I’m spending most of the fall in New York this year, and one of the benefits is the chance to experience different foods and culinary events. The Lower East Side Pickle Day allowed me to combine my love of all things fermented and my love of urban geography into one fun event. Pickling was a key food preservation technique for many of the immigrant groups who settled in New York, and the traditionally Jewish Lower East Side boasted numerous pickle shops and carts. Unlike vinegar pickles, the more traditional pickle was fermented in brine in barrels, a process I enjoy doing myself. The result is a crisp, flavourful pickle high in nutrients. With over twenty vendors handing out samples, I was going to get my fill.
Pickle Day is held on Orchard Street, a wonderful place to admire nineteenth century architecture. The low rise brick buildings with their iron fire escapes have come to personify New York. Originally though, they weren’t very comfortable; immigrant families occupied very tight quarters with poor ventilation and no running water. The tenement museum on Orchard Street host tours that conjure up this era. Interesting, but I was more interested in culinary conjuring, so I focussed on sampling as many pickles as I could. My favourite were some of the more traditional barrel fermented pickles, including truly excellent hot pickles from Brooklyn Brine and really astounding pickled pineapple from The Pickle Guys, who are the last pickle makers to have a permanent store in the Lower East Side. I’d never thought of pickling pineapple, but in hindsight it is an obvious choice as it is both sweet and acidic. The resulting pickle is almost effervescent!
New York is full of amazing foods to try, but it was nice to spend an afternoon giving some time and stomach space to this historic and tasty part of the city’s culinary history.