Deliciously dingy-watered finger-dirtying dill pickles

Dill pickles

Michelle almost didn’t take a picture of these pickles, even though they may be her favorite dill. It’s the Dill Pickles recipe from City Cuisine, the cookbook Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken wrote back in the Eighties before they became the “Too Hot Tamales” (befitting their rather spicy personal story).

Dill flower

Dill flower

In addition to vinegar, salt, sugar (and of course, dill), the pickling spices include cumin, ginger and turmeric, which give the pickles a spicy, earthy, almost Indian flavor. The turmeric, especially, also gives the pickling liquid a cloudy, almost luminous yellow color. While it could possibly inspire art in someone else’s hands, we generally keep ours out of the stuff. Turmeric, which is a dye as well as a spice, means these pickles have stained our fingers more times than we can remember.

Pickle spices

Cumin, turmeric and dill seed

Nonetheless, they are delicious, and despite her concerns over their odd color, Michelle decided you need to know about them. They’re tasty, reasonably simple to make, and if you remember to use a fork you’ll have a relatively low risk of finger stains. And now there’s also proof you can take a passable photo of them.


(adapted from Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken’s City Cuisine)

  • 15-20 small pickling cucumbers
  • 3 c. water
  • 2 c. white vinegar
  • 1/4 c. kosher salt
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 3/4 t. ground cumin
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. ground turmeric
  • 1 t. dill seed
  • 1 t. black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 or 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 or 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced with seeds
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 bunch fresh dill (optional)
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add cucumbers, then immediately remove from heat and drain in a colander. Shock with cold water. Cut cucumbers into large chunks.

Combine 3 cups water, vinegar, salt, sugar, dried spices, peppercorns and bay leaf in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Place cucumbers, other vegetables, garlic and fresh herbs in a large container, preferably one with a lid. Pour hot brine over and let cool. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

Transfer to jars or other sealed container and refrigerate for a couple of days before eating. These keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.


  1. Susan Feniger is one of the smartest, funniest women on the planet and I would absolutely eat any of her food. (I thought I misunderstood when Jody first told me her story.) I’m going to have to wait until we get through some more of the kimchi and pikliz in our fridge before there’s room for these, but I’ll definitely try them. If I remember correctly, their Hot Tamales cookbook introduced me to fideus, which puts in regular appearances here. By the way, am I the only one to not that the name of artist you referenced also refers to a pepper which might also have produced the same color in the medium depicted in his art? Ken

    • Oh, that’s funny. I guess I should change the recipe to say “1 jalapeño pepper OR…” This was one of the 1st cookbooks I bought after we married and there are many recipes in there (like this one) that we still use on a regular basis. And it’s easy to see—both from books and TV—that these ladies rock!

  2. Eha

    Hmm: am perchance too much of a purist, but if one calls something a ‘dill pickle’ it does not have cumin, ginger, turmeric or chilli in it!!! I should know: I was born into NE European ‘dill pickle culture’ 🙂 ! Still am there . . .

  3. Oh these really sound delicious! My mom makes Russian-style dill pickles and they are fantastic, but I love the idea of using turmeric. And dill seeds!!! Never seen those in France. I am jealous.

  4. Fabulous pictures and lovely idea. I must track down some pickling cucumbers. Great spice mixture. I have a bad thought about yellow stained fingers…I remember a feature in the Sunday Times about a woman who did colonic irrigation for the movers and shakers ( bad thoughts again) and ,.,,,I’m not going on with this:)

  5. I’ve tried a number of dill pickle recipes and not cared for the results. Now, I remember the “Too Hot Tamales” quite well, not to mention chefs Feniger & Milliken. That’s when the Food Network actually featured cooking shows, not the pseudo-reality crap it’s filled with now. If these pickles were inspired by one of their recipes, I’m in! Thanks for the recipe and I’ll let you know how it goes. I just spent last weekend pickling beets & radishes and am a little short of jars right now. 😉

    • I think we’re showing our age, John, when we talk about how the Food Network was once actually good! It is an abomination now. Though I must admit that “The Next Food Network Star” is one of my guilty pleasures—just because it’s so odd how unashamedly they show how hollow the network’s whole premise has become.

    • These are tasty. They’re really crunchy, too. I miss the real pickles I used to make (my secretary’s husband used to call me “The Pickle Lawyer”). But: (1) I’ve become lazy; (2) it makes the kitchen too hot; and (3) I’m always terrified my canning will kill someone. 🙂

  6. Wow I would never have thought to marry turmeric with pickling cucumbers! Since I’m Indian, and we add turmeric to almost EVERYTHING, I have reached a point where I am actually getting quite sick of yellow food. These, on the other hand, look scrumptuous 🙂

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