From the pickled egg to the fried Twinkie, the American South excels in the creation of colorful comfort food combinations. Few of these innovative snacks are as colorful, however, as the Kool-Aid pickle. Kool-Aid pickles -- also known as Koolickles -- offer an intensely flavorful clash of sour and sweet well suited to warm outdoor barbecues and breezy spring picnics. To concoct your own hyper-colored dills, you only need a jar, a few key ingredients and enough time to let the pickles soak up the sweetness.
Choose Your Components
When it comes to Kool-Aid pickles, you've got plenty of options. This outlandish dish encourages experimentation, but some tried-and-true Kool-Aid flavors include cherry, tropical fruit and strawberry, all of which lend the pickles a bright red hue. Both homemade and store-bought dill pickles work just fine for this creation, as long as you stick to the salty rather than sweet variety -- this flavor creates an interesting contrast with the sugary drink mix.
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Prep Your Pickles
As is the case with pickled eggs and pig's feet, Southerners often serve Kool-Aid pickles by the gallon. For a traditional take on the nontraditional snack, fill a gallon container with Kool-Aid made at double strength and thoroughly mix in a pound of sugar until it dissolves. Add drained pickles -- either whole, cut in half longways or sliced into manageable chunks -- then seal the container and give the whole thing a good shake. Some recipes include the pickle brine for a saltier edge. For an even bolder flavor, pierce the pickles with a fork before soaking them.
Soak and Serve
Once your pickles are completely submerged in their sweet bath, let them sit in the refrigerator for from 1 day to 1 week. The flavor will grow in intensity over time, and the color -- an essential component of this kid-friendly recipe -- will grow bolder. Give the jar a gentle shake once a day and serve this treat from the Mississippi Dellta right out of the jar for easy snacking, or alongside casual Southern staples such as pulled pork, fried chicken or brisket sandwiches.
Think Outside the Cuke
Koolickles were born of experimentation, so feel free to toy with your own innovations. Mix different flavors of Kool-Aid to create more complex tastes, such as strawberry-lime or cherry-watermelon, or amplify the flavor of the Kool-Aid soak with peppercorn, fennel seed or lemon leaves. To accommodate easier snacking, soak pickle chips instead of whole cukes or simply dip pickle spears in dry Kool-Aid powder. For an all-natural alternative, Ben Carter of Serious Eats suggests using a pomegranate juice reduction mixed with agave syrup or beet juice in place of Kool-Aid. If you pickle watermelon at home, add about 1 packet of Kool-Aid per cup of brine to intensify the fruit flavor.
- The New York Times: A Sweet So Sour: Kool-Aid Dills
- The Decatur Daily: Mississippi Loves Its Kool-Aid Pickles
- Serious Eats: How to Make Koolickles, Kool-Aid Soaked Pickles
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: How to...Make Kool-Aid Pickles
- AL.com: 19 More Weird Southern Food Combinations from AL.com Readers
- Food and Wine: Dill Pickles
- Serious Eats: 23 Pickle Recipes We Love
- Kraft: Kool-Aid Recipes