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Add a Little MSG to Your Next Pickle Brine

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I love the whole spectrum of pickles—sweet, sour, half-sour, etc.—but my favorite kind of pickle is one that’s so aggressively flavored, it’s almost uncomfortable to eat. I like a challenging pickle, a pickle that would vanquish lesser women. Adding MSG to my pickles helps me achieve this.

When talking about monosodium glutamate, it’s important to not equate savoriness with saltiness. Salt tastes of sodium, and MSG tastes of sodium and glutamamic acid, an amino acid that gives tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and meat the flavors they’re known for. It’s that “umami” you hear so much about, and has a rounder, meatier flavor that fills your whole palate all the way to the back.

Even though I utilize MSG to make pickles with an almost hostile flavor profile, you needn’t get as aggressive. Sprinkle a pinch in, and you’ll barely notice the addition, except for the fact that your pickles will taste slightly better. If you want a pickle with a deeper, more umami-forward flavor, try adding 1/4 teaspoon to a jar of homemade brine. If you want a pickle with the intensity of an over-powdered Cool Ranch Dorito, add 1/2 a teaspoon.

Cucumber pickles with an extra umami boost are fun, but MSG gives pickled onions an onion dip vibe. I think MSG-pickled cauliflower would be super dope as well. Whichever vegetable you choose to pickle, start with a simple and quick fridge-pickle brine so you can really taste what the MSG brings to the table, then add other herbs, spices, alliums, and peppers once you’ve got the savory levels where you want them. You can use any brine you like, but I think the one below is quite nice. (Use any leftover brine to make a filthy martini.)

Super Savory MSG Pickles

Ingredients:

  • 1 large cucumber, or enough of any vegetable to fill a pint jar or soup container
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon MSG

Slice or smash the cucumber (or other vegetable) into your desired pickle shape and place them in a jar or soup container. Add all remaining ingredients to a small sauce pan and heat until boiling, stirring to help the solutes dissolve. Remove the brine from the heat and pour over your cucumbers. Loosely cover and let come to room temperature on the counter, then set the whole deal in the fridge overnight before chomping down.

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