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How much salt is in a pickle?

What the Lab Said As we reported in the March issue, nutrition labels on supermarket foods are at best a general indicator of sodium levels. (We had to abandon our favorite low-in-sodium marinara sauce when the lab showed it wasn't low in sodium at all.) But we were curious if this applied to foods that are suspended in salty brines, which, presumably, are made from fairly precise recipes. Answer: Here, too, the numbers were all over the map.

A few supermarket pickles contained more sodium than their labels claimed—18% more in one example. Most, however, came in under. One brand was 23% lower than stated. This didn't make them low-sodium, mind you: The pickles averaged 313mg per spear—14% of the daily allowance. Keep in mind that not all serving sizes are an entire spear. Some brands list a serving as two-thirds or three-quarters of a spear. (They should come with rulers.)

A Low-Salt Solution Our Easy Dill Pickle Spears register a briny kick. We lab-tested them, and after 24 hours, sodium measured 49mg. After a 5-day soak, just 66mg.

Easy Dill Pickle Spears Combine 2 cups water, 1½ cups white wine vinegar, 1½ teaspoons sugar, 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon dill seed, 1teaspoon mustard seeds, and 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; stir. Quarter 6 pickling cucumbers lengthwise, and place in a bowl or jar; add ¾ ounce fresh dill. Top with hot vinegar mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight. SERVES 24 (serving size: 1 spear) CALORIES 5; FAT 0.1g (sat 0g); SODIUM 49mg