Pickle Expert Guesses Which Pickles Are More Expensive

In this episode of 'Price Points', Epicurious challenges pickle expert Bob McClure of McClure's Pickles to guess which one of two pickles is more expensive. Bob breaks down dill, spicy, alcohol infused and bread & butter pickles before making his guesses!

Released on 11/15/2018

Credits

Starring: Bob McClure

Transcript

00:00
I'm Bob McClure, and I'm a pickle expert.
00:07
Woo.
00:10
[bell rings]
00:14
Okay, so I'm gonna open up jar A here and take a look.
00:17
So, the first thing I notice is the brine,
00:19
and this is very yellow.
00:20
It's very tinted,
00:22
which to me indicates that it's got something in it
00:24
that is making it that yellow color.
00:26
Normal brines that are distilled vinegar, water,
00:29
and salt don't have that additive in it.
00:32
But I do see some of the cucumbers,
00:33
they've been chopped off.
00:35
So, that's an interesting thing that manufacturers,
00:37
they usually cut off the tops
00:39
so that they can pack it in the jar
00:41
and that it doesn't stick out and stuff like that.
00:43
I would say that smaller manufacturers
00:45
probably don't go through that process
00:48
because it's an extra step.
00:51
It smells pretty good.
00:53
So, it smells like a natural product.
00:55
There's nothing jumping out at me that says calcium chloride
00:59
or potassium sorbate or anything like that that's in it.
01:02
It smells vinegary, it smells like a dill pickle.
01:05
So, dill is a pretty common weed
01:09
that has been used for centuries for flavoring food,
01:12
pickling, you can make it with fish dishes.
01:15
It's a spice, so it adds flavor to food.
01:19
And you can use it fresh out of your garden
01:21
or you can dry it and you can use the seeds
01:23
to add flavoring.
01:24
I'm gonna open this one up and check it out.
01:27
So, this one's got a cloudy brine.
01:29
That's really interesting.
01:30
Usually when you see a cloudy brine,
01:32
you're looking at two different types of pickles.
01:35
The cloudy brine is a fermented product,
01:38
one that generally goes in the cooler
01:40
or the refrigerated section of the stores
01:42
and ones with the clearer brine,
01:44
they go through a heating process,
01:45
a cooking process that lets them sit on your shelf
01:48
or in your pantry for a long period of time.
01:50
For a fermented pickle,
01:53
you're actually exposing the cucumber
01:56
to the natural microbes that are in the air.
02:00
The microbes start to eat the salt
02:03
and start to generate more microbes and more bacteria,
02:07
and that lactic acid is what gives it the sour taste.
02:11
And that takes usually anywhere from two to four weeks.
02:15
So, if you've had pickles in the past
02:17
and you've come across the terms new dill, half sour,
02:20
full sour, three quarter sour,
02:23
that's dealing with specifically fermented pickles.
02:26
And much like beer or wine, it takes time for that to occur.
02:30
I'm gonna smell the brine in pickle B here.
02:34
This definitely smells like a fermented brine,
02:37
which typically don't contain any vinegar at all in them.
02:41
But it does smell good, it smells like a good pickle.
02:45
So, we're gonna go ahead and dive into pickle A here.
02:48
I'm gonna take a bite.
02:53
Again, it smells like a normal dill pickle.
03:00
So, it definitely tastes like a vinegar pickle to me.
03:02
There's nothing too strong on the front end.
03:05
I don't taste anything chemically,
03:07
but the thing that's throwing me off is the yellow.
03:09
So, that generally tells me
03:11
that it may be done by a larger manufacturer
03:13
that's looking to preserve or extend shelf life.
03:16
Also mention that the pickle is fairly flimsy, right?
03:21
It's cut at both ends, it's not crunchy,
03:25
which is what you're gonna want in any pickle.
03:28
So, if I'm really trying to...
03:30
I'm bending this thing and it's not really going anywhere.
03:33
You can also actually see right here
03:35
it's a little bit kinda translucent,
03:37
like glassy looking and gray.
03:39
Either that could be an older pickle,
03:41
it may have sat on a shelf too long,
03:43
or it just could be a lower quality cucumber to start with.
03:46
So, here's pickle B.
03:48
Interestingly enough,
03:50
it doesn't have its ends cut like pickle A does,
03:54
so this is generally indicating to me
03:56
that this is probably a smaller manufacturer.
04:03
That's good.
04:05
There's more water balance in there
04:06
than I taste in pickle A than in pickle B.
04:09
When you're making up your brine, it's a mix of vinegar,
04:14
water, and salt, right?
04:15
And depending on the ratio of the vinegar, water, and salt,
04:17
you're gonna get different flavors.
04:19
And finding that perfect balance is, from my perspective,
04:24
what you're looking for in a pickle.
04:26
So, these are definitely two dill pickles.
04:28
They're just very different dill pickles.
04:30
Pickle A is a shelf stable pickle
04:34
that has vinegar brine in it
04:36
that gives it a very acidic tangy upfront taste,
04:41
and pickle B is a fermented pickle
04:44
that just uses salt and water
04:46
and perhaps maybe a little bit of vinegar at the finish.
04:49
If I were to guess,
04:50
I would say that pickle A is the more mass produced,
04:54
lower cost pickle,
04:56
and pickle B is the more expensive version of the two.
05:01
Okay, so let's find out.
05:03
[drum rolling]
05:06
Alright, $3.29 a quart and $9.32 a quart.
05:10
It doesn't surprise me because, again, I could tell from...
05:13
In pickle A, I could see the cuts are very uniform,
05:17
and usually small manufacturers can't do that.
05:21
So, a larger manufacturer can generally do that,
05:24
and their production capacity is gonna be much higher
05:27
than a smaller manufacturer,
05:28
which is generally gonna cost more
05:30
and usually translate to a higher price on shelf.
05:34
Pickle B, I noticed that it's a fermented brine
05:38
that has probiotics and fermentation in it,
05:41
which means that it takes more time.
05:43
If you lean more towards the fermented flavor and taste,
05:46
pickle B would be the choice that you would go with.
05:49
But my taste preferences lean more towards pickle A,
05:52
which is a vinegar pickle.
05:53
It has more tang up front.
05:55
It's what I'm used to and what I like.
05:57
I do wish that they were better quality cucumbers
06:00
and no additive ingredients
06:02
that elongated the shelf life unnaturally,
06:06
but I do like this flavor profile.
06:11
So, here are two jars of what appear to be spicy pickles.
06:17
Let's see what it's like.
06:18
Oh, yeah.
06:19
Lots of yellow juice comin' out of that pickle jar.
06:24
So, this one smells like it's definitely a vinegar pickle.
06:28
I do smell a lot of dry dill,
06:30
and that is a scent that you will definitely notice
06:33
if you smell fresh dill versus dry dill.
06:35
So, I look at this and I see there are spear cuts
06:38
and there are half cuts in there,
06:40
which means that the cucumber is gonna be firmer.
06:43
It's just a bigger cut of pickle right there,
06:45
and it's gonna be crunchier.
06:46
I also notice a lot of fresh inclusions.
06:48
So, there's fresh dill in this one
06:49
and there's a fresh hot pepper in there,
06:52
which is gonna be more expensive to buy as a manufacturer,
06:56
again, 'cause it goes bad quicker.
06:58
Fresh ingredients usually cost more money.
07:01
So, I'm gonna open it and smell it as well.
07:04
[sniffing]
07:05
This definitely has a more vinegar smell,
07:07
and I smell apple cider vinegar.
07:09
Apple cider's gonna smell more sweet off the nose.
07:14
It smells more fresh,
07:15
and I'll show you what that dill weed looks like.
07:19
So, right here,
07:21
it looks kind of like a piece of seaweed
07:23
or something like that, but when it's dry,
07:26
it looks like a flower.
07:28
When it's fresh, it looks like a flower.
07:30
But that dill right there
07:32
is gonna give it a nice fresh flavor.
07:34
So, I'm gonna try both pickles and see what we get.
07:39
Yeah, so definitely a yellow pickle.
07:40
This is a spear pickle.
07:42
Pickles will come in all different types of cuts
07:44
and they could be whole, they could be sliced,
07:47
they could be speared, they could be slabbed for hamburgers.
07:49
This looks like a pretty non-crunchy pickle, but we'll see,
07:54
and we'll see how spicy it is, too,
07:55
'cause that's the type of flavor profile
07:58
that we're dealing with here.
08:03
It's got a little kick.
08:04
That's nice.
08:06
It's not overpowering.
08:07
So, it's flavored nicely with its spice.
08:09
It's way way salty,
08:11
but I do like the spice 'cause it's not overpowering.
08:13
It's certainly over, in my opinion,
08:16
over salted to get me to want to eat more product.
08:20
So, this one is actually really interesting.
08:22
Some of the pickles aren't, as I mentioned earlier,
08:25
they're not speared.
08:27
There's actually one kind of big chunk
08:29
right at the top, right?
08:31
So, that's indicating to me
08:32
that this is more of a handmade product.
08:38
So, this one's hot.
08:39
Very hot.
08:40
It's got a habanero pepper in it.
08:42
This, too..
08:44
Woo!
08:45
This, too, has a lot of sodium content in it,
08:47
but it's not bad.
08:48
It's not overpowering like pickle A is.
08:51
What I notice in pickle B
08:52
is that it's using a habanero pepper,
08:53
which is a very hot pepper.
08:55
So, if you're shopping for a spicy pickle
08:58
and you have a low spice tolerance,
09:01
a habanera pickle is gonna be probably way too hot for you.
09:04
So, you can look at this pepper
09:07
and know stay away from this.
09:08
When it's cut in half like that,
09:10
it opens up all the oils, the hot oils,
09:14
that are in the pepper and it gets them throughout the jar
09:17
and it gets them up to spice very very quick.
09:19
So, this manufacturer can make a fresh product,
09:23
have it be spicy very quick,
09:25
and then it'll still be crunchy on the shelf,
09:28
whereas what I see in pickle A is chopped ingredients,
09:34
they could be dehydrated,
09:35
and it's probably very uniform,
09:37
but the spice is very balanced.
09:39
So, I do like the spice in this.
09:41
One thing you'll notice in pickle B
09:42
is that this cucumber's actually cut in half
09:47
compared to pickle A's cucumber,
09:50
which have their ends cut off and look pretty uniform.
09:54
This is...
09:55
Pickle B's cucumber is gonna be crunchier
09:58
because it's more whole and more fully in tact.
10:01
So, if I were to take a guess,
10:02
I would have to say that pickle B
10:06
is the more expensive version
10:08
and pickle A is the lower cost version of these two pickles.
10:13
[drum rolling]
10:18
Great, $3.72 on pickle A and $10.65 on pickle B.
10:23
So, in pickle A there were some things
10:25
that I really did like.
10:27
I liked the flavor profile of the brine, which is, again,
10:29
the vinegar, water, and salt in there.
10:32
And I certainly really liked the spice.
10:34
It wasn't overpowering.
10:36
Pickle A has a really nice balance
10:38
for those who might want something a little bit more mild.
10:43
But it is certainly very high in the sodium content.
10:47
So, if you're watching your sodium
10:48
or if you prefer to have less salt,
10:50
I would go towards pickle B.
10:53
For a spicy pickle, this is a fantastic balance.
10:55
It's not over salted and you're gonna enjoy it,
10:59
especially if you put it on a sandwich
11:01
or eat 'em right out of the jar.
11:04
Great.
11:05
So, we've got two more pickle jars here.
11:10
So, I definitely smell maple syrup
11:13
or it is kind of oaky in its flavor.
11:19
The cucumbers are pretty uniform in size,
11:23
which leads me to think that it might be
11:25
more of a larger manufacturer.
11:27
If pickle A is a larger manufacturer
11:30
that's adding a bourbon style to it or a maple style,
11:34
they are probably not gonna be using
11:37
real maple syrup or real bourbon.
11:40
They're gonna use an extract
11:41
or something that's more of a formulation of that
11:44
to get that flavoring,
11:45
whereas pickle B,
11:49
I see that there's a fresh habanero in there,
11:52
I notice that the cucumber sizes are varying in size.
11:57
I do smell maple, I do smell something that's oaky in it.
12:01
Now, if it's a smaller manufacturer,
12:03
they very well may be using real bourbon
12:07
or a real maple syrup that is gonna drive up the cost
12:10
and thereby by more expensive
12:12
and hopefully more flavorful too.
12:14
So, I'm gonna taste pickle A first.
12:24
So, it's definitely very sweet.
12:28
It tastes like maple syrup, it's kind of oaky.
12:32
So, it may have some kind of bourbony flavor to it
12:34
or flavoring.
12:36
The cayenne pepper here, as I mentioned,
12:39
is a really nice flavored pepper.
12:41
It's not too hot and it's not too mild,
12:43
but the flavoring definitely tastes very heavy on the maple.
12:47
So, I can't really tell if that's real maple syrup
12:50
or flavoring or bourbon flavoring or something like that,
12:52
but it's pretty heavy on that end.
12:55
And let's try pickle B here.
13:02
It's the habanero is really hot,
13:05
so that's taking a lot of the flavoring away.
13:07
I can't really taste much in terms of a story and a balance,
13:12
but that's not to say that it is less expensive
13:15
or more expensive.
13:17
It could just be the way the balance of the brine is tasting
13:20
and the pepper is interacting
13:22
with the rest of the spices in the jar.
13:25
I see this pickle B having less uniformity
13:30
in terms of its cuts and more fresh inclusions in it
13:34
than I am in pickle A.
13:36
And in pickle A, I see some dried spices,
13:40
I see a lot of uniformity,
13:42
and I'm tasting more flavoring type.
13:46
And if it was real,
13:49
then I would say it'd be very expensive product.
13:52
If it turns out that this is the less expensive one,
13:56
then I will say it's definitely a flavoring
13:59
that is going in there and probably not the real deal.
14:02
So, if I were to guess,
14:04
I would say pickle B is the more artisanal, higher cost one,
14:08
and pickle A is the lower cost, more mass produced pickle.
14:17
$3.84 for pickle A and $15.98 for pickle B.
14:23
So, there's a huge price difference
14:25
between pickle A and pickle B.
14:27
Pickle B, they're probably going to be using the real deal.
14:31
They're gonna be using real bourbon, real maple syrup,
14:34
and even though it is more expensive,
14:38
I do like the story profile and, again,
14:42
the journey that pickle A takes you through.
14:45
And that's, I think,
14:46
merely because the way the sugar balances out
14:49
with the spicy pepper.
14:50
This spicy pepper, the cayenne that's in there,
14:53
is less spicy than pickle B's habanero,
14:56
and the habanero pickle is very spicy in pickle B
14:59
and it overpowers a lot of the other flavors
15:01
that I think would come out
15:03
if a different pepper were to be used.
15:08
So, here we've got two new jars of pickles.
15:12
Yeah, so a lot of stuff in pickle A is floating to the top.
15:16
So, there's dried ingredients.
15:18
I'm not sure, it could be sesame seed and clove and onion.
15:24
The brine smells like it has a nice flavor,
15:26
like some apple cider vinegar and some white vinegar
15:30
as part of the brine.
15:31
It smells balanced.
15:33
The cucumbers, they do look a little translucent.
15:36
So, this could be a sign of aging,
15:38
the product has been sitting on the shelf
15:40
a little bit too long.
15:41
I'm just gonna pull a few out
15:43
'cause I'm noticing also another thing about
15:45
that we had in these pickles.
15:46
There's some varying sizes in pickle A's product
15:51
that I don't see in pickle B's product.
15:54
Pickle B looks pretty uniform.
15:56
What's an interesting fact in the pickle industry
15:59
is that larger manufacturers, so they're pretty consistent,
16:02
and you're like what do they do
16:02
with the rest of the inconsistent cucumber cuts?
16:05
Well, they turn it into relish.
16:07
So, all those inconsistencies
16:08
get turned into another product.
16:10
So, again, it's very green.
16:12
It's like a split pea soup.
16:16
It smells sweet.
16:17
It smells a little watery,
16:21
nothing overpowering like I smell in pickle A,
16:25
but let's put some on a plate here.
16:28
I do see some mustard seed coming up.
16:30
That's a flavoring.
16:31
It's a very common ingredient that you see in pickles,
16:34
but you can see from these two, pickle A looks darker,
16:38
which again could be aging or the quality of the cucumber,
16:41
but it does look more fresh and more natural
16:44
than pickle B's brine.
16:46
So, I'm gonna taste one and see what we get.
16:48
So, this is pickle A.
16:53
That's good.
16:54
So, it's very sweet off the front,
16:57
but I don't taste a lot of, too much sugar.
17:02
I taste a lot of apple cider vinegar,
17:03
which is really refreshing
17:04
'cause it's a nice way of balancing out too much sugar.
17:08
If it's a sweet pickle, then there's no pepper in the jar,
17:11
and I didn't see that in pickle A or pickle B.
17:14
This is gonna be called a sweet pickle
17:15
or a bread and butter pickle.
17:17
People always ask me why do they call it bread and butter?
17:20
Well, during The Great Depression,
17:22
people needed a food source, right?
17:24
So, cucumbers were fairly easy to grow,
17:26
they were inexpensive to grow.
17:29
So, in between some bread and some butter,
17:32
they could put some fresh cucumbers.
17:34
So, it got the name bread and butter.
17:39
So, this is a very...
17:40
Pickle B is a very sweet pickle.
17:43
I don't taste too much vinegar.
17:47
I taste a little bit, but I taste a lot of sugar,
17:49
and I'm not even sure it's real sugar
17:52
'cause it tastes very candy-like,
17:54
which is gonna make me assume
17:55
that it's some kind of high fructose corn syrup.
17:58
My hands are sticky from touching the brine.
18:01
I think A is probably gonna be a higher cost product
18:04
because of the flavor balance that I'm getting
18:06
and the ingredients that are included
18:08
and pickle B is the less expensive,
18:13
more manufactured product of the two.
18:20
Okay.
18:21
Pickle A is $15.98 a quart and pickle B is $2.64 a quart.
18:27
So, that's a huge price difference.
18:30
I would say that, for my buck,
18:32
pickle A's flavor and texture in the cucumber
18:36
and what I'm getting out of it as a sweet pickle
18:39
is totally worth the money.
18:42
So, when you're out lookin for pickles,
18:43
look for fresh ingredients,
18:46
look for a balanced brine
18:47
that gives you a nice nuanced flavor and story
18:51
throughout your food journey, and last but not least,
18:54
you want one that crunches.
18:55
Everybody wants a crunchy pickle.
18:57
So, finding a pickle that has a brighter colored flesh,
19:04
not neon green or yellow,
19:06
but brighter colored flesh as opposed to gray or translucent
19:09
or some other color is gonna give you that crunchy pickle
19:13
that you really want.