8 Jewish Mothers’ Monopoly Ended

Ada Gail’s Authentic Jewish Pickled Cucumber

The only place in the world you can buy a real dill pickle is New York. Foodies have cravings like everybody else, but until this recipe was published in the Conran/Habitat Cook’s Dairy for 1980, non-NY Foodies were unable to achieve satisfaction. (The Diary was a sell-out in England, France, Belgium and America; copies of it changed hands on the black market and fetched inflated prices in second-hand bookshops; the recipe was bought and anthologised by Time-Life in The Good Cook series.)

A misprint in the Habitat French translation resulted in too much salt. For months after its publication hundreds of Belgians and Frenchmen were seen walking around with puckered lips. This is the correct version.


  • 3 kilos (6 lb) pickling cucumbers, about 8 cm (3 in) long, scrubbed
  • 18 sprigs of fresh dill
  • 18 peeled cloves of garlic
  • 6 mild chilli peppers
  • 36 black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp mixed pickling spice
  • 6 vine leaves (optional)
  • tsp alum (available from the chemist or pharmacist, important for keeping the pickle crisp)
  • 8.5 litres (14.4 pints, 9 US quarts) water
  • 350g (12 oz, US cups) coarse salt
  • 12.5 cl (4 fl oz, US cup) cider or white wine vinegar


    Into each of six sterilised jars put three sprigs of dill, three cloves of garlic, one chilli, six peppercorns, a pinch of pickling spice and of alum. Tightly pack the cucumbers into the jars.

    Make the brine by boiling the water with the salt and vinegar, and pour the hot brine over the cucumbers, reserving the remaining brine. Cover each jar with a vine leaf and seal. After two or three days bubbles will appear, indicating fermentation. Top up the jars with the reserved brine, brought to the boil, and seal the jars again. When the brine clears, fermentation has stopped, and you can eat the pickle four or five days after this. In any case, eat it all up within a couple of months.

    Green tomatoes, beans and other vegetables can be pickled in the same way.