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The World’s Best Pickles

I knew they were the world’s best pickles the moment I tasted one. That first taste took place around 1950, and I’ve tasted a lot of pickles since, am a pickle hound in fact, but I’ve never come across anything else as good.

They came to us by way of my Uncle Ronald Smith, who was an electrician in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana where I grew up. One day he was doing electrical work for a Bulgarian family, and they rewarded him with a sample pickle. He liked it so much he got the recipe and gave it to his wife Gladys, who gave it to Grandma Glidewell, who made it and gave some to me, and I thought I’d died and gone to pickle heaven.

And thus, although they became an old Glidewell family recipe, they are really an old Bulgarian family recipe. The Bulgarian family, whose name I do not know, told Uncle Ronald that in Bulgaria, when the first heavy frost kills the tomato vines, they put all their end-of-garden vegetables –- including those green tomatoes — into a barrel, fill the barrel with pickling brine, and eat the best pickles in the world all winter.

It turns out, though, that the pickles’ travel from Bulgaria to the U.S. was only one leg of a more ancient journey. Because I mentioned them to an Iranian woman, and she said, “My family has always made pickles like that! Exactly like that, except we add tarragon.”


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