Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pickles

Of late, I’ve thought a lot about pickles. It started when I picked up a jar of Bubbies kosher dill pickles at the Mustard Seed (the local natural foods market.) Bubbies are old-school, authentic, deli-style kosher dills which I’ve learned means two things: they aren’t made with vinegar and the pickling brine is cloudy. (It also means they are made kosher, but that's true of any pickle that calls itself kosher, whether authentic or not.)

Bubbies were a revelation. Each pickle is a miracle of flavors in a bumpy, green, wet package. You taste garlic, dill, salt and, in Bubbies case, a bite of hot pepper as well. Eat a true kosher dill and you’ll never go back. A standard American pickle seems like little more than a vinegar conveyance device by comparison.

A few weeks and a few jars of Bubbies later, I happened upon Hermann’s kosher dills, made the next county over by the Don Hermann and Sons Pickle Farm, Inc. of Garrettsville, Ohio (one county over in Portage.) Notice how the label proudly promises a cloudy brine. Sure enough, the ingredients panel lists no vinegar. The Advance Northeast Ohio folks say we should buy regional to grow our economy. With a burst of regional pride, I picked up a jar.

Hermann’s are very good kosher dills, though the regrettably miss the high bar set by Bubbies. They are crisp and garlicky and so fresh you can actually taste some cucumber amidst the brine. But the brine is a bit too salty so it fights against the garlic and spices, rather than harmonizing with them. Nontheless, good pickle.

Another day, another store, and I noticed a jar of Nathan’s Famous New York kosher dills. Immediately I knew we were in trouble – jiggle the jar and the brine remains clear. Sure enough, these are vinegar pickles, though made with healthy doses of garlic. But in looking at the ingredients panel, I noticed that these too are made by Hermann Pickle Farm, Inc., under license from Nathan’s Famous.

Now, I’m an unabashed fan of Hermann’s Pickle Farm, Inc. I’m enthralled with the sheer audacity of pushing an ostensibly authentic New York kosher dill under license from a national brand, then serving the pickle snob niche market with a true kosher dill under their own name. Add to that the art direction on the Hermann’s jar, with aerial B/W photo of the farm that must have seemed fresh back in the Thirties, and they’ve got me hooked.

Ben McConnell’s presentation was, in large part, about regular people who fall in love with a product and serve as the most important marketers. Well, at the very least I’ve got a mad crush on Hermann’s kosher dills. I am now on their -- wait for it -- email newsletter list. I get lots of blog post ideas from newsletters, but in this case, I'll try to restrain myself.

3 comments:

Ryan said...

Holly says you should know about Tony Packo's pickles. Apparently they are made in Toledo. I myself have never tried them, but they are apparently little bites of heaven.

http://www.tonypackos.com/

All this talk of pickles is making me hungry.

rootvg said...

Pho, why don't you make your own?

My mother canned her own pickles for years. I'm sure there's ample information out there for doing it...and you don't need a million dollars worth of equipment to make the process safe.

Mike said...

We tried Bubbie's this weekend and I agree its one good pickle -- I especially like the little bit of heat that the red pepper flakes add. I must admit, I like the cucumber-y taste of Nathan's. Hermann's will be coming up next week!