How To: Make Jewish Half-Sour Garlic Pickles

Apparently it’s How-To Week in my brain, so here’s another….

As a Brooklyn Jew transplanted to California, there are a lot of foods I miss: farmer’s cheese, German cold cuts, bagels, and half-sour pickles.  You can find the Ba-Tampte brand of half-sours in almost any grocery store back east, but they’re virtually non-existent here in San Francisco.  Luckily, it’s kirby cucumber season right now, so you can make your own jar of fresh pickles for less than $1.  I got mine from the Civic Center farmer’s market.

I couldn’t find an accurate recipe for these anywhere on the interwebs, so I invented this version using trial and error to re-create what I’ve seen floating around in those Ba-Tampte jars.  It’s a ridiculously easy process that takes about five minutes to make and one day to be ready.  Here we go:

  1. Combine in a clean tomato sauce jar (28 oz. or so mason jar):
    • four kirby (pickling) cukes, halved lengthwise
    • 3 garlic cloves, halved and crushed
    • a dozen whole black peppercorns
    • 1/4 tsp. mustard seed
    • 1 TBSP kosher salt
    • a pinch of cumin seed
  2. Fill the jar with water to the top, making sure everything is covered.
  3. Screw the lid on tight and agitate the jar for about 10 seconds.
  4. Leave the jar on the counter for 24-36 hours, agitating once more in between.
  5. Eat!

These pickles lose their crispness after another day or so of sitting around, so it’s best to eat them right away, or you can put them in the fridge to extend their life by one or two more days.


  1. Great recipe. Who knew they were so easy to make! Hubby ripped through the first batch I made plus one jar went to the in-laws who loved them as well… just put a second batch together. Thanks!!!

  2. Want to hear the funniest thing ever!!!!! I just flew in to John Wayne airport Santa Ana C.A and do you know I personally imported two whole glass bottles of Ba-tampte pickles my wife thought I was nuts but she is not an original east coaster New Yorker like I am….

  3. Hi Leonard,

    Great question! No, technically it isn’t, since we’re not adding any sort of acid to the mix. These pickles are just brined and spiced, so they’re ready in two days and don’t require the long wait times or sterilization of equipment normally associated with food preservation. Thanks for visiting!

     — Lauren

  4. Lauren, these are outstanding and so easy to make. I am on my third batch. I wasn’t sure if it was a typo or purposeful omission, so I added fresh dill to one of the jars. I then had a blind taste test with my husband. We both thought the dill had a little bit better overall flavor. Thanks for the recipe. These will be an everyday staple.

  5. Thanks, Nancy! I’m so glad you like them. 🙂 I’ll have to try adding a little dill and see what that does. I’ve only seen dill with the full-sour pickles but now I’m intrigued!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *