Today, I embark on a noble quest. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick, but it’s a fight worth fighting. I’m here to take back the pickle.
You see, the Hipster Culinary Elite, particularly in New York City, has co-opted pickling as a quaint, retrospective, haute cuisine trend. You can’t miss it. All over New York, some chef is pickling some unconventional ingredient: pickled endives, pickled apples, pickled (ugh) kale. And now, we’re all tired of pickles.
But caught up in the stink of the pickling movement is the poor pickled cucumber— an innocent, delicious classic and beloved staple of Jewish Deli cuisine. Well I will not stand by and allow the jaundice of the pickling craze to besmirch the good name of the Pickle. I will reclaim the pickled cucumber, one New York City pickle shop at a time.
Horman’s Best Pickles is perhaps New York’s humblest pickle vendor. Operated out of a tent (A tent!) on Sixth Avenue and Carmine St., Horman’s is staffed by a team of Pickle OG’s who aren’t interested in messing around pickling sunflower stems or lima beans. Horman’s sticks to cucumbers (and the occasional tomato), and they do it perfectly. These are the pickles you ate with your Grandpa at the Deli with coleslaw and pastrami on rye, the kind Sam the Pickleman made in Crossing Delancey.
The classic varieties are all there, starting with your tried and true Full Sours. Full Sours are the brownish ones you know from the Deli. At their worst, they reek of vinegar, and the brine so overpowers the cucumber that they deflate and grow soggy. At their best, there is a burst of tartness and bitterness, but not enough to soil your taste buds forever. That’s exactly where Horman’s lands—just the right combination of garlic, vinegar, and cucumber.
Horman’s New Pickles (your Uncle Saul might have called them “Half Sours”) are even better. For the unacquainted, Half Sours are the pickles you can use to convert your ignorant, uneducated friends who insist they “just don’t like pickles.” Bright green, with barely any discernible vinegar taste and a crisp, still-sort-of-a-cucumber flavor, these are Training Wheels Pickles for the pickle-wary.
But for those of you who know your way around a pickle barrel, let me recommend two of Horman’s funkier pickle varieties: the Brown Mustard Pickle and the Horseradish Pickle. These are New York Deli flavors you’ve eaten adjacent to pickles your whole life, and Horman’s deftly weaves them into the brine. A horseradish-vinegar pickle combo seems dangerous- one fears two super strong, overwhelming tastes battling for attention- but the balance Horman’s achieves makes the combo seem natural. And Brown Mustard: well, the bite of the mustard perfectly compliments the pickle, and the final product isn’t a pickle covered in mustard, but a superior combo of the two. It is pickle as vehicle for Deli Ethos. To risk overstating and over-sentimentalizing (But hey, this is the Internet!), these aren’t just pickles—they’re cucumbers imbued with the spirit of the New York Delicatessen.
And somehow, even though it operates out of a tent (and kudos to these guys for manning it on 25 degree winter evenings), Horman’s somehow cultivates the vibe of anold school New York Deli, albeit one run by the founder’s chiller, bearded grandsons. These aren’t a bunch of culinary school dropouts pickling coffee beans and watermelon rinds. These guys are Pickle Purists, and in their hands, the pickle is safe.
Horman’s Best Pickles is located on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Carmine Street in Manhattan. They also operate at many other Farmer’s Markets. For more info, visit www.hormansbestpickles.com.