Battle of the Brooklyn Pickles: McClure's vs. Brooklyn Brine
That's McClure's on the right, Brooklyn Brine on the left, with their respective garlic.
Welcome to this week's installment of Battle of the Dishes, small-batch Brooklyn pickle edition.
In one corner, McClure's, a pickle-maker based in both Brooklyn and Detroit, founded in 2006. In the other corner, Brooklyn Brine, an operation out of Kings County started last year. Both companies make a garlic-dill pickle, which McClure's calls, simply, Garlic-Dill, and Brooklyn Brine calls an NYC Deli Style cucumber. We tasted them side by side to see which was the superior pickle -- important because these preserves don't come cheap.
Again, McClure's to the right, Brooklyn Brine to the left.
At Whole Foods' pickle bar, both company's pickles are $9.95 a pound, which is a lot more than you'll pay when buying straight from the makers. You can buy a case of 12 32-ounce jars on the McClure's website for $120, or one 24-ounce jar on Brooklyn Brine's site for $10. That's 30 cents an ounce for the former, 41 cents an ounce for the latter. It doesn't sound so bad put that way, but it's a splurge to buy a $10 jar of pickles. On the other hand, maybe these buggers were so good as to make it worth it?
At first glance, McClure's pickles are more attractive -- a pretty shade of green with bright white garlic cloves and sprigs of flowering dill. Brooklyn Brine's are a discomfiting shade of khaki, and the garlic sports brown spots. But take a close look at the brine and you'll see a ton of spices floating around in there -- red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, caraway, and black peppercorns, along with the coriander, flowering dill, and garlic. Exciting.
Dill pickles ought to be crunchy and refreshing, with snappy skin, a big hit of sourness and an herbal kick.
When we bit into McClure's attractive specimens, we knew right away that there was a problem. Our teeth sunk into the pickle with an unappetizing ease. It was completely soft and soggy, with a layer of mush under the skin. Then came the tongue-numbing sourness. So sour it causes you to jerk your head around uncontrollably. Sour, even very sour, is good, but this was so caustic and inedible it made us wonder if we had gotten a bad batch. We hate to speak so ill of a small local pickle company. Maybe Whole Foods somehow ruined the ones we bought.
Brooklyn Brine's dills, on the other hand, were brilliant. Tart and crunchy, with juicy flesh and a wonderful floral-citrus-herbal aftertaste of dill, coriander, and caraway. It was the first time the word "complex" came to mind after eating a dill pickle. For a pickle enthusiast, these are really worth the price tag.
Brooklyn Brine walks away with this one. Check out their vendors list to find out where to buy them, but call ahead, because they often sell out.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to New York dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.