Pickling from Iraq to the United States

Pickle shop in Erbil, Iraq

I was in Erbil, Iraq earlier this week for a two-day conference to meet with our Iraqi colleagues and share experiences and lessons from their work on a rule of law program being implemented in different parts of Iraq. Erbil has really developed economically over the past few years and the security has improved. When my luggage was lost in transit, I went to a new mall to pick up something to wear for the next day’s conference. I was amazed at the Family Mall, complete with shops of every variety, children’s rides (including a train that weaves through the mall) and restaurants.

After the two-day conference was over, a few of us took a walk around Erbil to see the Citadel (currently undergoing an archaeological renovation), the Mudhafaria Minaret (36 meters high), Minaret Park (a beautiful family-filled park with water features, topiaries, statues of historical figures) and the covered market. (A photo slideshow of these sites is set forth below.)

It was just outside the covered market that we came upon a shop of pickles. They pickled olives, cucumbers and other vegetables. The shopkeepers kindly offered us a taste of a pickled cucumber.

The cucumber variety is one that is long and thin. We came across vendors of such varieties along our tour.

This discussion of pickles brings me back to the United States and how I have spent countless hours over the past few weeks pickling in order to keep up with the cucumber and green bean harvest from our community garden plot and patio container garden at home. I have become fascinated (maybe bordering on obsessive, I admit) with various ways to pickle (hot water bath, fermenting in a barrel or clay jar, refrigeration pickling) as well as combinations of pickling spices. I just had a conversation last night with my brother Ingfried from Germany who uses terragon (must be the French variety, he says) and it goes particularly well with pickling onions and garlic.  I will try that when I harvest my onions soon.

So in the meantime, here are a few recipes that I have been using to pickle green beans, cucumbers and peppers.  An alternative, if you plan to use the pickled items in the short-term (within the month or two), there is no need to prepare them in a hot water bath.  Just simply stick them in the refrigerator, wait about a week or two (depending upon your taste), and enjoy them as “refrigerator pickles.”  As for the green beans, this year I decided to not blanch or “pre-cook” the green beans before canning them.  I will see how they compare when I open them up this winter.

Pickled Green Beans


  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, rinsed and trimmed
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 8 sprigs fresh dill weed
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups water


  1. Cut green beans to fit inside pint canning jars.
  2. Place green beans in a steamer over 1 inch of boiling water, and cover. Cook until tender but still firm, for 3 minutes. Plunge beans into ice water. Drain well.
  3. Pack the beans into four hot, sterilized pint jars. Place 1 clove garlic and 2 sprigs dill weed in each jar, against the glass. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to each jar.
  4. In a large saucepan over high heat, bring vinegar and water to a boil. Pour over beans.
  5. Fit the jars with lids and rings and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Pickled Cucumbers or Peppers


  • 2 – 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 – 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup sea salt
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 – 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 1 – 1/2  teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1 – 1/2 teaspoons coriander seed
  • 3 teaspoons dill seed
  • 3 sprigs of fresh dill


  1. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a stainless steel saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Reduce heat and keep to a soft boil.
  2. Put  1 garlic clove, 1 sprig of fresh dill, 1 teaspoon dill seed and 1/2 teaspoon each of the mustard seed, celery seed, coriander seed and dill seed into each of three hot and sterilized pint jars.
  3. Pack cucumbers (or peppers) into the three jars. (I used three medium-sized cucumbers.)
  4. Pour the hot pickling liquid into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remover air bubbles, adding more liquid if need be to get it back to 1/2 inch headspace.
  5. Wipe the rim; center the lid on the jar; screw the outer band to a fingertip-tightness.
  6. Process the filled jars in boiling water of a hot water canning pot for 15 minutes with the canning lid on. Remove canning lid.  Leave in for 5 minutes more.
  7. Cool and store on a wire rack.

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