History Stories


History in a Jar: Pickles (Video)

Host Ian Knauer delves into the history and art of pickling.

In this exclusive Hungry History video, host Ian Knauer explains how pickles sustained sailors and explorers during long ocean voyages. He demonstrates the art of pickling, an ancient technique now enjoying a resurgence among home cooks. Ian follows a recipe based on a version found in an 1897 cookbook that was hugely popular among German-Americans back in the day.


3 pounds pickling cucumbers, 4 to 6 inches long
2 quarts white wine vinegar
1 quart water
1 cup salt
1 ounce dried ginger
3/4 pound pearl onions
1/4 pound horseradish, cut into smooth, uniform slices
1/2 ounce white peppercorns
1/4 ounce cloves
12 bay leaves
2 handfuls dill
1 handful tarragon
1 handful peppergrass or cresses

Before you begin, scald several quart pickling jars in boiling water to make sure they’re completely clean.

Select the pickles carefully, rejecting all that are spotted or damaged. Let sit in fresh water with salt and set aside for 12 hours. Dry cucumbers with a towel.

In a large saucepan, add vinegar, water, salt and dried ginger. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.

Add cucumbers and remaining ingredients to pickling jars, dividing everything equally. Pour in the hot vinegar mixture.

Tie a cloth over the jars and set aside in a cool, airy place. Pickle for 3 to 6 days. Once they are to your liking, refrigerate.

About the Host: After spending close to a decade in the test kitchens of Gourmet Magazine, where he developed recipes and co-hosted “Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie” and “Adventures with Ruth,” Ian poured his love of food back into his family’s Pennsylvania farm. There, he grows his own vegetables and cooks everything from scratch. He recently released his first cookbook, “The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food.” He also writes for several publications and contributes to Cooking Channel’s “Unique Eats.”

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