Dill Pickles vs Bread and Butter Pickles

In the world of pickles, you may have encountered the classic dill pickles and the sweetly spiced bread and butter pickles. Both varieties offer a unique take on the traditional pickled cucumber and have their own loyal followings. Dill pickles, characterized by their tangy and sharp flavor, are often heralded for their firm and crispy texture. They come from a pickling process that includes dill, which is both an herb and a spice, vinegar, water, and salt. This simple blend allows the flavor of the cucumber to shine through, accompanied by the distinct taste of dill.

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On the other hand, bread and butter pickles introduce a different flavor profile. These pickles are sweeter, imbued with sugar and a mix of spices such as mustard seeds, onions, and potentially bell peppers or other additional flavors. The name “bread and butter” implies their historical reputation as a dependable and delicious staple in American households. Despite their sweetness, these pickles also manage to deliver a subtle tartness, creating a complex and well-rounded taste experience.

As you explore the differences between these two pickle types, consider how their flavors can complement various dishes. Dill pickles are commonly served alongside deli sandwiches or burgers to provide a contrasting zest, while bread and butter pickles might be found adding a sweet and tangy element to something like a pulled pork sandwich or even as part of a relish. Understanding the nuances of each can help you make the best choice for your palate and plate.

History and Origins

Dill Pickles Vs Bread And Butter

In your exploration of pickles, you’ll encounter rich histories and transformations that have led to the two popular variants you savor today: dill pickles and bread and butter pickles. Understand how each has evolved over time through different ingredients and methods to become the condiments you relish now.

Evolution of Pickles

The practice of pickling has been around for roughly 4,000 years, with the goal to preserve vegetables, especially cucumbers, using brine or vinegar. The process of fermentation that occurs during pickling not only extends the shelf life but also develops a unique tart flavor that varies based on the spices and other ingredients used.

Dill Pickles Through Time

  • Origins: Dill pickles are named after the herb that provides their characteristic flavor — dill. These pickles are made by fermenting cucumbers in a brine which is a combination of water, vinegar, and salt, often with garlic and other spices.
  • Historical Journey: The use of dill in pickling dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. It’s believed that dill arrived in Western Europe around A.D. 900, where it became a mainstay in pickling cucumbers.

Bread and Butter Pickles Background

  • Creation: Arising in the early 20th century in the United States, bread and butter pickles have a distinct sweet and tart flavor profile due to sugar and vinegar in their pickling brine.
  • Spice Blend: Commonly, this variety includes a blend of spices like mustard seeds, celery seeds, and sometimes turmeric, which imparts a vibrant yellow hue.
  • Name Origin: It’s suggested that they were named ‘bread and butter’ pickles because during the Great Depression, inexpensive sandwiches of pickles layered between bread and butter were a staple meal.

In the history of these pickles, you’ll find a tale of innovation and tradition converging to create flavors that have stood the test of time.

Culinary Uses

Dill pickles and bread and butter pickles each have their place in the culinary world, offering distinct flavors suited for different dishes. You’ll find that these pickles can enhance your meals in more ways than one.

Dill Pickles in Cooking

Dill pickles are a staple in many savory dishes. Their sharp, tangy flavor makes them ideal for chopping and adding to sandwiches or burgers to provide a burst of acidity. Here’s how you can incorporate them into your recipes:

  • Sandwiches: Slice dill pickles thinly to add crunch and a sour note to your favorite sandwich.
  • Burgers: A classic dill pickle spear or chopped pieces can cut through the richness of a burger and add a refreshing crunch.

Bread and Butter Pickles on the Menu

Bread and butter pickles, known for their sweet and tangy flavor, add a unique taste to various dishes. They can be used as follows:

  • Sweet Pickles: These pickles can be served alongside or on sandwiches to add a sweet tanginess that contrasts rich meats and cheeses.
  • Recipe Enhancement: Try using bread and butter pickles in recipes where a balance of sweet and sour is desired, such as in tartar sauce or as a relish.

Flavor Profiles

When you explore the world of pickles, the flavor profiles of dill and bread and butter variations stand out due to their distinct ingredients and taste sensations.

Understanding Dill Pickle Flavor

Dill pickles bring a bold and sour taste to your palate, primarily derived from the combination of vinegar and dill used in their preparation. This flavor profile is characterized by:

  • Sourness: The prominence of vinegar gives dill pickles their classic sharp tang.
  • Herbaceousness: Fresh or dried dill, or dill seeds, add a slightly grassy and aromatic note.

It’s this blend of vinegar and dill that contributes to the piquant and refreshing taste dill pickles are famous for.

The Sweet and Tangy World of Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and butter pickles offer a sweet and tangy alternative with a complex flavor profile that includes:

  • Sweetness: A significant amount of sugar or sweet syrup is used to create the distinct sweetness.
  • Tanginess: Despite their sweetness, these pickles maintain a playful tang from the vinegar.
  • Spices: Typically, a mix of mustard seeds, celery seeds, and turmeric adds subtle spice flavors.

The resulting flavor of bread and butter pickles is balanced yet rich, providing a contrast to the simpler sourness of dill pickles.

Health and Nutrition

When exploring the health and nutritional differences between dill pickles and bread and butter pickles, it’s crucial to understand how their ingredients impact your overall well-being and how fermentation might play a role in your digestive health.

Nutritional Content of Pickles

Dill Pickles:

  • Salt: Integral to the pickling process; consumption should be moderate due to potential impacts on blood pressure.
  • Sugar: Typically absent or very low; this makes dill pickles a lower calorie option.
  • Fiber: Cucumbers, the primary ingredient, provide a modest amount of fiber, aiding digestion.
  • Antioxidants: Cucumbers contain antioxidants that may help combat oxidative stress.

Bread and Butter Pickles:

  • Salt: Present but often overshadowed by the higher sugar content.
  • Sugar: Up to two cups in recipes for sweetness, contributing to higher calorie content.
  • Fiber: Similar to dill pickles but the nutritional benefit may be offset by added sugars.
  • Antioxidants: Comparable to dill pickles, dependent on the cucumbers and additional spices used.

Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

Probiotics: Pickles fermented traditionally (in brine, not vinegar) contain probiotics which support your gut’s health by improving digestion and the overall balance of good bacteria.

Fermented vs. Non-Fermented: While both dill and bread and butter pickles can be fermented, the latter is often made with a vinegar base, which does not provide probiotics. A truly fermented pickle will be more likely to contribute to your intestinal health.

Remember, while pickles can contribute to a healthy diet, their high sodium or sugar content can affect your health and should be considered when determining overall consumption.

Making Pickles at Home

Homemade Dill Pickles - How to Make Naturally Fermented Pickles

Making pickles at home allows you to customize flavors and enjoy the crispness of freshly made dill or bread and butter pickles. Let’s explore specific techniques to create these two popular types of pickles.

DIY Dill Pickles Techniques

To begin your dill pickle journey, you’ll need to prepare a basic brine composed of vinegar, water, and salt. A standard ratio is 2 cups of water to 1 cup of vinegar, with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt for dissolving.


  • Cucumbers (as many as you wish to pickle)
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • Dill (fresh or dried)
  • Additional flavorings (optional): peppercorns, red pepper flakes


  1. Combine vinegar, water, and salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Ensure the salt is fully dissolved.
  2. Sterilize jars and lids by boiling them or running them through a hot dishwasher cycle.
  3. Pack your cucumbers into jars along with garlic cloves and generous sprigs of dill.
  4. Pour the hot brine over the cucumbers, ensuring they are completely submerged.
  5. Seal the jars tightly and let them cool before storing them in the refrigerator.

Crafting Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and butter pickles require a sweeter brine, due to the addition of sugar. The brine often includes apple cider vinegar along with mustard seeds, onion, and sometimes bell peppers.


  • Cucumbers sliced into chips
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • Additional flavorings (optional): turmeric, celery seeds, cloves


  1. Make the brine by combining both types of vinegar, water, sugar, and mustard seeds in a pot. Add any additional spices you desire.
  2. Heat the mixture until it begins to boil and the sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Prepare your jars and lids by sterilizing them as you would for dill pickles.
  4. Tightly pack the jars with cucumber slices and add thin slices of onion.
  5. Pour the hot brine over the cucumbers and onions, ensuring the ingredients are covered.
  6. Seal the jars and allow them to cool before refrigerating.

These techniques will give you crunchy and flavorful pickles that reflect your taste preferences and match the quality of store-bought varieties.

Common Variations and Flavors

In exploring the world of pickles, you’ll encounter distinctive tastes influenced by regional ingredients and preparation styles. Dill and bread and butter pickles, for example, each have unique flavor profiles shaped by specific spices, herbs, and seasoning approaches.

Regional Pickle Types

Different locales around the globe pride themselves on their unique variations of pickles. You may find New York deli-style dill pickles, which are known for their garlicky brine and robust flavor. In contrast, Eastern European pickles might use a mix of dill seed and other spices, resulting in a different flavor profile.

Taste Variations in Dill Pickles

Dill pickles are known for their crispness and refreshing dill flavor, which can originate from dill weed, dill seed, or both. The flavor can vary from subtly herbaceous to deeply savory. Some variations also incorporate:

  • Garlic: enhancing the pickle’s pungency
  • Pickling spice: adding complexity
  • Spicy peppers: introducing heat for those who enjoy a spicy kick

Bread and Butter Pickles Diversity

Bread and butter pickles stand apart due to their noticeably sweet taste interspersed with a tangy undercurrent. These pickles often contain a mix of:

  • Mustard seeds: contributing a subtle spice
  • Celery seeds: adding a slightly bitter, earthy tone
  • Turmeric: for a hint of warmth and color

Unlike their dill counterparts, bread and butter pickles are typically sweeter, making them sweet pickles, and they may sometimes include onions or peppers for additional flavor nuances.

Cultural Significance

Your journey through the world of pickles reveals their deep-seated cultural roots and diverse uses in cuisines globally — from a side dish to a condiment or an appetizer.

Pickles in World Cuisines

In various cultures, you will find pickles playing a significant role. In American cuisine, dill pickles are often revered as a classic side dish that accompanies sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs. Their sharp tang and crunchy texture provide a counterpoint to rich, fatty meats.

Moving to bread and butter pickles, you’ll observe their slightly sweeter taste making them a pleasant addition to appetizers or as a snack on their own. Their name is said to originate from the Great Depression era when inexpensive cucumber sandwiches made with pickles could serve as a simple and filling meal.

Across different countries, you will notice that pickles are not just a side note, but a mainstay in several traditional dishes serving as a condiment. For instance, in East European and German cuisine, dill pickles are essential for adding zest to sausages and meats, crucial for flavor balance and digestion.

Moreover, Asian countries like Korea have spicy pickled vegetables, such as kimchi, that are central to their culinary identity, eaten with almost every meal as a staple side dish. Similarly, in Indian cuisine, a variety of pickles made from mango, lemon, and other fruits and vegetables serve as a tangy condiment that complements the staple rice and bread.

As you delve into the history and variety, you’ll appreciate how pickles enhance your eating experience, transcending their role as a simple appetizer or side dish to become a culturally significant component of many global cuisines.

Food Pairings and Combinations

When considering the diverse flavor profiles of dill and bread and butter pickles, specific food pairings can enhance your culinary experience. Here’s a guide to the ideal partners for each pickle variety.

Ideal Partners for Dill Pickles

Meat: Dill pickles, with their sharp tang and herbal notes, are perfect alongside deli meats. Include a few slices in your next sandwich with:

  • Roast beef
  • Turkey
  • Salami

Burgers and Hot Dogs: A slice of dill pickle adds a crunchy, piquant contrast to the savory flavors of burgers and hot dogs.

Cheese: Bold cheeses, such as sharp cheddar or Swiss, match well with dill pickle’s zesty kick.

Salads: Add chopped dill pickles to potato or egg salad for an extra layer of flavor.

Complementary Foods for Bread and Butter Pickles

Sandwiches: Bread and butter pickles’ sweet profile pairs well with:

Snacks: Their sweetness makes them a tasty addition to a charcuterie board or a snack platter featuring soft cheeses and crackers.

Salads: Try tossing them into your coleslaw or macaroni salad for a sweet and tangy twist.

Purchasing and Storage

When you’re buying pickles, whether they’re dill or bread and butter varieties, take note of the condition of the packaging and the storage environment. Once home, proper storage is crucial to maintain their crunch and flavor over time.

Selecting the Best Pickles

  • Look for Clarity: Ensure the brine is clear, not cloudy, as this indicates a well-preserved pickle.
  • Check the Seals: For store-bought pickles, the packaging should be intact with no bulging lids on jars or damaged seals on pouches.
  • Best Before Date: Always check the expiration date to ensure maximum freshness and shelf life.

Storage Tips for Optimal Freshness

  • Refrigerator: Once opened, store pickles in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process and preserve their taste and texture.
  • Crisper Drawer: Use your refrigerator’s crisper drawer, which is specifically designed to maintain the best humidity level for pickled products.
  • Tight Seal: Keep the pickles in their original brine and make sure the lid is always tightly sealed to prevent oxidation and flavor loss.
  • Pickle Juice: Never discard the pickle juice. It helps to keep pickles moist and flavorful. Plus, you can use it to pickle other vegetables.
  • Avoid Contamination: Always use clean utensils to take pickles out of their container to prevent bacterial growth.

Serving Suggestions and Recipes

Alton Brown Makes Homemade Dill Pickles | Good Eats | Food Network

Both dill and bread and butter pickles can elevate your dishes with their unique flavors. Dill pickles offer a sharp tang whereas bread and butter pickles bring a sweet and spicy twist. Explore how to incorporate these into your meals for an enhanced culinary experience.

Innovative Ways to Serve Dill Pickles

Dill pickles are incredibly versatile in the kitchen and work well beyond just being a side dish. Consider these innovative ideas:

  • Chopped Dill Relish: Mix fine-chopped dill pickles with a hint of garlic and a splash of pickle juice to create a relish that pairs beautifully with hot dogs and burgers.
  • Salad Dressing Base: Blend dill pickles with olive oil, a bit of mustard, and fresh herbs, and drizzle over your favorite greens for a tangy salad dressing.

Bread and Butter Pickles as a Condiment

The sweet yet zesty flavor profile of bread and butter pickles makes them an excellent condiment. Here’s how to use them:

  • Sandwich Spread: Layer thin slices of bread and butter pickles onto sandwiches for a sweet crunch or mash them into a spread for a flavor-packed condiment.
  • Topping for Foods: Dice them up to top off your grilled meats, tacos, or even mix into deviled eggs to add complexity and sweetness to your dishes.

Consumer Preferences

Your taste buds significantly influence your pickle preference, as you may lean towards the intense sourness of dill pickles or the sweet and tangy profile of bread and butter pickles. Personal preference plays a central role in determining which pickle type ends up on your plate.

Why People Choose Dill Pickles

You might prefer dill pickles for their straightforward tanginess and the herbaceous sharpness of dill. Often found in the form of kosher dill, these pickles are a staple for those who favor a more intense and sour flavor profile. Here are two key reasons you might choose dill pickles:

  1. Simplicity: The flavor is typically less complex but more pronounced in sourness and dill, which can be refreshing and bold.
  2. Deliciousness in Dishes: Dill pickles, particularly kosher varieties, are known for their ability to complement rich meals, cutting through the heaviness with their clean, acidic taste.

Bread and Butter Pickles’ Popularity

On the other hand, you might find yourself drawn to bread and butter pickles if you enjoy a sweet and tangy kick. This variety is popular for its balanced taste that pairs well with a variety of foods. They can add a unique dimension to your meals with:

  • Balanced Flavor: Combining sweetness with a tangy undercurrent, bread and butter pickles can enhance dishes without overpowering them.
  • Versatility: Their sweet yet tart flavor profile makes them excellent in sandwiches, burgers, and even as a standalone snack.

Economic Aspects

In the context of the food industry, the economics of pickle types such as dill and bread and butter pickles are shaped by both market trends and cost factors associated with production.

Market Trends in Pickle Production

You’ll notice that the marketplace for pickles is dynamic and responsive to consumer preferences. Dill pickles and bread and butter pickles cater to different taste profiles, with the former being tangy and the latter sweetly spiced. Data indicates a steady demand for both types, but the popularity of each can fluctuate with culinary trends and dietary shifts. For instance, the increasing pursuit of bold and savory flavors may boost the sales of dill pickles, while a growing sweetness preference could propel bread and butter pickles.

  • Preference Shifts: Changes in consumer taste can affect the demand for pickle types.
  • Dietary Trends: Health trends can drive the demand for pickles with lower sugar or salt content.

Cost Factors in Pickle Manufacturing

When it comes to manufacturing, your cost inputs include ingredients, production cost, and labor, each significantly impacting the final price point of pickles. Dill pickles require a mixture of vinegar, water, and dill, while bread and butter pickles need additional ingredients like sugar and spices, which may raise the production costs slightly.

  1. Ingredients:
    • Dill pickles: simpler ingredient list, potentially lower cost.
    • Bread and butter pickles: more complex, possibly more expensive ingredients.
  2. Production Cost:
    • Scaling up production may lower per unit costs.
    • Efficiency in production methods can reduce labor hours and expenses.
  3. Labor:
    • Automation can decrease the reliance on manual labor, though initial investment is significant.
    • Specialized workers may be needed for quality control, affecting labor costs.
Cost FactorDill PicklesBread and Butter Pickles
Production EfficiencyVariesVaries

In your analysis of the economics behind pickle production, it’s essential to consider these factors as they contribute to the financial landscape of the pickle varieties within the food industry.

Environmental Impact

In assessing the environmental impact of dill versus bread and butter pickles, your focus might naturally rest on sustainable production practices and responsible waste management. These factors are pivotal in determining the overall environmental footprint of your pickle consumption.

Sustainable Pickle Production Practices

When you choose pickles from manufacturers who implement organic farming techniques, you are supporting sustainability. This approach minimizes the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, fostering better soil health and biodiversity. Organic farms typically conserve more water and have lower energy consumption due to reliance on natural growth processes, ultimately reducing the carbon footprint of pickle production. Moreover, sustainable pickle production may also involve:

  • Efficient water usage systems, to lessen the impact on freshwater resources.
  • Crop rotation practices, which help maintain the health of the soil.

Packaging and Waste Management

The packaging of pickles contributes significantly to their environmental footprint, especially in relation to recycling and plastic waste. To make an informed choice, you should consider:

  • The recyclability of the packaging material. Glass jars are often used for pickles and can be 100% recycled, reducing your waste contribution.
  • The presence of plastic in packaging. Some brands might use plastic shrink-wrapping or lids, which can be more challenging to recycle and might end up in landfills.

Furthermore, by opting for brands that emphasize recycling and waste reduction programs, you encourage industry-wide shifts towards more environmentally friendly packaging solutions.

Scientific Studies

The scientific studies concerning pickles delve into how these foods impact your digestion and how they’re perceived in taste.

Research on Pickles and Digestion

Your gut health is affected by the foods you consume, and pickles are no exception. Probiotics in fermented pickles, such as traditional dill pickles, can enhance digestion by introducing beneficial bacteria to your gut microbiome. Although studies on this topic vary, some research suggests that the regular consumption of fermented foods, including certain types of dill pickles, may support your digestive system.

Studies on Taste Perception

The complexity of flavor chemistry comes into play when analyzing the sensory attributes of pickles. Scientific sensory analysis methods measure your perception of taste and can determine why you may prefer dill pickles over bread and butter pickles or vice versa. It’s found that bread and butter pickles generally offer a sweeter taste profile due to their ingredients, while dill pickles have a more pronounced tang and herbaceous flavor that can be attributed to the presence of dill herb and a brine with a higher concentration of vinegar.

Future of Pickling

Your journey through the art of pickling is bound to meet innovation and emerging trends that could revolutionize your culinary experience. As you explore these developments, you’ll discover how they leverage fermentation science and technology to bring bold new flavors to your table.

Innovation in Pickling Techniques

Technological advancements are propelling the craft of pickling into a new era. Fermentation science plays a pivotal role in this, as modern techniques allow for more precise control of the fermentation process. For instance, you might soon encounter smart fermenters equipped with sensors that meticulously monitor pH levels, temperature, and humidity to achieve the perfect pickle every time.

  • Precision Fermentation: Innovative devices making fermenting more accurate and less prone to error.
  • Sustainable Practices: Emphasis on eco-friendly methods in pickling, reducing waste and energy consumption.

Emerging Trends in Pickle Flavors

Your palate is up for a global tour with the emergence of global flavors and fusion in pickling. Culinary innovation doesn’t shy away from experimenting with unique spice blends and unconventional ingredients, leading to a new class of pickles.

  • Global Influences: Discovery of pickles flavored with international spices and techniques.
  • Fusion Creations: The blending of cultural flavors creating unexpected and delightful pickle varieties.

Trend analysis anticipates a surge in the popularity of pickles as more than just a condiment but as a key ingredient in diverse culinary practices. Watch for pickles that are not only a taste enhancer but also a stand-alone feature in gourmet dishes.

Final Thoughts

When deciding between dill pickles and bread and butter pickles, your choice hinges on personal preference. Dill pickles, marked by their sharp tang, are typically favored for their classic cucumber and dill flavor profile. They’re likely to satisfy if you crave something with straightforward acidity.

On the other hand, bread and butter pickles offer a sweeter palate experience, with a hint of complexity from spices like mustard seeds and turmeric. Their signature sweetness mixed with a mild tang can be a delightful surprise to your taste buds.

  • Dill Pickles: Sharp, vinegary with a distinct flavor of dill.
  • Bread and Butter Pickles: Sweet, tangy with a complex spice blend.

Your satisfaction from these pickles will vary depending on their use in a meal. Dill pickles can be a refreshing counterpoint in a hearty sandwich, or a snack on their own, while bread and butter pickles might complement sweeter dishes or balance out a rich burger.

Ultimately, your preference will guide your choice:

  • If you lean towards a more piquant taste, go for dill pickles.
  • Should you enjoy a balance of sweetness with your tang, bread and butter pickles are for you.

Consider the context of your meals and the flavor profile you aim for when reaching for that jar of pickles. Your taste buds will thank you for the thoughtful selection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dill and bread and butter pickles offer distinct taste experiences due to their unique preparation methods and ingredient profiles. This section answers common queries to help you understand and choose between these two types of pickles.

What distinct flavors should one expect when comparing dill pickles to bread and butter pickles?

When tasting dill pickles, you’ll experience a sharp tanginess and the herbaceous flavor of dill, often accompanied by a garlic profile. Bread and butter pickles, by contrast, are sweet and tangy with a milder spice blend.

How do the nutritional values contrast between dill pickles and bread and butter pickles?

Dill pickles typically contain fewer calories and less sugar compared to bread and butter pickles, as they do not contain the added sugars that contribute to the latter’s sweet taste profile.

Can you explain why bread and butter pickles received their name?

Bread and butter pickles earned their moniker during the Great Depression when inexpensive, sweet and tangy pickles were sandwiched between bread and butter as an affordable meal.

What are the preparation differences between bread and butter pickles and dill pickles?

The main difference lies in the pickling solution; dill pickles use a brine of water, vinegar, and dill, usually enhanced with garlic. The bread and butter variety uses a similar vinegar-based brine but with added sugar and a distinct spice blend, often including mustard seed and celery seed.

What are the primary taste differences between dill, sweet, and bread and butter pickles?

Dill pickles are known for their tart and savory flavor, sweet pickles offer a pronounced sugary taste, and bread and butter pickles balance the line between sweet and sour, introducing a complex spice mix into the profile.

In terms of health benefits, how do bread and butter pickles stack up against other varieties?

Bread and butter pickles contain more sugar than other pickle varieties, which might make them less suitable for sugar-restricted diets. However, they still offer probiotics like other pickled vegetables, which are beneficial for gut health.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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