Perfect Pickles

One of the longest running jokes, or myths, about pregnancy is that pregnant women crave pickles and ice cream–both alone and in combination. In my practice women report to me that they do, indeed, have some unique cravings that they did not have prior to pregnancy. Cravings are real and there is some science behind why women have more cravings during pregnancy than at any other time.

First, culture plays a huge role in why women crave certain foods. If a woman is familiar with, or exposed to, certain foods in her lifetime she is likely to crave them again during pregnancy. Its hard to crave something you have never eaten!

Next, there are key hormones that play a large role in stimulating hunger or the feelings of fullness. Fat cells in the body secrete leptin, which is a hormone that is responsible for trigger the brain when a sense of satiety (or “feeling full”) is reached during a meal. In pregnancy, a woman’s body becomes resistant to leptin and the interaction in the hypothalamus in a woman’s brain is interrupted. With this disruption in leptin, a powerful appetite stimulant called neuropeptide Y (NPY) is now capable of binding to cannabinoid receptors leading pregnant to feel hungry more often and cravings to begin.

Another hormone, ghrelin, signals hunger to the brain and its levels are typically highest before a meal. In pregnancy, the levels of ghrelin are also distorted so ghrelin levels peak at various times, further increasing the frequency of feeling hungry or needing a snack.

Pregnant women often crave salty or vinegary types of foods that have texture or a crunch. Pickles are an ideal snack to satisfy those types of cravings. However, jars of pickles, while delicious, contain varying amount of salt or preservatives that may not make them the smartest choice for a snack, and they can also promote some unwelcome side effects like gas or heartburn. My solution? Make your own pickles!

I have the easiest recipes to make homemade pickles that are low in sodium, have no additional preservatives, and can be kept on hand for a snack emergency. My recipe can be either sweet or more acidic depending on your tastes. However, these recipes let the pickles store in simple jars or containers so no canning, or the whole canning process, is needed. Plus, any crunchy vegetable can be added like slices of carrots or radishes to add extra crunch and taste. Cut the pickles thin or thick, or use a crinkle cut knife to make beautiful slices with ridges.

Try adding in different fresh herbs like dill or parsley to heighten the flavor. Eat these alone or with a sandwich, on top of meat, or as an appetizer. They make a great homemade gift to bring to a party or brunch. The possibilities with these pickles are endless!

Perfect Pickles

Makes 3 medium jars 

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 4 cups sliced pickling cucumbers (either ¼ inch circles or in spears)
  • 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns (optional)
  1. Prepare the brine: Combine water, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and stir until all the salt and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Add the cucumber slices to jars or containers with tight sealing lids. Do not overpack them and leave room for them to float easily in the brine. Add in the onion, garlic and seeds if using.
  3. Add enough cooled brine to cover the cucumber slices. Seal the container and store in the refrigerator for 1 week. Pickles should last about 4 to 6 weeks in the refrigerator.

Sweet Pickles

Makes 2 medium jars 

  • 2 cups sliced cucumbers (either ¼ inch discs of in spears)
  • 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1/8 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon white peppercorns (optional)
  1. Place sliced cucumbers and onion in heat safe jars or containers. Do not overpack; leave enough room for the cucumbers to float easily in the brine.
  2. Prepare the brine: Prepare the brine: Combine water, vinegar, salt, and sugars in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the hot brine over the cucumbers and onions. Allow to cool.
  4. Add in the seeds and peppercorns if using. Seal the container and refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.
  5. Store up to 2 months in the refrigerator.

Featured photo by Reka Biro-Horvath 

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