle it into the jar about half-way through packing the cukes; that way you can be sure it will all get into the liquid.

    So. please try again, and be sure to let us all know how it works out.


  17. Anonymous8:34 PM

    I made a second batch and it turned out fine - very good authentic half-sours. Some things I did were to use bottled water to be doubly-sure to eliminate bacteria and I also made sure that the cukes were submerged, using a technique I borrowed from another recipe, of putting a plastic bag with some brine in it on top of the open pickle jar. I tried to mix the spices with the brine better by putting just a few ounces of brine in the jar together with the spices, then capping it and shaking it vigorously. It still doesn't mix well and the spices float on top of the jar - although it doesn't seem to hurt the quality. I'm about to try doing a double batch (4 quarts) to split with a neighbor.

  18. Fantastic!

    I'm so glad you tried a second batch, and gladder still that you liked the results!

    Thanks for the tip about the plastic bag to help keep the cukes submerged, and please, keep on picklin'!


  19. Anonymous5:11 PM

    Thanks! I am a half sour addict myself and I wanted to try making them myself. Thanks for the detailed instructions. I'm giving these a try this week!

  20. Anonymous5:31 PM

    Are these like Ted'd Montana Grill serves? Does someone have that recipe? (I don't taste any dill.)

  21. For anyone experiencing mushy pickles--I don't know if you all are using pickling cukes or not, but cukes all have one characteristic that is the same--the blossom end (i.e. not the stem) will automatically release enzymes that will soften the cuke once it is submerged in any type of low pH environment. To prevent this (and ensure super crispy half-sours) you just have to clip any type of growth/extension from that end. To my pickle-lovin' brothers and sisters, I hope this is useful! Love you all.

  22. Hi, newbie here.
    Also, using pickling salt instead of Kosher or any other type of salt ensures crispy pickles.
    Tommyj, I can't wait to try your recipe, especially because Gnomes have been leaving tons of cukes in our garden daily!

  23. I make 8 to 10 gallons of kosher ickles a year and have experimented with various recipes. Simple is best for me. Salt, peppercorns, dill, and garlic. I found 4 Tbls. pickling salt to 6 cups water works best for me. this usually covers a tightly packed gallon jug of pickles. If not just add a little bit more water. But this is Important!! DO NOT USE TAP WATER! Tap water contains chlorine and floride. Both will foul the fermentation process and cause disastrous results. I found this out on my first picjling experience. I now use distilled water and get great results.


  24. Anonymous12:27 PM

    How long will these half-sours keep in the fridge?

  25. Hey all, glad to see you're still picklin' and thanks for the great comments!

    I'm afraid I've never been in a Ted's Montana Grill, so I have no idea what their pickles are like. But I did go to their website, and didn't see anything that looked like a half sour . . .

    And thanks to Jason for the blossom trim tip. Anything that can help keep half sours crispy is a good thing!

    Judyboo, you're a lucky girl; hope you can keep your Gnomes happy!

    And thanks to MPH for the water tip. I'm spoiled with a 275' deep well in my backyard, and sometimes forget that much of the country is dependent on city water. For sure, there's no place for fluorine or chlorine (or any other kind of 'ine) in a half sour pickle! So, watch your water . . .

    And, finally, I don't know how long these pickles will keep in the fridge - mine are always gone within two weeks, usually, less. Beyond that, you're on you're own. . .

    Keep on having fun with your food!


  26. Anonymous10:19 AM

    Made my first batch of these a few days ago. They are rather salty compared to commercially available half-sours. Also, on the third day of fermentation, the brine started turing cloudy for some reason. At theat point, I stuck them in the fridge. They're crisp and taste fine, except for the very salty taste.

  27. Anonymous6:57 PM

    I have had my pickles out on the counter in mason jars covered w/ plastic wrap with a few holes poked in it for 3 days. There is a little scum, bubbles and even a bit of white puffy moldy stuff floating around on them

    They smell awesome, the brine is a bit cloudy. I'm putting a screw cover on each jar lightly and placeing them in the fridge. What do I do next? Should I taste them yet or wait till Sunday. It will be a week by then.
    Let me know!!! Thanks!

  28. Anonymous10:47 PM

    Great Pickles Growing up in
    Brooklyn NY,all the best diners,served half sours and pickled green tomato's. I got hooked 30 years ago while waiting for my cheese deluxe to arrive.I am sorry to say Batampte is hit or miss at best. frequently their half sours are soft. Have to be crunchy in order to qualify, in my opinion,as a good half sour. This recipe worked just FINE.

  29. Anonymous10:15 PM

    Did my first batch copying your recipe. I used bottled water. Going for my second batch very soon. Made 18 picks and they came out great! No plans to change anything. EXPLAIN IN DETAIL: what is the best way to prep the pickle?...stems? etc....

  30. Anonymous8:09 PM

    I was told that the reason that your garlic turns blue/green is because of the minerals in your water (tap water). If you do not want this to happen, use filtered/purified water.

  31. Sorry the last post was a test.
    Hi Tommy. My name is Michael and I live here in London. I am from NYC and also love halfsours. I followed your recipe, and using 1 gallon jars made a batch with the correct allowances for 9 cups of water. The gallon jugs were sitting in a cool closet for two days and I havent noticed any spillage from the fermentation process. I have now moved to my kitchen counter. I have read that a film forms on the top of the water in the jar and it will spill over from the process. Does this always happen and if it doesnt, is my batch not working?

  32. Hi all,

    Wow, pickles are still a hot topic, or at least half sour pickles. I'm thinking I may need to go into the business . . .

    Anyway, to all the anonymous commenters, all I can say is keep on picklin'! Get them in the fridge by the end of the third day so that they'll stay crispy.

    Cloudiness is, well, cloudiness. Could be from any of a hundred causes, and probably is of no concern.

    Details on the preparation of the cukes? Wash, use scissors to trim both ends of anything you find there without cutting the skin of the cuke. Pickle.

    Michael, glad to have a transplanted New Yorker on board in London. My late son-in-law was a Brit and my wife has dozens of relatives in London and all over Ireland.

    And while a 'film' may form over the top of your pickle jars during fermentation, it does not have to, and for a 'fresh pack' pickle like these half-sours, it is probably a good sign if it does not form. Bubbling, yes; some cloudiness, yes; a little spillage, yes; but a 'raft' like on a consomme, no.

    So, I hope you've got your pickles well chilled by the time you read this, and have had the courage to taste-test one or two. Let us know how they turned out!



  33. Tommy,

    Thank you. Having been brought up in New Jersey, half sours, or as we called them new dills, were everywhere. As your post said, you can find them occasionally, very occasionally, at supermarkets and even BJ's under different brand names. But, as you know, I am sure, their shelf life is limited.

    I have been to Ted’s Montana Grill, they are all over North Carolina where I now live, and their pickles are close, albeit possibly slightly overdone. It could have been the particular Tommy’s I went to on the particular day, and the particular waitress so I will reserve judgment. Ted’s is pretty cool overall.

    I remember Collins Avenue also for a different reason, Rascal’s. They provided them free also. I think Pumpernickels in Hallandale did too. Both closed now.

    From my perspective, it should look like a cucumber, crunch like a cucumber, with a light pickle flavor. As soon as the inside turns into a standard translucent dill pickle, I throw them out.

    Looking forward to trying you recipe and will provide you feedback. I am getting tired of buying a $4 jar of “half baked” pickles that end up being too old!

    Happy pickling!


  34. Anonymous9:03 AM

    I skimmed all the comments, may have missed this though if it was addressed already, but maybe you can let me know if you have any tips for a low sodium recipe?

    What is the lowest amount of salt one can use with this recipe without ruining the taste of the pickle? I'm on a low sodium diet and love pickles, sniff sniff, I really miss my half-sours and would LOVE to make a big jar of low sodium ones. What a treat! Many thanks! Amy

  35. Ok Tommy,

    I'm on my second batch. The first batch I left out 48 hours with the top ajar, and it ended up being, from my perspective overdone, and slightly salty, although I used sea salt. I also used distilled water to be sure I didn't get any of those gremlins.

    The second batch I lowered the salt a bit, whipped it all together, and put it right in the refrigerator overnight with the top ajar. Next morning, I covered it. It was perfect! Crisp, crunchy, and only slightly dill, which is what I like.

    The third batch I plan to make is to throw it in the fridge covered, and see what happens.

    I'm happy. Thank you!

    To anonymous Amy, lowering the salt adds risk, and I am no expert. However, if you refrigerate it sooner....

  36. OK Tommy,

    Final post. Whipped up third batch, put it directly in the refrigerator covered. The next day, pickles!!

    Even the last batch when the pickles went to the bottom, they were still crispy and tasty.

    You got it my friend, these are awesome!


  37. Anonymous10:57 AM

    RA Thank you for replying about the salt content. I followed the recipe exactly and they turned out great! Just not low sodium, so I have to control myself. :) Amy

  38. Hey all, Thanks for the input, contributions, comments, ideas, questions, plans, etc! I only have a minute before dinner demands my attention, but just needed to express appreciation. I'll steal some time (I promise!) this week to toss a thought or two into the brine . . .


  39. for all those who want to decrease the amount of salt, this is a dangerous idea. The salt is there in part to prevent harmful bacteria from growing. Acetobacter, the good bacteria that makes the acetic acid that pickles the cucumbers likes high-salt environments. If you want low-salt/sodium pickles make another kind with vinegar doing the pickling.

  40. Hi again.

    What the ChefDawg said!

    I'm not sure if we're looking at acetic acid or lactic acid or . . . but one point of fermenting the pickles is to increase the acidity of the brine, and thereby reduce the growth of nasty bacteria.

    If you'd like to learn more, here's a link to a USDA document Canning Fermented Foods and Pickled Vegetables with all the rules.

    Happy picklin' to all!


  41. Anonymous2:16 PM

    If you choose to go the easy way and use the spices already put together, how much of it do you use?


  42. Anonymous6:25 PM

    Hi Tommy: I just sampled my first pickle from the batch. Absolutely awesome! I can't wait for my Jewish boyfriend from NY to try these - I think he'll be blown away and feel like he's back home!

    Thanks again.

  43. i grew up making frequent trips to the south (virginia) and going into old "country" stores that had the large jars of FULL SOUR pickles. the label would say simply, SOUR. does anyone know a good recipe for full sours (refrigerated or canned does not matter). thanks.

  44. Thanks for the recipe. I have tried an other with bad results. I will try yours, just have one question---Can I alter it to make them full sour pickles and if i can how would i do it. thanks for the help

  45. Tommy and All, I have two batches under my belt. First one was a little overly salty, the second one was better. Had a hard time finding the small cucumbers in California. Had great luck at a Korean market, 70 cents a pound.

    Anyway, a little bit of modified technique. I first clean all the cukes and then place them in the jar to get as many in as possible. I then put water over them. After adding the water I pull them out and then add the salt and seasonings to the water in the jar and shake shake shake the jar to dissolve the salt and get the spices wet. For the garlic I crush the cloves before I cut them up which I believe helps them get out into the water and add more flavor. After I have dissolved the salt in the water I pour it out of the jar into a bowl or pot and then put the pickles back in the jar and pour the water back over them. I usually let them sit for two days with the top not tight prior to putting them in the fridge. Everyone loves them.

  46. Anonymous7:43 AM

    I was thrilled to find your half sour pickle recipe and have made my first ever batch of pickles. I used to get half sours every summer at the Duchess County Fair in NY and I really missed them. I put mine together yesterday morning and woke up this morning to find two floating and partially exposed above the brine even though I packed them very tightly. Will they be alright if I just shove them back down and do the plastic bag with brine trick? or will I have to discard this whole batch and start over? I'm disappointed in Virginia because my mouth has been watering since I took one whiff of this awesome spice mixture! Also, once they are in the refrigerator, do you still have to keep them from floating? Thanks for any info!

  47. Anonymous6:00 AM

    to TommyJ & all the cooks out there,
    I'm Jewish (& from NYC originally) & have been wondering how to get commercial half-sours (I tried a number of commercial groceries, no luck anywhere) until I thought about going online to see if I could find a recipe for them. Lo & behold I struck GOLD on my 1st try when I found your recipe, TommyJ. I only just logged on & found it in the wee hours of 7/18/09. THANK YOU very much. I really, really appreciate your being around. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't found this recipe (yes I do know, gone without them). Haven't tried out the recipe yet, no money 'til the 1st of the month & most stores are not open @ 3:00 a.m. anyhow. To those asking about adding vinegar to the recipe: adding vinegar is not a good idea for them to become half-sours. Stick to TommyJ's recipe & you can't & won't go wrong. Those are good tips & tricks about nipping off the stems & flower bud ends.

    Charles H.

  48. StudioDon1:50 PM

    Regarding leaving the top off for 48 hours, this is NOT a good idea... You don't want any "airbourne beasties" in the brine... All of the lactic acid necessary comes from the Fermentation of the brine itself and from inside of the cukes, cabbage, beets or whatever else you are fermenting... Allowing air to circulate only adds to the mold and scum that you have to remove regularly... I use a german crock by the name of 'gartopf'... It is a 10 liter crock that probably cost $120, but I make Saurkraut and other fermented vegetables and it works like a charm... It has a 'water bath' seal on the top to specifically prevent air from entering yet allows lactic gasses to escape... It can ferment untouched for 2-3 weeks at a time with litle or no mold and scum to remove... For those of you eating your pickles after 3 days, you are missing a phenominal treat by not allowing the fermentation process to really work... I ferment for up to 6-8 weeks for an absolutely divine flavor... If you research fermentation, you will find that those original delicious dill pickles, saurkraut and other fermented veggies would stay in a crock all winter long and only got better... Another thing I do is to use about 25% of my last brine to 'kick start' my next batch...

  49. Wow! I remain amazed at all the comments and ideas and thoughts and questions, and thank you all for sharing your experiences - the good and the less than good!

    Someone up above asked about Full Sour pickles. The answer there is in the comment directly above from StudioDon. Let your pickles continue to ferment for 4 - 6 - 8 weeks and you’ll have a full sour pickle, or as I knew them as a kid, just sour pickles.

    But if you’re going to let your pickles ferment for 8 weeks, then StudioDon’s comment about not letting the air in becomes more important. Don’t. Or at least not much . . .

    Now our original instructions, and subsequent comments, did not say to leave the top off your pickles for 48 hours; we said don’t tighten the lid. For those of us who can’t afford a $120 (pickle) crock with water bath gas relief valves, leaving the lid loose lets out carbon dioxide (produced during fermentation) so your pickles don’t explode!

    But a loose lid does let in other stuff. Some of that stuff may be OK, like some extra Lactobacillus to kick start your fermentation process (yup, I’ve been readin’ up . . .), while other stuff, like air borne yeasts and molds may do just what StudioDon said, and cause/contribute to any mold and scum you have to remove.

    Not to mention that exposure of the pickling product to oxygen can promote the growth of the nasty bacteria that rots the food - that’s why you don’t want to let your cukes stick up above the surface of the brine. Now exposure to the air for 24 hours or so is not likely to rot your pickle; 48, well . . .;72, hmmmm, I’d check. And from what I’ve read, one good ‘check’ is slipperiness. If your pickles are soft (not squishy, but soft), they might be OK; but if they’re slimy, slippery - chuck ‘em.

    As I’ve been reading, I’ve discovered that this whole pickling thing is some pretty complex science, even though you and I and everyone else here can do it in our kitchens with very little trouble. If you’d like to learn more about the underlying processes - how the salty brine helps Lactobacillus develop and produce lactic acid which preserves the food while at the same time inhibits the growth of the bad bacteria (like Clostridium botulinum) - then here’s the link to check out:


    Yes, it’s full of serious science, but it’s also pretty accessible. If you didn’t choke trying to pronounce Lactobacillus, you might find it interesting.

    And someone please remind me to go back and edit my references to ‘fresh pack process.’ Apparently that’s a food biz term for quick pickles processed in vinegar. When I used it, I was trying to come up with a term for ‘uncooked’ pickles. Co-opted by the marketing department again . . .

    In any case, keep on pickling!


  50. My brine is getting cloudy it has been 48 hours on the counter and the temps here in seattle have been quite warm. Is this normal?

  51. Don't know when you started this post, but I'm trying your recipe today. For the record, the best half sours in the world come from the cafeteria at Stanley Tools Headquarters in New Britain CT. They used to be a client of mine and the chef would give me a huge plateful and I'd munch on them all afternoon when I was there!

  52. Anonymous7:38 PM

    I have been to Montana Teds and really liked their Half Sour's. Those were the first I have ever had and they were pretty darn good! I did some research and found out that Teds uses New York Half Sours from United Pickles Production Co. or Guss' Pickles out of New York.

    I am gonna give your recipe a try and hope they turn out pretty darn good themselves. Thanks for your recipe!

  53. To all those looking for a lower-salt way to do these: It is correct that you need the right amount of salt initially to encourage the malolactic fermentation and discourage spoilage. However, these do come out too salty. I find, since you're refrigerating them after 2-3 days anyway, after a day or two in the fridge, pour (or strain) off about 1/3 of the brine, replace with fresh cold water, re-refrigerate. Give 'em 2-3 days more in the fridge and they're great but less intensely salty. They may not last as long, even refrigerated, this way, but at least it's not unsafe and the fresh and spice flavors come through better.

  54. Oh, and for people reporting that their pickles are getting mushy and the brine cloudy by the third day, here's something else from a recipe found elsewhere similar to this one: The key is, the initial (2-3 day) fermentation should ideally occur at a relatively stable temp of between 68-70 degrees F. (Plus the usual stuff about being fully submerged, etc.) Higher or fluctuating temps encourage spoilage bacteria.

  55. Anonymous9:03 PM

    Hi All:
    Trying this again. My pickles have been in a big jar for 24 hrs.My jar is similar to Tommy's but with a mason jar type closure for the lid.

    The brine is getting a bit cloudy and it's bubbling too so I guess it's started to ferment.And it smells really nice and dilly! I have a little bit of scum on the top and a bunch of whiteish bubbles hat I've skimmed off. The lid is not locked down yet and I'm wondering if I should lock it down now or wait another 48 hrs then do it then refrigerate for 4 weeks or so. Any thoughts??


  56. Anon,

    Per my recent comment, wondering about your ambient temperature. Sounds to me like your pickles are overactive, going to heavy too soon, with the scum, cloudiness and white bubbles. I bet your temp is 75 to 80 degrees, as opposed to 68 to 70. I suspect you're going to end up with a mushy, potentially moldy or bacterially spoiled batch. I could be wrong ... but I'd be interested in the answer on your environmental temperature and the outcome, if you continue and check 'em out. I probably wouldn't leave these out more than another 12-24 hours max, then refrigerate. And don't lock it down till they're good and chilled, or you could end up with a mess, due to pressure buildup.


  57. Anonymous8:06 AM

    Hi David:
    You may be right. They are on my kitchen counter and the ambient temp is 73-75. Would putting the jar in my fridge, slow everything down?


  58. Yeah, it would. As I re-read, sounded not as furiously fermenting (and possibly spoiling) as I first imagined, so if you refrigerate now, you may be good. At least you're not pushing 80 degrees. Good luck!

  59. Anonymous2:32 PM

    Sounds good. I'll pop them in the fridge tonight when I get home.Should I seal the jar immediately or wait a day or so? I plan on leaving them for at least 4 weeks b4 I try them. Do I need to keep removing any scum?

  60. Don't seal ... unless ... you're in haste to leav, won't be back for a month? If you can, get it chilled down, without lockdown, then pour off about 1/3 of water, replace with fresh, unsalted water, make sure everything is submerged, seal, and leave in fridge. (See my previous posts about this recipe leaving pickles coming out too salty and my recommended safe remedy.) When you get back, if not already over-fermented before you refrigerated them, they should be tangy, crisp, fresh-tasting and only as salty as necessary. Good luck.

  61. Anonymous9:31 PM

    Great recipe! I made it bunch of times last year and, unfortunately only once this year because the cukes just didn't grow. I let the pickles sit out 24 hours and then put them in the fridge. For those getting mushy pickles, I did a couple batches last year that I threw in a couple of supermarket cucumbers to fill out the jar. They always were a little mushy and not as appealing as the ones picked fresh from the garden. So if you're not growing them yourself, find the best market you can.

  62. I made these for the first time a few days ago and they turned out great. I added a small amount of vinegar and a bunch of hot peppers. I'm making my 2nd batch tomorrow!

  63. I may be marginally retarded for asking this, because I'm not in the pickle-making process. In fact, what I really want to know is whether the lid on a Ba-Tampte pickle jar is supposed to pop. Mine didn't, but they look so delicious. Can I eat them?

  64. I doubt it should pop, because it's fresh-packed, not heat-canned;
    thus a vacuum would not be formed in the headspace between the lid and
    the contents.

    If anything, true, fermented-half-sours might emit some CO2 and
    release some pressure as the cap is taken off. With heat-sealed canned
    (bottled) pickles, there is an inrush of air and a popping up of the
    lid as the vacuum-seal is broken.

    I opened a jar of mine recently, and as the pressure that had built up
    inside released, some of the pickles emitted a stream of tiny CO2
    bubbles up into the liquid. They were still sound, delicious and
    crisp. (I had been keeping them in a fridge whose main compartment was
    not as cold as I prefer, was maybe 50-55 degrees on average, so these
    kept fermenting nicely, got nice and tangy from the malic or lactic
    acids. Had also followed my own de-salting tip and diluted the brine
    upon refrigerating. They were in there about a month.)

    Claussen consumers may sometimes have noticed a carbonation tingle in
    their pickles when eating a good, but perhaps older batch.

    I do not accept liability for you acting on any advice of mine and
    possibly eating tainted goods. What I actually recommend is that you
    consider looking the company up on the web or via information on the
    jar to see if they can verify what I've suggested.

  65. Thanks, David. I looked up Ba-Tampte online, and I couldn't find any information on their website regarding the lids. I decided to try one of the pickles regardless. It turns out they're fine (and delicious) since I haven't died yet.

    I think I'm going to try to make some next.


  66. Thanks for this great recipe. The combination of spices beats anything out there. We can't get half-dones here in KY, but I miss them from my younger years in NY. Made a great first batch but too salty. I'm trying now with less salt. If it doesn't work, I'm going to the dilution method on the second day. Thanks again!

  67. After a great deal of playing around with recipes based on the one here since July (on top of experimentation with these using another recipe since 2007), I think I have the definitive procedure and recipe. The whole discussion is too lengthy to post here. Visit and, if necessary, look for a post of this date (Oct. 27, 2009) for the goods.


  69. OMG!

    Anonymous - you have to post again! I need to know if you won a ribbon at the county fair.

    I haven't made the pickles yet, I was actually Googling to see what the heck was a "half sour" for a soup recipe. I have learned so much from these post and then got hooked on everyone's stories.

    Goooo Pickles!

  70. Made these for the 1st time last week and they were gone by the weekend. Great recipe; thank you for sharing. I do have a technical issue I hope someone can help me with. I started a batch of these last night and put them in a 3 gal. crock I picked up at an antiques shop a few years ago. Upon checking them this AM, there was a white, dry residue (salt?) on the outside of the crock. Is this normal? What is it?

  71. Four years after the original post...Thanks for this recipe! I came home with more cukes than I could ever eat from my farm share. I thought...Why not make half sours, the Best Pickles of All? Google brought up your recipe. The cukes are in jars now, waiting to ferment...

  72. Having grown up in New York I was desperately searching for a good half sour recipe. I made a batch a couple of weeks ago and I am thrilled. The spices are dead on. I did find the end product a little salty and I love salt. I may try removing 1/3 of the brine and replacing with fresh water before refrigeration as is suggested above. Thank you for sharing this.

  73. HOORAY!!! I have murdered many a cucumber this summer trying to achieve this flavor! Thank you SOOO much for the recipe. I CAN NOT STRESS ENOUGH to other pickle virgins, those cucumber have got to be super fresh, and kirby's are the best if you are buying them.

  74. Anonymous8:06 PM

    I just tried the recipe for the first time. Didn't have dill or dried dill, so I left it out.I love salt too, but they were too salty for me. Will make again when cumbies in garden are ready. I used the baggie filled with brine to keep them from popping up. Worked great! Today was 72 hours in a cool room. I put the lid on and placed the jar in an ice cold water bath. Couldnt wait to taste them, but I like mine cold too. I am currently soaking them in ice water with a potato in it to absorb some of salt. Not sure it will work, but we won't eat them the way they are. Thanks for the great recipe. Can't wait to try it again with less salt. Wondering if I could use a BALL sun tea pitcher next time? It is all glass but has a metal spout. Dont want the metal to cause problems, but it is the perfect size and the pickles would look beautiful in it! I also have no mortar and pestle.I used a baggie and crushed the spices with my rolling pin. Lovely..I know

  75. Anonymous6:18 PM

    Thanks for the recipe! I made these today (with some variations) as my first attempt at making pickles. We'll see how they turn out in a few days...

  76. Anonymous2:20 PM

    Is there any danger in adding Jalopinio or crushed red pepper to this recipe?

  77. Dave H11:40 AM

    Great recipe as I am always comparing and tweaking mine too. Everyone I know loves these pickles and some even demand them. The only difference in my recipe is I do not use any Dill but add more crushed red pepper (I like them a bit spicier). I also let my pickles set out on the counter for a bit less time... 24 - 36 hours usually depending on the room temperature.

    By the way, a great place to get the best pickling blend I've found yet is if you don't feel like blending yourself sometime.

  78. Just opened up my second batch and these pickles are getting rave reviews. Thanks from Jerusalem, Israel (where half sour pickles are hard if not impossible to come by... until now)

  79. Anonymous10:56 PM

    I was wondering if I should eat these pickles! I'm living in Brazil where the temperature is about 100F. I recently tried your recipe but there is scum, and white puffy mold floating around on top. Although it smells like pickles I'm not sure if I can eat them. Is it just too hot here to make a pickle? Any sugestion for a new yorker in the tropics?

  80. Anonymous9:41 PM

    I have made the first batch using only salt, dill, garlic and a pickling spice blend from the supermarket. They turned out quite well and will be using the recipe here for the next batch. There is no reference to when these posts were posted so I would like to add a date to see if this is still an active is 2/27/2011. I ordered a fermenting crock and after a little jaunt to Seattle in a few days I will be ready to create more pickle paradise...mmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  81. Anonymous1:58 PM

    I made a batch using another recipe and since it is REALLY HOT here in Charleston, SC and I like to keep the electric bill as low as possible, (it is in the low 80's with the AC and the fans going), I don't dare let them sit out. I refrigerated them almost immediately.

    The other recipe was much more basic (salt, water, garlic and dill and a bay leaf). After about 3-4 days they resembled what I remembered being able to get at Whole Foods in New England but not as salty or tangy or garlicky. Whole Foods in South Carolina doesn't carry them unfortunately. Evidently Southerners like everything sweet. (They don't know what they are missing.) Anyway, taking ideas from your recipe, with the addition of pepper cayenne and more salt and four times the number of garlic cloves and less water I'm hoping to get better flavor sooner. I'll let you know how it goes in a few days. It's 7/3/2011.

  82. Anonymous7:26 PM

    It's me from Charleston reporting back after having finished eating my pickles I made in the last post with a positive report. One thing I did differently besides adding more salt that I think REALLY made a difference was I made sure the salt had dissolved into the water by boiling it in one cup of the brine. To that brine I added a crushed garlic clove but nothing else. Then I added that to the regular cooled water and spices and garlic cloves curshed and chopped. I put everythng in the fridge and by the next day they were ready to eat. They were crunchy and YUMMY.

    The heating of 1/3 of the brine water to dissolve all of the salt with a garlic clove really expedited the marinating process. I will defintely do that the next time for the perfect half sour pickle! YUMM!

    For me as far as the spices goes, all you need is the right amount of salt, pepper, celery salt, dill weed, and garlic cloves and cayene pepper or red pepper flakes for the perfect deli half sour pickle.

  83. Anonymous7:26 PM

    It's me from Charleston reporting back after having finished eating my pickles I made in the last post with a positive report. One thing I did differently besides adding more salt that I think REALLY made a difference was I made sure the salt had dissolved into the water by boiling it in one cup of the brine. To that brine I added a crushed garlic clove but nothing else. Then I added that to the regular cooled water and spices and garlic cloves curshed and chopped. I put everythng in the fridge and by the next day they were ready to eat. They were crunchy and YUMMY.

    The heating of 1/3 of the brine water to dissolve all of the salt with a garlic clove really expedited the marinating process. I will defintely do that the next time for the perfect half sour pickle! YUMM!

    For me as far as the spices goes, all you need is the right amount of salt, pepper, celery salt, dill weed, and garlic cloves and cayene pepper or red pepper flakes for the perfect deli half sour pickle.

  84. Without reading all the comments I must point out if somebody has not already done so, Three very important details you left out for the perfect half sour.
    #1)use only fresh Kirby cukes that you can feel,if they are supermarket packaged,avoid at all cost. they should be firm and not have a hollow bulging belly,these will make for a mushy pickle. #2) Never ever should your fingers touch the brine,the oils from your fingers will cloud the brine,that's like bad sex. Always use a clean sterile implement to move your pickles around and to take one out of the jar to eat,new chopsticks work fine for this procedure.
    #3) probably the most important factor in making the perfect pickle ,half sour or other,is the water that you use.Never never tap, Distilled water only is the secret to the PP.
    Val Edwards

  85. Chuck M5:00 PM

    Date: 16-July, 2011
    Place: Monrovia, Indiana

    Made 1st batch, today, with recipe exactly as written. House is 75° during the day, down to 70° at night. I will judge after 36 hours if that is enough time.

    Can't get half-sours after leaving Connecticut

  86. I have to say that your recipe is EXCELLENT! Made the first batch (with some modifications as I couldn't get all the seeds and had to use some ground stuff) and am already onto the second batch after trying them out after 48 hours. My kids LOVE them :) Thank you SO much for putting the recipe on the web.

  87. Anonymous3:33 PM

    What is up with these idiots trying to add vinegar? Have they ever even tasted a half-sour pickle? Another thing, a few people make reference to Ba-Tampte pickles, they are second best. Nothing compares to a Nathan's half sour.

  88. Anonymous3:54 PM

    I've made these now at least 30 times, but cut the salt by about 20%. We only make them in summer and at the same rate we eat them (a 2qt jar every few days...big family). These are the REAL DEAL, only half-sour recipe to use.
    One note: does anyone have a source for off-season cukes? (I only grow Kirby's, they are really superior). Or, will this always be a summertime passion?

  89. I am a die hard Ba Tampte pickle lover and I am going to try this recipe . I have been searching high and low for a half sour recipe that doesn't call for vinegar as this is NOT real half sours. Thanks ahead of time. Will let ya know how it comes out.

  90. I am a cheater, I take my ba tampte left over brine add some garlic and pickle spices and follow all the rest.. also if you like a spicey half sour, crushed red pepper (I discovered these @ Mr Pickle @ Ave I Flea Market in Bklyn NY in the 80s) add some crushed red pepper to the mix, you'll have a pickle you'll never forget. :-).

  91. Your instructions say to leave the pickles at room temperature for 48-72 hours, let them start to ferment, and THEN "screw the cap on tight and put them in the refrigerator". Fermentation will create C02 gas, which will have sufficient pressure to cause a sealed container to explode. Refrigeration will slow down fermentation, but not stop it completely. Therefore a better method than screwing the cap on tight would be to cover it with plastic wrap held in place with several rubber bands. This will allow the C02 to escape, without allowing bacteria to enter. Using several rubber bands is in case one of them breaks.

    Pickles tend to float, unless you pack them very tightly. Fill a zip-lock snack size bag with water or brine and put it on the top to keep all your pickles under water.

  92. Anonymous3:03 PM

    i tried this pickle recipe and they stink. they are too salty, and the crushed red pepper is a flavor disaster. these pickles don't even come close to the old fashioned jewish deli pickles that i love. don't waste your time and money trying this recipe.

  93. RADodwell6:29 PM

    Message to Anonymous!!

    This recipe has nothing to do with any "Jewish" deli pickles you remember. Do not eat them!

    These are all about "half sours", pickles that have the crunch of a cucumber, yet the hint of a flavor of a pickle.

    Personally I put them in the refrigerator right after making them, and I only use 80% of the salt, but the recipe is AWESOME!!

    Thanks TommyJ!!!

  94. Anonymous5:05 PM

    thanx a million i save a ton of money now that i make my own halfsour thanx again

  95. Anonymous5:20 PM


    Thanks!!! I had a recipe that used vinegar, and it just didn't make true half-sours, but i just pulled my first pickle out and the crunch is perfect and not too salty at all. I will add more dill and more garlic next time, but this is a great starting point.

    Thanks, again

  96. I can't find my post apparently someone didn't like it enough to delete it, I guess a blog doesn't necessarily need to be a democracy.

    I don't like either BaTampte or Nathans, I have two jars of each in my fridge that I am not quite sure what I will do with them.

    The best pickles by far are Dietz and Watson. I understand they are a Canadian company, like most of you, if your can find a good commercial brand then making them isn't necessary. The Dietz and Watson either half sour or Kosher spears that are really good.

    If you find their website, just search it is there, you can find a store near you that may sell them, for me that is Shaws.

    Give them a try if you can find them and you may not ever want to go through the bother of making them. BTW, I have been trying for years to make a good half sour pickle and I haven't even got close, but I did get closer than either BaTampte or Nathans. Actually if all else fails Claussen are really close well as close as any except for Dietz and Watson.

    As long as I can get Dietz and Watson I will never try making my own again.

    Hopefully this post won't get deleted.


  97. Anonymous2:16 AM

    I will be trying your recipe tomorrow Tommy, just one question. Has anyone tried toasting any of the spices first before adding them to the jar? Doesn't heating up seeds and spices help them release their natural oils and essences and give more pronounced flavor? Has anyone tried using roasted garlic?


  98. Anonymous5:54 PM

    Veeeeeery easy variation of half-sour pikles.
    Soak kirbycucumbers ,cut the ends off. In the mean time
    boil the water with:garlic, mustard seeds, bayleave, salt(2Tbs per quart of water).
    Place kirby cucumbers in a jar verticaly and tight make sure they are not loose. Add fresh dill, pour hot marinade over the cucumbers. Cover the jar with paper towel. Keep in warm place for about 50-72 hours. After that time if they are sour enough take them out and boil the marinate by itself.Place pickles in the cleaned jar and pour hot marinate over the pickles then close the lid tight. Turn the jar upside down. This time you stopped the process of fermentation and pickes will not get any more sour.
    Keep the jar in the fridge.

  99. Anonymous12:00 AM

    I am not sure if anyone mentioned this yet, but I think I have found that the tooth-shattering crispness tends to be in the half sour recipes that include calcium chloride in addition to sodium chloride. From my point of view I wonder if some of the calcium does not separate out and become hygroscopic, thus filling the cells with water without breaking the cell wall and BAM! Call me Doug F.

  100. John D.10:00 AM

    I've made sour cucumber pickles for several years. You can help guarantee crispness by adding a few fresh grape leaves to your mixture. These can be wild grape leaves.

  101. YUM!!!! So excited to have found this recipe. Will definitely try out this summer. Half Sours are most definitely the best type of pickle EVER!

  102. Anonymous1:29 PM

    Has anyone tried slicing up their pickles and using this recipe before?

  103. Anonymous8:20 PM

    Longest pickle thread ever! I think i will give these a try.

  104. Tommy....I'm a Long Island guy and I found your recipe on a fb page of an old classmate... Had just been to our old home town Long Beach, and had "deli" (pastrami sand. , knish. Cel-Ray, etc) with the requisite bowl of pickles and cole slaw. Well I decided to make your recipe. Followed it exactly. Bravo my good as Lido Deli! I'm on to my second batch. Thanks!!!!

  105. 08-10-2012
    My cousin Bobby and I put up a bushel of your pickles yesterday afternoon. We deviated just a tad bit from your recipe in using jarred minced garlic instead of whole clove garlic. We also used Kirkland bottled water just to be safe. We ended up with 48 jars.

    I plan on putting 8 jars in the fridge after 3 days, 8 in the fridge after 4 days and 8 in the fridge after 5 days. I'll mark the jars to keep track of the date in the fridge.

    I am so revved up to have half
    -dill pickles!

    I will report back after the first taste.

  106. Bobby and I along with our wifes have tried the pickles after they sat out for no more than 2 days. Sad to report, but we are throwing them all out and re-making pickles on Wednesday. They have the most profound salt tase we've ever had. This is based on 4 of us doing a tasting. We think the rest of the recipe will be just fine, but who can really tell with the overwhelming taste of salt.

    It is not worth crying over bad pickles. Nor can we share bad pickles.

    After doing more research our next try will be with making a salt brine (using Kosher salt) but with a ratio of ~ 6 TBLS salt to 9 cups of water (bottled from Costco).

    We should have known better than to put a 1/4 cup salt into each jar as the recipe call for. Each jar of pickles has a different amount of pickle to water ratio in this method.

    I will report back once we taste the next batch.

  107. Hi Gary,

    Sorry to hear your first experience with the pickles was not a good one. Hope you will keep trying until you find your perfect pickle.

    A couple of thoughts to keep in mind. The salt amount is 1/4 cup (2 oz.) of salt to 4 cups of water (32 oz.) rather than 1/4 cup per jar of pickles. Maybe I'm misunderstanding your comment, but if you were, for example, using 1 Qt. jars, filling them with cukes and then adding 1/4 cup of sat and then water to fill, you would definitely get way over-salted pickles.

    Also, the point of the salt is to create the proper environment for the cukes to ferment; and it's the fermentation that preserves the pickles (as well as adding flavor). There's a lot of discussion up above in the comments about the amount of salt called for in this recipe. I urge you to read through them and maybe check out Guide 6 at this link:
    Canning Fermented Foods and Pickled Vegetables
    (which is still active unlike the earlier one).

    Finally, fermentation seems a finicky process. I've had batches that were bubbling away in 24 hours and others that didn't start fermenting until the beginning of the third day. I prefer to let the pickles stay at room temp for at least 24 hours after signs of fermentation begin, and then let them chill for 24 hours after that before tasting them.

    And, for all that, pickles are personal. I hope you find the 'right' formula for you; just be sure to stay safe.

    Please let us know how you fare with the next batch! This recipe may have been posted years ago, but the discussion continues and thousands of pickle lovers the world over keep checking in and checking back to see what's going on. So thanks to you, and to all above, who have contributed thus far.


  108. I think I'm going to have to start my own page. People seem to overlook the definitive recipe I've posted here, which resolves some of these issues once and for all. By the way, I thought Tommy's original salt ratio was 3/8 cup per 8 (eight!) cups of water. Even that results in an over-salty pickle, close to inedible. I've been selling half-sours commercially based on my revised ratio for two years now, and people love them, pay over $5 a quart for them even though Ba-Tamptes are right next to them for $1.99 a quart or three quarts for five.

    USE the ratio of 3/8 cup per 8 cups water to initiate fermentation safely. FERMENT 2 - 3 days at room temp, meaning no higher than 68 to 70 degrees. I do mine in a separate room cooled with a window A/C unit, since I don't keep my house that cool in summer.

    The KEY to delicious pickles is to dilute the brine almost 50-50 with additional fresh water upon bottling (and then let the product come to a new saline equilibrium). There are other tricks and methods to the overall art, but this one is basic to getting great pickles. Again, the saltier brine is best for making sure that the proper fermentation/preservation safely begins. The later dilution is to arrive at a delicious, not over-salty pickle.

    The fact that fermentation continues but more slowly under final refrigeration means ... well, that's part of the additional art, I'm not going to give away ALL my secrets.


  109. Paula Leonhauser9:17 PM

    I am trying this recipe today 10/4/12. I am going to use Zatarain's crab boil since most of the ingredients are in this mix, except for the dill weed. I will let you know how they turn out.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  110. Hey Tommy,

    I don't know if you ever look at these posts anymore but your recipe is just Spot-On for the half-done pickles at a small deli around the corner from my home! Thank you so much for sharing. I had tried some others that weren't so good and MUCH harder. Simple perfection! My best to you and Happy New year!


  111. I am going to try this soon. Just wanted to comment to Gary.... Why, on earth, would you not try the recipe with a quart first, before doing a bushel?

    I grew up in the Five Towns and I have had half sours from the Lido deli, they are pretty damn good half sours. If they say these are as good, I'm sold.

  112. I will tell you this is the 3rd year I am using your recipe and I believe they are wonderful! I'm just being lazy but I do not typically crush the spices, nor do I have dill all the time, but I do use lots of garlic! I have no reason to try another recipe!

  113. Thank you for sharing your recipe. These pickles are delicious (I halve the salt) and I make them throughout the summer. I posted a link to your recipe on my blog,

  114. A tip for making sure all your cukes and spices stay completely submerged... I use a gallon glass jar for making the pickles. I place a round plastic lid from something like a butter or sour cream carton, into the jar on top of everything, then place a plastic bag with salt brine at same ratio as using in the jar, un case it leaks, on top of the plastic lid. I use a lid close to size of the big round part of the jar, which means I have to bend and scrunch it to get it through the mouth of the jar. But since it pretty much completely covers the contents, even most spices can't float up to the surface and get exposed to air. I also use this set up for making my fully fermented brined pickles, and it really helps make sure everything stays submerged through the entire process time.

  115. Found this thread! Awesome comments! I have my first batch in the fridge and eating them tomorrow!

  116. Galvestonian11:16 PM

    Tommy J. & everybody else.
    There is an old timers trick for keeping pickles crisp. It is adding a couple of grape leaves to each jar. Grape leaves contain a substance that inhibits the enzymes that make pickles soft. However, removing the blossom ends (the source of undesirable enzymes) will make the addition of grape leaves unnecessary.

  117. TKrustyK7:22 PM


    Made a batch using Tommy's recipe and they turned out GREAT! Way to go Tommy!

  118. Anonymous5:43 PM

    OK.. I'm into my 30th hour of my pickle bath. Got to tell you, I HAD to at least smell them.. WOW !!!! Just like I remember from NYC.. Half sours are so hard to find. Thank you so much for being so passionate about this. My turkey sandwich won't have a chance !

  119. Anonymous9:45 PM

    Just had my first homemade half sour... OMG !! Thank you so much !!! I will NEVER buy another HS after this..

  120. T-Tommy11:15 AM

    Is it really necessary to set out the pickles for 48-72 hrs etc.? Is fermentation really necessary for a good result? I've read recipes that say "put in the fridge" immediately. Thoughts?

    1. Without vinegar, fermentation is the only thing that makes the pickles pickles. Unless extremely oversalted, the lactic acid from the fermentation is the only thing that preserves the cukes. If all you want is salty, spicy cukes, by all means, put them right in the refrigerator. Fermentation will then happen only very slowly, if at all. If you really want proper half-sours, you MUST allow them to begin to ferment, which means some time non-refrigerated. In summertime, temps over 68 degrees, you may want to leave them out only 24 hours or so. Closer to 60 degrees, you can go 36 to 72 hours. The key, also, to good half-sours is to recognize that Tommy's recipe does over-salt them. That's good for kicking off initial fermentation and protecting them a bit from bad organisms till the good ones get established. However, they end up unpalatably salty, and the art is to dilute the brine a bit with fresh unsalted water upon refrigerating them. How much to dilute? That's my secret.

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  123. Looks great on paper! Got a batch going right now to see how it comes out. Not sure when these posts were made as there's no date-stamp, but wanted to say thank you to Tommy, and all the others for the tips & tricks! I've been looking for a solid half sour recipe for quite some time. I remember visiting my family in Miami area and being able to eat them by the bowl full as a kid. Only thing Ive found close is as mentioned Ba Tampte. They IMO have lost there mojo from years past. They don't have the same kick they used too. Hope these turn as wonderful as everyone says. Thank you for sharing!