Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page
This week was Terry’s last week working at Rick’s Picks. Most of the time when people move on from us, it’s because they are going to grad school, have had enough of city life, or have found a new position with another food business. Terry is different. He’s been incubating a business dream that is ready to come to birth. It’s one-of-a-kind. It’s called Thrive. Terry emailed me his mission statement:
“Thrive is a philanthropic design firm that offers creative and strategic support to rural communities in one of the most economically impoverished regions of the United States. Operating in both a low-cost and no-cost model, we work with small businesses, non-profits, and local municipalities to implement sustainable opportunities and visible signs of positive change.”
What I find particularly noteworthy is that he is striking out to a region whose issues do not get a lot of media attention: rural Arkansas. What is he going to get done there? I’ll let Terry speak for himself:
“Working in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas and the surrounding Delta region, we offer clients multidisciplinary design services ranging from graphic, interior, industrial and architectural, alongside the consulting on administration and management of creative resources. Our process fosters an inquiry-based model through which we help clients evaluate their ideas, options and goals to develop on a sustainable path. This process is also utilized though our Outreach Program, where we listen for community needs yet to be addressed and propose solutions to the community through the aid of our advisory board and executive committee. We have one final application, our Youth Program, through which we develop workshops and projects for the young minds of the community to teach our process and build on their sense of community pride.”
It’s a pretty cool idea he and his partner Will have. They will not fail for lack of tenacity. Terry took some of the worst of what New York can dish out… and hung in there. An avid bicyclist, he was hit while riding his bike by a New York City police car making an illegal turn against the traffic light. Terry had a helmet on, or he would not be here, but he was nonetheless concussed and suffered a bout of memory loss. He made a quick and determined recovery, in no small part to stay on schedule to open the doors of Thrive. We’re proud of his vision and grateful for the contributions he made during his time with us.
Go forward Terry, and… Thrive!
For more information about Thrive, visit thrivecenter.org
Being thrifty, always a good thing, has never been more of the moment than now. Which brings me to the subject of brine, specifically Mean Bean brine. We’ve long touted the digestive benefits and flavor embellishments our brines can bring, but the whole “using the brine” thing really began with a revelation my Dad had some thirty-odd years ago. Mean Beans in the family tradition were called Dilly Beans, and as our family made them then they had a delightful dill-cayenne brine (later, when I turned pickling into a profession, I added extra cayenne, to make ‘em “mean”, ‘cuz the kids like things hot these days). Dad discovered that when the Dilly Beans were gone (five minutes after the jar was opened, if I was on the premises), he could make good use of a couple of carrots that had been abandoned in the fridge or just plucked from the garden.
He would peel them, slice them thinly, and then put them back in the jar of dilly bean brine. Next, he’d put the jar back in the fridge, and in a matter of 48 hours, we’d have a delicious jar of lightly pickled carrots. And thus was born repickling. As you can see, it is easy to do. Just hang on to a jar of Mean Bean brine when the pickles are finished (say around 3:00-4:00 PM after a Bloody Mary brunch).
Then, do like my Dad used to do: peel and slice the carrots, stick ‘em in the jar, stick the jar in the fridge, and then wait, wait, wait for 48-72 hours to transpire. You will then be the proud owner of a delicious jar of spicy pickled carrots, and, on top of it, a certified and accredited Repickler. You’re adding value to your pickle experience, and being thrifty to boot… a win-win if ever there was one.
This technique is also a winner with diakon radishes, but they were a bit outside my Dad’s universe of vegetables. But that little diakon tweak is what I brought to the table in my generation.
Sunday is theoretically a day of repose, a chance to do laundry and maybe watch some football. This past Sunday, however, was a whirlwind of work-related activity. New Amsterdam Market was humming at South Street Seaport with dozens of top quality vendors and purveyors, and we were happy to be in the mix and stationed next to our old chum Jimmy, who was serving up some tasty mini brisket sandwiches. Since we were had also pitched our tent at the Bridge Flea in Brooklyn, I had to do double duty, and thus was extremely grateful to get a loaner from Bowery Lane Bicycles which allowed me to pedal across the Brooklyn Bridge in style to the Flea. One speed is all you need, especially when you are dodging 5,000 tourists taking photos of themselves with Lady Liberty in the background. Speaking of taking pictures, when I got to the Flea, our old friend Martha Stewart was there getting to know the Flea people and shooting segments for her November 10th show. It was good to catch up with her and get her up to speed on recent developments, like The People’s Pickle.
After Martha moved along to sample some other delicacies, I hoped back on the bike and rode back to New Amsterdam. On Sunday we launched our new impulse craving/value proposition simply called Pickle on a Stick (just a buck!) and it was fun to shout it out to all the customers just like the old fish hawkers who used to ply their trade at the Seaport. My friend Gillian brought her wee one and we successfully converted another young impressionable mind into a Rick’s Picks customer.
The day ended beautifully as I made it back to Brooklyn for the Starbuck family reunion, which featured ham three ways. The Starbucks won’t eat ham without a side of Handy Corn, and who am I to question that kind of decision?
New Amsterdam Market will be in full splendor this Sunday at the Seaport in Lower Manhattan. Many of the region’s finest artisan purveyors will be on hand. We’ll be debuting a new concept… pickles on a stick for a buck! Hope you can make it down there… the last one in September was a gas and this one promises to be even more excellent.
Here are all the details.
See you Sunday!
One of the great things about making pickles at home is that you do not need a lot of fancy equipment. A couple of pots, a jar lifter, a kitchen timer, a measuring cup and spoons, a knife, a cutting board… getting started won’t break the bank. Many people have these things on hand already (except maybe the jar lifter). Back in the easy breezy days when pickle-making was for me a casual hobby, I took notes on my pickle experiments in a little black notebook (most dudes have women’s phone numbers in those books… I have pickle experiments). Because Tecate was an integral part of the experience in those early days, the notation occasionally took on an abstract-expressionist slant. And the measurement methodology (“a heaping quarter-teaspoon of cayenne pepper”) left a lot to interpretation and encouraged freestyling. That’s one of the things that makes home canning fun. Variations from batch to batch are inevitable, but that’s what makes them unique, like wine vintages.
A sea change came with my decision to become a professional pickler. My recipes were now vetted and administered by the FDA (next time you have a spare 15 hours, check out their publication A Food Labeling Guide). We worked with (and still do) a great group at Cornell University’s Food Venture Center on food safety compliance, lead by Olga Padilla-Zakour and Herb Cooley. They made it plain that an official recipe could not specify a heaping quarter teaspoon of anything (I left out the Tecate part), but had to be exact, precise, and measured in grams.
And so I bought, for about 50 bucks, my first kitchen scale. I still have it. I chose a Salter.
The scale changed everything. I discovered being exacting about ingredients was its own pleasure. And when you making a product to sell, you want people who like what you are doing to know what exactly they are getting. Hey, you can still change things up… just make sure to notate the modifications in your little black book accordingly. But this post is about the scale. It is a miracle of design… as simple as it was accurate. Three buttons take care of everything you need. And other than needing new batteries twice in five years, it has never let me down.
Starting a pickle company has had its share of surprises, but I never thought scaling up the business would include this kind of development.
The Greenmarkets of New York are terrific when it comes to seasonal things. Right now we are smack in the middle of the Annual Tuber Moment. If you like potatoes, there are dozens of studly spuds from which to choose. Seasonality is but one of Greenmarket’s pleasures. Another is the wide range of esoteric items that you just don’t find in run-of-the-mill shopping environments. Which brings me to the miniature Mexican sour cucumber.
In size similar to a large jelly bean, in appearance not unlike a funky watermelon, they are available at the Windfall Farms stand, where they are sold by the quarter pound. Sour is truth in advertising here. A tiny bite into one will have you convinced that they have magically been infused with some form of citrus. And that bite definitely delivers a satisfying crunch, as these tender beauties have a surprisingly firm skin.
I could have just put them in a nutbowl and chomped through my entire stash by halftime of whatever football game was on. But being a pickle man, I had no choice. I had to pickle these guys. First, I mixed the cukes with a few square-cut chunks of red bell pepper. Square peppers against the oval cucumbers gives the finished product a nice contrast of shapes; the redness and the greenness of the two always leads to a highly complimentary pairing. Then, it was on to the brine. Since the cukes possess a distinctive flavor on their own, the brine needed to be subtle and uncomplex, a good supporting amniotic fluid in which the veggies could luxuriate. I decided to make this recipe a quick refrigerator pickle, and not process in a boiling water bath, as I had a limited supply of the raw ingredients and I was not confident they would retain their structure after pasteurization. So I made a simple brine of O’s citrus champagne vinegar mixed with premium white grape juice from Barrington Cellars. I also added a generous tablespoon of juniper berries to lend an aromatic note to the proceedings. This went down as one of the world’s fastest pickle productions in history… my yield was ONE quart jar. The good news is it took less than a minute to pack the jar and only a few for the brine to heat to a boil.
After pouring the brine over the cucumber mixture, I put the lid on and let the jar settle to room temperature. Then it was into the fridge, where it has rested now for five days. I’ll give it another couple of days to pickle before I dive in. However, I don’t need another minute to work on the name for this pickle. There is only one possibility: Sexy Mexys. Check back in a couple of days and I’ll tell you how they came out.
1 pound Mexican sour cucumbers
1 small red bell pepper
8 ounces O Champagne Citrus vinegar (6% acidity)
8 ounces white grape juice (from Barrington Cellars if you can get it)
1 tablespoon juniper berries.
1. Rinse the cucumbers.
2. Cut the bell pepper into half-inch squares. Mix with the cucumbers at a 1:10 ratio (favoring the cucumbers). Pack into a quart canning jar.
3. Mix the vinegar, grape juice and juniper berries in a pot and bring to a boil. Pour immediately over the cucumber mixture.
4. Cap the jar and let the contents settle to room temperature. Refrigerate for a week and then enjoy as a tasty, healthy snaqck while watching football or movies.