One of my favorite childhood snacks was a large Clausen pickle, eaten alongside cubes or slices of sharp cheddar cheese. I would take alternating bites of each, unencumbered by cracker or bread. Usually, I would wash it down with Diet Coke (because even at a young age I understood the importance of cleansing the palate). I would be lying if I said I left that snack behind once I grew up, because I still eat it from time to time. But I also eat it as a sandwich, because—as the good Earl knew—bread keeps your hands neater, which is important to me, as I’m usually typing while I eat.
My first pickle sandwich was a classic—the peanut butter and pickle, a Depression era staple that is way better than you might expect it to be. (It was also the subject of my first ever paid published piece, which has disappeared from the internet but lives on in my heart.)
We’ve talked about the PB&P and various other pickle sandwiches before, but most people view the preserved cucumber as garnish—a mere topping—rather than a full-fledged sandwich ingredient. Un-pickled cucumbers get their own sandwich, so I don’t see why the pickled version doesn’t deserve the same respect. (A half-sour pickle and cream cheese tea sandwich would, in fact, slap.)
How to make a perfect pickle sandwich
A pickle and cheese sandwich will be more accessible than the PB&B to most people. You’ve probably already and pickles and cheese on a sandwich, but meat was most likely also involved. You don’t need the meat. You just need more pickles. Creating a thick—and I mean thick—layer of pickles between two slices of bread and cheese adds crunch, salinity, and lots of acid that contrasts beautifully with sharp dairy, cutting through the fat and ultimately allowing you to eat more cheese. You can even use more than one type of pickle if you like; I favor a sandwich made with both traditional Clausen’s and a Fat Mama’s Fire & Ice pickle (which my aunt sent me straight from Natchez, Mississippi). The combination was a good choice.
Beyond keeping your pickle layer thick, there are a few other strategies that will ensure your pickle sandwich is successful: Toast the bread for extra crunch, and blot your pickles first to remove excess moisture. Lay down at least two slices of the sharpest cheddar you can find, and spread of thin layer of mayo on both pieces of bread. You can also add mustard, or even mix a little brine into the mayo (like Food52 does here), but try to keep it simple—let those pickles shine.