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The World's Best Pickles
Back To Main Page by: Janette Blackwell
I knew they were the world’s best pickles the moment I tasted one. That first taste took place
around 1950, and I’ve tasted a lot of pickles since, am a pickle hound in fact, but I’ve never
come across anything else as good.

They came to us by way of my Uncle Ronald Smith, who was an electrician in the Bitterroot
Valley of Montana where I grew up. One day he was doing electrical work for a Bulgarian
family, and they rewarded him with a sample pickle. He liked it so much he got the recipe and
gave it to his wife Gladys, who gave it to Grandma Glidewell, who made it and gave some to
me, and I thought I’d died and gone to pickle heaven.

And thus, although they became an old Glidewell family recipe, they are really an old
Bulgarian family recipe. The Bulgarian family, whose name I do not know, told Uncle Ronald
that in Bulgaria, when the first heavy frost kills the tomato vines, they put all their end-of-
garden vegetables –- including those green tomatoes -- into a barrel, fill the barrel with pickling
brine, and eat the best pickles in the world all winter.
It turns out, though, that the pickles’ travel from Bulgaria to the U.S. was only one leg of a
more ancient journey. Because I mentioned them to an Iranian woman, and she said, “My
family has always made pickles like that! Exactly like that, except we add tarragon.”

Iran being the new name for the ancient kingdom of Persia, who knows how many centuries
these pickles go back?

There’s more: I later lost the recipe’s brine proportions. Gave some thought to its travels
between Persia and Bulgaria, looked in an Armenian-American cookbook (Treasured
Click Here for more articles Armenian Recipes, published in 1949 by the Armenian General Benevolent Union) and there
they were, under “Mixed Pickles No. 2.” Turns out the world’s best Armenian pickles are just
like the world’s best Bulgarian and Persian and American pickles, except they include dill, and
sometimes green beans and coriander seed.

So this is an old, old recipe belonging to the whole human family.



Green tomatoes*, cut in half or quartered if large

Carrots, peeled and cut into strips
Cauliflower, separated into small florets
Baby onions, peeled, or larger onions halved or quartered
Green peppers, cut into broad lengthwise slices
Garlic, two peeled cloves per quart jar
Medium-hot peppers, two small whole peppers per quart

You can also add unpeeled and unwaxed small cucumbers, zucchini, or lightly cooked green
beans, though we never did. The hot peppers add adventure and zest, but if you prefer to
save your tears for really sad occasions, why not?

Amounts and proportions depend on what vegetables you have and how many quarts you
plan to make. You don’t have to have the green tomatoes, and the other things can be bought
in a grocery store. But you do need a variety of vegetables, and you have to have the onions
and garlic, or you won’t have the world’s best pickles. You will have the world’s so-so pickles,
and that would be a shame.

Armenian-Persian-Bulgarian Brine

To one quart of water add 1/4 cup pickling salt (salt that isn’t iodized), and one cup of white
distilled vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil. This is enough brine to cover two quarts of mixed
pickles, with a little left over.

Follow the canning instructions in a good, standard cookbook. Or, if you plan to eat them right
away, pack the vegetables into clean quart jars, pour over them the hot brine, and keep the
pickles covered in the refrigerator. Some of the more impressionable vegetables, like zucchini,
will be ready to eat in only two or three days.

About the author:

- and find Montana country cooking, nostalgic stories, and gift ideas -- at Janette Blackwell’s
Food and Fiction, visit her Delightful Food Directory,

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