Taste Test: Michigan Dill Pickles

Hour Media evaluates five local favorites on the basis of texture, taste, and tang
Photograph by EE Berger

Michigan has an odd affinity for pickles. The state produces more pickled cucumbers than anywhere else in the nation. And it’s not just the edible ones that capture our fancy. Berrien Springs on the state’s west side claims to be the “Christmas Pickle Capital of the World” — honoring a holiday tradition (for some) to hide a pickle-shaped ornament in their trees. With so much pickle pride in one state, Michigan pickle makers have to be great to stand out from the crowd. We tested five favorite Michigan brands to see who headed up the pickle preference pack.

1st Place
While this was one of the closest (and most divisive) taste tests we’ve ever hosted, Tall Paul’s pickles pulled ahead by a handful of points. Judges commented most on the pickle’s crisp texture and crunch, paired with a subtle sour flavor. Tall Paul’s Pickles, tallpaulspickles.com

2nd Place 
A unique combination of spices propelled Safie’s deli-style dill pickles into 2nd place. “[It] has a nutmeg-y, peppery thing going on,” writes one reviewer. “I’m into it!” While the herbal flavor wasn’t for every tester, the snappy taste sealed its rank, even if only by a sprig of dill. Safie’s Deli Style Dill Pickles, safiespecialtyfoods.com

3rd Place
Since the 1940s, Vlasic (founded in Imlay City) has been churning out Polish pickles — and now boasts that it’s “America’s Favorite Pickle.” The classic dill spear favorite is definitely an “everyman’s pickle,” landing right in the middle of our ranks. “Tastes like a typical dill pickle,” writes one reviewer. “Good crunch, not too sour.” What more could you really want? Vlasic Kosher Dill Spears, vlasic.com

Honorable Mentions

Most Sour
While the McClure’s Pickles brand’s spicy pickles and Bloody Mary mixes are crowd favorites, the classic garlic dill variety fell slightly behind the pack. Still, the pickle ranked as the most sour of all the tested varieties, making it a favorite for some. “It had a good crunch with a sour punch,” writes a taste tester. McClure’s Garlic and Dill Spears, mcclures.com

Most Controversial
While controversial isn’t a term you would usually associate with pickles, cult favorite Topor’s Pickles fits the bill. The dills are fermented without vinegar, creating a briney pickle with a tingly mouthfeel. For some, this was jarring; for others, it was exactly what a pickle should be. “Wonderful on all counts,” rated one reviewer. Topor’s Dill Pickles, toporpickles.com