The pickling process was also known to the Ancient Greeks. Aristotle is reported to have praised pickled cucumbers for their healing effects. Julius Caesar's soldiers ate pickled cucumbers as health aids; many other brine-soaked foods were part of daily life in Ancient Rome. Cucumber pickling remained widespread across the Levant and Maghreb regions, where it is still very popular today.
Pickled cucumbers became popular in the United States due to the influence of the cuisine of Central and Eastern European immigrants.
Typically, small cucumbers are placed in a ceramic vessel or a wooden barrel, together with a variety of spices. Among those traditionally used in many recipes are garlic, horseradish, whole dill stems with umbels and green seeds, white mustard seeds, oak, cherry, blackcurrant and bay laurel leaves, dried allspice fruits, and — most importantly — salt. The cucumbers are then placed under clear water and kept under a non-airtight cover for several weeks, depending on taste and external temperature. The more salt is added the more sour the cucumbers become. Since they are produced without vinegar, a scum forms on the top, but this does not indicate they have spoiled, and the scum is just removed. They do not, however, keep as long as cucumbers pickled with vinegar.
The concoction produced during the fermentation process is often consumed as a drink (a natural treatment against hangover, rather).
In Poland they are traditionally served as a side dish to vodka.
Bread-and-butter pickles are sweeter in flavor than dill pickles, having a high concentration of sugar added to the brine. Rather than being served alongside a sandwich, they are more often used in fully-flavored sandwiches, such as hamburgers, or used in potato salad. Cucumbers to be made into bread and butters are often sliced before pickling.
Swedish pickled cucumbers (pressgurka) are thinly sliced, mixed with salt and pressed to drain some water from the cucumber slices. Afterwards placed in a jar with a sour-sweet brine of vinegar, salt, sugar, pepper and parsley.
Danish cucumber salad (agurkesalat) is similar, but the cucumbers are not pressed and the brine doesn't have parsley. The cucumber salad accompanies meat dishes, especially a roasted chicken dish (gammeldags kylling med agurkesalat), and is used on Danish hot dogs.
Kool-Aid pickles (enjoyed by children in parts of the Southern United States) are created by soaking dill pickles in a mixture of Kool-Aid and pickle brine.
In the United States, pickles are often served as a "side" to various lunches in the form of a "pickle spear", which is a pickled cucumber cut length-wise into quarters or sixths. The pickle may be used as a condiment on a hamburger or other sandwich (usually in slice form), or to a sausage or hot dog in chopped form as pickle relish. A pickle slice is commonly referred to as a 'chip'.
Soured cucumbers are commonly used in a variety of dishes — for example, pickle-stuffed meatloaf, potato salad or chicken salad — or consumed alone as an appetizer.