WHAT IN THE HECK IS PICKLING SPICE? I get asked this question a lot, because of my popular refrigerator pickle recipe that calls for the ingredient.
Like bouquet garni or Old Bay seasoning or even “curry powder,” pickling spice is actually a mix of herbs and spices, not a single ingredient. As such, its precise combination depends on the brand you purchase or the flavors you favor–hotter? sweeter? spicier?–if you blend your own.
Generally speaking, most recipes include some proportion of the following ingredients: bay leaves, chilies, cloves, cinnamon stick, ginger, allspice, mustard seed, coriander, black pepper, mace, and cardamom. Some canners say you can get by with the prefab types, if you pick out the cinnamon stick, for instance, or heavy up on the red pepper flakes to make it your own.
You can purchase such a mix at most supermarkets (or online) from a common brand like McCormick or Ball, though you may do better with one-pound packages from Frontier (organic version available, too) if you’re making a big batch of pickles for use all year long. Or go the homemade route, using a recipe like one of the following:
pickling spice recipes
- Marisa McLellan of the popular site Food in Jars [dot] com shared her recipe (free of cinnamon sticks, by the way) on NPR.
- From Epicurious, the recipe includes dill seed and nutmeg, in addition to the basics above.
- A New York Times recipe calls for lightly toasting the ingredients in a small, dry skillet.
- At Taste of Home, they do without the mace.
pickle recipes and such on a way to garden
- My refrigerator pickles, handed down to me from a retired Long Island Rail Road conductor nearly 25 years ago, and made by generations of his family before that.
- Viola Whitacre’s circa 1952 bread and butter pickles.
- Putting up flavored vinegars and herbed salts.