Brine Food: A Pickle Fest Hits the LES

Share Button

Sometimes a home entertainer needs to get outside the house for fresh inspiration. A food festival is a great way to reinvigorate the repertoire. This Sunday, October 4, between 11am and 4:30pm, the Lower East Side will play host to the Ninth Annual New York City International Pickle Day. The municipal parking lot at Essex and Broome will be transformed into a pickle fiesta, the asphalt sporting demos, exhibitions, theater, and music. Oh yeah, and pickles. Dueling LES stalwarts Guss’s and Pickle Guys will be there, as will local tavern fave Café Katja and Curry Hill’s legendary Kalustyan’s. You’ll be able to sample Bloody Marys with pickled okra, dirty martinis with pickled garlic, Haitian pikliz, Russian pickled watermelon, and pomegranate-pickled turnips. If you can’t pick up some home entertaining ideas here, you’ve got a serious bias against brine. Nancy Ralph, Director of the NY Food Museum and Pickle Day founder, was kind enough to walk us through some pickle basics.

Why pickles? If any culinary tradition is universal, it’s curing in brine. Available to both hot and cold climates, salt and fermentation are naturally occurring and ancient, deliberate food preservation techniques. Both processes bring out and enrich food flavor and add nutrients to vegetables, as well as making them available year ’round.

The Lower East Side is famous for its overlapping cultures. What kinds of range can visitors expect to see at International Pickle Day? Kimchi, Lebanese turnips, Indian pickles (mango, lime, lemon), sweet Chinese scallions, salted turnips, ginger and mustard greens, varietal krauts, and gourmet mixes.

Pickling was once a necessity. In the era of refrigeration, is it practical to pickle at home? In New York-size apartments? Canning is fun, economical, and great for gifts. But you can pickle without a hot canning process. Fermenting krauts, with a little practice, can expand your food choices, flavor a dull meal, and make a good snack — great on sandwiches, etc. When you buy too many vegetables, you can add them to pickle brine in the refrigerator. Or make “refrigerator pickles” just for the great flavors.

What advice do you have for pickle novices? Start with refrigerator pickles — make the brine and add vegetables you like. Pickling is improvisation, so get comfortable with the spices.

Is it true that everything tastes good pickled, or have I just been living on the Lower East Side for too long? Fermented foods broaden the palate. Salt adds flavor. The Lower East Side may have too much of both, but that’s for you to determine …