Jar your­self out of culi­nary com­pla­cency and try pick­ling

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last time I hit up my beloved Se­cond Ave. Deli back home, a corned beef on a club roll cost something like $20.

Granted, it’s big­ger than my head and I’d be walk­ing out with left­overs, but even so. Jeez.

Ev­ery year I feel more like my mother, who loves to tell me how when she was a kid, she could buy two candy bars and see a movie for a quar­ter.

“At least the pick­les are free,” my daugh­ter said, snatch­ing a half-sour from the bowl on the ta­ble.

“Truth,” I said, join­ing her, and to­gether we snapped into a taste of my child­hood.

There are a zil­lion things that make the tra­di­tional Jewish-deli ex­pe­ri­ence amaz­ing, of course, but ev­ery sin­gle one of them comes af­ter you’ve al­ready eaten a mound of slaw and at least one en­tire half-sour pickle. My fa­vorite pickle of all.

Trapped mid-trans­for­ma­tion, the half-sour pickle is en­joy­ably im­bued with all the de­li­cious, in­vig­o­rat­ing herba­ceous­ness of its deeper, funkier cousin while re­tain­ing its youth­ful emer­ald­green color and — most im­por­tantly, snap.

It’s a cu­cum­ber. It’s a pickle.

I love them.

But then, I love all kinds of pick­led things: green beans, carThe rots, pep­pers, beets. I like spicy kim­chi and funky sauer­kraut and pick­led her­ring and onions in wine sauce (Mixed with sour cream and piled onto a fresh bagel? Heaven!).

Pick­ling has been around for mil­len­nia, so long that a pre­cise date can’t be pin­pointed, but his­to­ri­ans seem to agree on something like 4,000 years. Cleopa­tra es­poused the ben­e­fits of pick­les as a beauty sup­ple­ment. Gen­er­als fed them to sol­diers for strength. Sailors car­ried them along on epic jour­neys. Pick­les are exceedingl­y shelf-sta­ble.

And while the Dutch be­gan grow­ing and pick­ling cukes in Man­hat­tan in the 1600s, it was the wave of Jewish im­mi­grants in the late 19th and early 20th cen­tury who brought to Amer­ica the gar­licky “Kosher” dill pickle that’s among the best known and loved in the na­tion.

“Pick­les are something of a catch-all,” says Eliot Hil­lis, chef/ co-owner of Or­lando Meats and founder of the Salt Forge, a lo­cal fer­men­ta­tion col­lec­tive. “They can add acid, salt, tang, funk, sweet. They last for­ever and they, in turn, can pre­serve things. And I love them for their abil­ity to throw a dish out of bal­ance for just a se­cond — a mi­cro palate­cleanser in the mid­dle of ev­ery­thing else on a plate.”

I don’t much care for the sweet ones, but they have le­gions of

COURTESY PHOTO

La­bel­ing not only helps you keep track of dates, it aids your palate’s per­sonal odyssey to­ward the per­fect pickle.

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