For this match-up, let's compare Vlasic Bread and Butter Pickle Chips and our recipe for Refrigerator Pickles. All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery unless otherwise noted.
• Vlasic Bread and Butter Pickle Chips
PER 1-OUNCE SERVING: $0.12
• Refrigerator Pickles
Makes 2 quarts
8 c sliced cucumbers (estimating 8 pickling cucumbers total): $2.64
1 c thinly sliced celery (estimating using 2 stalks and 8 stalks/bunch): $.50
1 large onion: $0.89
1 T salt: $0.01
2 c sugar: $0.50
1 c white wine vinegar: $1.50
1 T celery seed (price taken from Penzeys): $0.60
1 T mustard seed (price taken from Penzeys): $0.62
PER 1-OUNCE SERVING: $0.11
• Vlasic Bread and Butter Pickle Chips: 0 Minutes
• Refrigerator Pickles: Active Time (chopping veggies and making the pickling liquid) - about 15 minutes, Total Time (letting the veggies sit, cooling the liquid) - 1 hour, 15 minutes.
Without the whole canning process, these refrigerator pickles are remarkably easy. Chopping all the cucumbers is really the hardest part, though a mandoline would make that a snap and allow you to make super-thin pickles besides.
A batch of pickles will also keep refrigerated for up to two months according to the recipe. This takes care of my fear that the pickles would go bad before eating the whole batch. From a time and effort point of view, these pickles seem well worth it.
TASTINESS AND HEALTHFULNESS
Store-bought pickles just seem to have an ineffable "pickleness" that can be hard to capture when making them at home. It's the taste of childhood, really. And like Kraft Mac n' Cheese and Nestle Quik chocolate milk, that taste-memory is going to be difficult to topple.
That said, homemade refrigerator pickles like these are astoundingly good. They have a freshness and snap that the store-bough variety don't. Let's face it: it's super fun to play around with adding different herbs, using various vinegars, and throwing in whatever veggies are in the crisper drawer. I know that gets us away from our bread-and-butter pickle purity, but...that's also part of the point of making pickles yourself.
I should also add that Vlasic pickles contain high fructose corn syrup, as do Claussen and probably most other major brands. If corn syrup is something you prefer to avoid (which it really seems like we should), here's your number one argument for making pickles yourself.
MAKE OR BUY?
I was on the fence about this one until I saw corn syrup on the ingredient list. That really turned me off to my favorite intensely-pickley Vlasics. Dang. Personally, unless I can find a store-bought brand that is both affordable and contains your standard pickling ingredients, I'm going to switch over to making my own.
VERDICT: It's a tough call, but I think we should give homemade a chance.
Do you make your own pickles? How do you think they compare to store-bought for those of us having trouble letting go?
(Images: Peapod and Dana Velden)