By Mary Ann Ebner
Whether kosher, old fashioned, garlic dill or bread and butter, when a crunchy layer of pickles stacked across a slice of bread turns a basic sandwich into a spicy snack, cucumbers deserve a nod. The crisp green vegetable rules the pickling palate with distinction, but pickles come in a variety of flavors, textures and types well beyond cucumbers. Nearly everything in the garden makes a pickled appearance.
The process of fermenting — soaking in salt brine — dates back to ancient times. And pickling — preserving in a vinegar solution — has long enhanced a host of provisions, from carrots to cabbage. Foods soaked in a solution to prevent spoiling fall into the pickled family, but some pickle producers adapt recipes not only for preservation but to explore spice blends and flavors. Around the Hudson Valley, a wide selection of produce goes into the brine and small-batch pickled products tempt us at farmers’ markets, in grocery aisles and on restaurant menus.
Perry’s Pickles, a family owned pickler in Rosendale, offers more than 20 pickled products. Some of its selections are ready after five days while others may stand for weeks before they reach the perfect stage.
Now that the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market has moved for the outdoor season to Boscobel, those partial to pickled products can find the Perry’s Pickles booth at the market from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Saturday.
“So many people say they try pickling and it doesn’t go well,” says Kathleen Perry, who owns Perry’s Pickles with her husband, Keith. “But I tell them it’s pretty basic if you’re following a good recipe. You always want your pickles to have the proper acidity. The point of a tested recipe is to guarantee a ratio of vinegar to water. Generally what I recommend is equal parts water to vinegar. The vinegar provides the safe zone in pickling and with fermenting, you need more salt.”
The couple uses Ball jars and the hot-water-bath canning method, but this year plan to produce more raw items. “We use a lot of my husband’s family recipes with all-natural products,” Kathleen Perry said. “It’s so funny because when we started [pickling] as a hobby we were just looking for a way to put a little more oil in the furnace in the winter.”
That hobby has blossomed into a love of pickling, fermenting and food preservation. One of their best-selling products starts with fresh cucumbers, feathery dill and garlic submerged in salt water for about five days. “Quite a few of our older customers remember growing up in the city and buying ‘Jewish-style’ [deli] pickles,” Perry said. “It’s a classic pickle that some people like even the next day. A lot of people are looking for a more natural pickle.”
In addition to cucumbers, the Perry family pickles everything from beets to sweet cherries, mustard seeds and eggs. They also sell single pickles on a stick — traditional pickles fermented at different stages — at farmers’ markets. The fermented variations are primarily a salt-brined pickle but Perry boasts that they’re packed with probiotics that benefit the digestive system.
For the shelf-stable pickles, white vinegar adds a tangy flavor. Perry says her customers enjoy their pickles eaten off the stick or out of the jar but many of her products find a way into dishes.
“A lot people love pickled products in salads,” Perry said. “Our pickles are known as an ingredient in potato salad and pickled eggs are really good in salads. We have about 50 chickens and most of the eggs we pickle come from our own chickens. We’re actually going to be selling pickle juice for the first time this year as well. There are so many ways to use pickle juice.”
Pickle juice works as a marinade for meats, as an ingredient in salad dressings and sauces, frothy summer beverages and even frozen as pickle pops, a cool treat with a puckered-up kick. The recipe shared here incorporates pickle juice and crispy dill pickles flavored with loads of pickling spices.
During peak growing season, Perry plans to pickle any vegetables that come her way, and she’ll readily welcome a bumper crop of cucumbers.
Dill Pickle Potato Salad
Serves 6 to 8
6 to 8 medium potatoes (about 2 pounds)
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons pickle juice
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 tablespoon mustard
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 cups fresh carrots, thinly sliced
1 cup radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup crispy dill pickles, chopped
In large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add unpeeled potatoes and cook until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and cool potatoes. Gently remove skins and set potatoes aside.
Whisk sour cream, mayonnaise, pickle juice, horseradish, mustard and diced onion together.
Cube potatoes. Generously season with salt and pepper. Combine potatoes with mayonnaise mixture. Add carrots, radishes and pickles and coat evenly.
Cover and chill 4 to 6 hours before serving.