Dill pickles take the already-good pickle to another level by giving it a boost of herby flavor. But as you stroll around the grocery store, have you noticed some pickles are labeled as “kosher? “. Here, you find out the difference between a kosher dill and dill pickles.
Kosher dill pickle does not really mean it was prepared according to Jewish dietary law. Instead, it means the dill pickles were made like how Jewish New York City pickle makers do. The main characteristic of kosher pickles is the presence of garlic.
These pickles may or may not be genuinely kosher. So be sure to look for that Kosher Certification. If you don’t follow the Hebrew religion, then you might want to know more about kosher pickles in general. Here, you can find out the more in-depth differences between a kosher dill and dill pickles.
Before we dive into the pickles, what exactly does it mean to be kosher?
As mentioned earlier, kosher foods are made according to Jewish dietary laws. These laws are collectively called kashrut. Kashrut tells about the foods Jews are allowed to eat.
It also tells how those foods should be prepared. The details of the laws of kashrut are complex (as with all laws), but below is a gist.
Kosher Animal Foods
Only certain animals are kosher or “ritually clean” to eat. These are stated in the Torah, the first 5 books of the Hebrew Bible.
For land animals, those that “chew the cud” and have a completely split hoof are ritually clean. Land animals that either only chew the cud or only have cloven hooves are “unclean.” These “clean” animals include sheep, cattle, goats, and deer.
For water animals, anything that has fins and scales is allowed. Shellfish are prohibited.
For air animals, that is to say, birds, there are no general rules written. Different books state how to tell if a bird is clean.
But Jews have said that chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and pigeons are kosher. As a general principle, scavenging birds, like vultures, are unclean. Birds of prey, like hawks and eagles, are also unclean.
These clean animals must be slaughtered according to a process known as shechita. In shechita, blood must be removed from the meat because the blood shouldn’t be consumed. Meat and meat derivatives should also never be mixed with milk and milk derivatives.
Kosher Plant Foods
Almost all foods that grow from the earth are kosher. These foods include fruits, vegetables, grains, and even mushrooms. There are special restrictions for produce grown in the Land of Israel. There are also special restrictions for the produce of the Sabbatical year.
How Pickles Are Made
Pickles are made by placing cucumbers in a solution of water and salt. This solution is called the brine. The cucumbers stay in the brine for days. During that time, the bacteria that are naturally present on the cucumbers proliferate. Eventually, they start fermenting the cucumbers.
To be specific, these bacteria are lactic acid bacteria. They are called that because they produce lactic acid as a byproduct.
If the term “lactic acid bacteria” is familiar, you probably heard or read it in articles about yogurt. Lactic acid bacteria are “good bacteria” that are part of our gut. These microorganisms in our gut help eep our digestive tract, and our whole body, healthy.
During the fermentation time, the bacteria eat microscopic pieces of the cucumbers. These pieces are mostly carbohydrates. As they eat some of the carbohydrates, they produce lactic acid.
The brine eventually becomes acidic and sour. The acidic environment keeps other microorganisms away. Some of the microorganisms they help keep away are the dangerous ones.
The process of making pickles is called pickling (Surprise!).
Not only does pickling make the food taste better, but it also makes the food last longer. In fact, pickling is an ancient way of preserving foods. It has been around for thousands of years.
Cleopatra of Egypt even credited pickled foods for her good health. During a time without refrigeration, people had to figure out how to make food last longer. They eventually discovered pickling.
In the pickling example, you read, cucumbers were used. Cucumbers have become like the mascot for pickles because of popular culture. However, pickling can be done with other fruits and vegetables. Fruits that are also commonly pickled are peaches, apples, and tomatoes. While vegetables that are commonly pickled are cauliflower, carrots, and peppers.
Not All Pickles Are Fermented
Fermenting is one way to make pickles, but not all pickles are fermented. Instead of putting the cucumbers in brine, some people put them in vinegar. If the vinegar has been pasteurized, then there won’t be any fermentation occurring.
The pickles would eventually become sour or tangy, but not because of fermentation. Their taste would become like that because they would absorb the vinegar. The cucumbers will also absorb the flavors of any other ingredients in the vinegar.
However, if the vinegar is unpasteurized then it can still have the bacteria that can ferment. An example of vinegar that can ferment is unpasteurized apple cider vinegar.
How Dill Pickles Are Made
When it comes to pickled cucumbers, they become dill pickles if dill is also added into the brine. Why is dill put in pickles?
Well, because it tastes great!
Dill has been used in different recipes and dishes for thousands of years. Remember that pickling has also been around for thousands of years.
Eventually, people figured out that putting dill into pickles made for tastier food. In simple summary, pickles are just among the foods people enjoy having dill with.
Kosher Pickles and New York Jews
But how did the term “kosher pickles” get associated with Jews in New York City?
In the 19th and 20th centuries, many Jews from Eastern Europe immigrated to New York. They brought with them their traditional pickle-making methods. Those traditional methods involve putting garlic and dill in the pickles.
In 2012, the Times of Israel did a piece on Jewish pickle. They had an interview with Brian Bursiek, the executive vice president of Pickle Packers International, Inc.
In that article, Bursiek mentioned his theory on how the Jewish pickle got the name “kosher”. He thinks the name was likely put forward by people who remember the old TV commercials of Vlasic.
Why Dill Pickles May Not Really Be Kosher
So dill pickles are made of cucumbers, dill, and brine. Those are all plant foods, so it still sounds kosher, right? Well, another kosher rule is plant products and animal products shouldn’t mix.
And some makers of pickles use animal products in the brine. The most common of these animal products are polysorbates. Polysorbates are from animal fat.
But why do makers put polysorbates in pickles?
Polysorbates are part of a group of compounds called emulsifiers. Emulsifiers help fat and water mix. Emulsifiers are also present in nature. There are emulsifiers in egg yolk called lecithin.
Fats, whether animal fat or plant oils, naturally do not mix because of their chemistry. If you put fats and water in a container, there would be globules of fat all around. Eventually, the fats and water form separate layers. Emulsifiers act like the middleman to help fats and water get along.
Polysorbates are common and cheap emulsifiers, so they’re used a lot. Pickle makers use polysorbates to help fatty or oily ingredients mix with the brine. These ingredients can be flavorings and food colors.
How To Know If Dill Pickles are Really Kosher
If you follow the Hebrew religion, then you might also follow kashrut. To know if the dill pickles are legitimately kosher, see if they’re kosher certified. If the product doesn’t have a kosher certificate, you can also check the ingredients.
But this method doesn’t necessarily mean the product is kosher. The ingredients may look kosher. However, the facility that handled them may not follow kashrut rules. For example, the facility that handled the pickles may also handle shellfish.
If the dill pickles are from a local maker or business, then maybe you can directly ask the people who made them. Just make sure that the person you’ll speak with understands kosher rules.
How Dill Pickles Taste
Pickled foods have a characteristic tangy taste because of the lactic acid. They also have a salty taste because of the brine. With dill pickles, you also get that distinct dill flavor. That flavor is like a blend of anise, parsley, and celery.
As for the cucumbers, they should still be crispy and fresh, even if they’ve been fermenting for days. They shouldn’t be soft or soggy.
However, they shouldn’t taste like raw cucumbers. Cucumbers taste plain, watery, and ever so slightly sweet. They might even have some bitterness or earthiness. Pickled cucumbers would also have the saltiness and sourness from the brine.
At that point though, the brine would be referred to as the pickling juice.
How Kosher Dill Pickles Taste
With kosher dill pickles, you get all the flavor from regular dill pickles. But you also get the savory, spice, and pungency from the garlic. That simple addition enhances the whole flavor.
Today, makers of kosher dill pickles have become more creative with their products. You can find some brands give some more spiciness or zest to their products. Some brands also offer kosher dill pickles in different slices and sizes.
It sounds simple, but it’s a lovely convenience. You can find products made with baby pickles that are great as snacks. There are products made with thinly sliced pickles so you can immediately put them on a sandwich.
Some recipes also call for other ingredients in the pickling process. You might find recipes that call for red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, or bay leaves. You’ll find that these recipes suggest other herbs and spices give more flavor to the pickles.
However, you won’t find them suggesting too much. Otherwise, you lose that original “kosher dill pickle” flavor. They suggest enough to add more flavor but still keep the kosher dill pickles you know.
Calorie-wise, there’s barely any difference between a kosher dill and dill pickles. Below is the typical nutritional information of a small spear (35 g) of pickled cucumber. It applies to both kosher and not.
- Calories: 4
- Carbohydrates: 0.8 g
- Sugar: 0.4 g
- Fiber: 0.3 g
- Sodium: 283 mg
- Protein: 0.2 g
Bear in mind though that the sodium would depend on how much salt was used in the brine. And each maker can put different amounts of salt. Some can have low-salt versions of their products.
Dill pickles, whether kosher or not, also pack other vitamins and minerals.
- 20% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K. Vitamin K helps your blood clot and keeps your bones strong.
- 6% of the daily recommended amount of calcium for adults
- 6% of the daily recommended amount of potassium
- 3% to 4% of your daily need of vitamin C
- 1% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for your vision and immune system. It is also important for the health of pregnant women
Below are the benefits you can get from dill pickles, whether kosher or not.
Our digestive tract, especially our large intestine, has millions of microorganisms. These microorganisms are composed of mostly bacteria.
But there are also fungi, especially yeast, and even viruses. These microorganisms work with our own cells to keep our bodies healthy. Hence, you also want to keep these microorganisms healthy.
Pickled cucumbers, like many fruits and vegetables, can feed these microorganisms. They have fiber that our body can’t digest, but those good microorganisms can. This fiber is called prebiotics. While the fiber doesn’t nourish you, it nourishes those good microorganisms.
Those good microorganisms that you just read are called probiotics. What kinds of probiotics are present in your gut are always changing. Some can die off. New ones can show up. And old ones can come back. The kinds of probiotics you have depended on what you eat.
People benefit from most probiotics. Some benefit from specific kinds. Why they benefit from these specific probiotics can depend on many factors.
But a major factor is of course genetics. What you want is to always have a good amount of probiotics that benefit you. And generally, lactic acid bacteria from pickles are good for everyone.
Kosher or not, dill pickles are a good source of lactic acid bacteria. Just make sure that your dill pickles are fermented and raw, that is to say, unpasteurized. If they’ve been pasteurized, then those probiotics might be gone. If there are preservatives, those probiotics might be gone too. Some preservatives to watch out for are metabisulfite, sorbic acid, and benzoic acid.
Like many fruits and vegetables, pickled cucumbers also have antioxidants. Antioxidants help our bodies fight against oxidative damage. Vitamins c and e are two important antioxidants that pickled cucumbers carry.
Dill, like many herbs, has been found to carry lots of antioxidants too. A study in 2009 found that dill seeds, leaves, and flowers are packed with antioxidants. The dill flowers had the highest amounts. Another study in 2015 found that dill antioxidants are potential medicine for diabetes.
Kosher dill pickles can carry more antioxidants than regular dill pickles. The reason is the presence of garlic. Garlic has long been known to have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Ancient civilizations like the Romans, Greeks, Indians, and Chinese used garlic in medicine. A quick search online will show the tons of health benefits of garlic.
Below are just a few:
- Boosts immune system
- Reduces oxidative stress
- Regulates blood pressure
- Regulates cholesterol
Whether you like eating them as they are or as ingredients in other dishes, you can’t go wrong with dill pickles. To have even more flavor, you can go with kosher dill pickles. Both are great for staving off the munchies while giving you some health benefits.
They’re definitely better than munching on chips. Plus, you don’t have to finish the whole jar. If you keep them in the pickling juice, they can last for days without refrigeration. So there’s little worry that they’ll spoil.