Snicker if You Must, But Seattle's Pickling Movement is Impressive

Salty or sweet, funky or fresh, these preserved foods improve every meal.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
Scoop up some of Britt’s Mix, a relish of cauliflower, carrots, celery and peppers.

There are few foods as polarizing as pickled foods: You either love the fermented funk of these preserved foods, with their vinegary punch and abrasive saltiness, or you can’t stand ’em. We’re happily in the former camp. And in our current culinary scene, the sky’s the limit when it comes to what can be fermented or brined, be it cauliflower, cherries or even the occasional herring.

Chef Renee Erickson was Seattle’s pickling pioneer, pickling fruits (cherries, plums, figs, etc.) under the Boat Street Pickles label. Sadly, after more than 20 years, those pickles are no more; fortunately, there are others to fill the void.

Pickled foods provide a necessary contrast to foods that are too rich, and they are a healthy way to add intense flavor without fat. If you’re looking for locally preserved produce, these purveyors are our jam—find them at your local specialty grocer.

Britt’s Pickles
The Britt of Britt’s pickles is Britt Eustis, who built a career in marketing and distributing produce to mainstream grocers. His reverence for simple vegetables shows in his process; unlike heat-treated vinegar pickles, Eustis’ are fermented naturally (broken down by lactic acid bacteria) in oak barrels. The resulting pickles (five cucumber variations, plus kraut and kimchi) are tangy and salty, and are claimed to be very healthy for your gut.

Our Pick: Britt’s Mix ($8/16-ounce jar) is a take on giardiniera (an Italian vegetable relish of cauliflower, carrots, celery and peppers that is especially big in Chicago), making for an aggressively salty, addictively crunchy combo. It’s available in jars at Britt’s Pike Place Market flagship store and in bulk bins at PCC stores. Pike Place Market, 1500 Pike Place, No. 15; 253.666.6686; brittsliveculturefoods.com

Photographs by: seattle pickle co. (beans); stopsky’s (olives); emerald city kraut (kraut). From left, Seattle Pickle Co., Stopsky’s Pickles and Preserves and Firefly Kitchens.

Stopsky’s Pickles and Preserves
The beloved jewish deli of the same name closed its doors in 2014, after three years on Mercer Island, but its pickles live on. Its head pickle purveyor is Katy Lauzon, who worked at Stopsky’s Delicatessen and helped develop recipes for the limited list of products: giardiniera, olives, pickles, beets and brandied cherries.

Our Pick: By smoking Castelvetrano olives over apple wood, Lauzon has matched the firm, buttery fruit with a really pleasant smokiness that would be great in a martini or simply for snacking ($12). stopskys.com

Seattle Pickle Co.
A lifelong Seattleite, founder Chris Coburn grew up picking produce: blackberries up the street from his Queen Anne family home, and fruit and veggies from U-pick farms in Duvall and Skagit Valley. His pickle recipe is a family one, with flavors reminiscent of the salty Puget Sound waters, he says. The menu of products—sweet pickled beets, spicy beans and variations on the signature dill—is short, but each is distinctly flavorful.

Our Pick: The slightly sweet spicy green beans ($12) are so good on their own, they’re hard to put down; in a Bloody Mary (the company also makes a mix for that libation), they’d be downright irresistible. 888.819.6961; seattlepickleco.com

Firefly Kitchens
Like Britt’s, this line of more than half a dozen different kimchis and sauerkrauts is naturally fermented, making Firefly popular with the health-conscious farmers’ market set. You can find them seasonally at a number of local markets, and year-round at the Ballard Sunday market. Cofounders Julie O’Brien (who is the owner) and Richard Climenhage launched the business seven years ago. If you have the opportunity, sign up online to take one of their fermentation classes.

Our Pick: As much as we love the classic kimchi, it’s the Emerald City Kraut ($7.99)—a blend of green cabbage, kale, sea salt, coriander, dill, turmeric and red chile peppers—that we keep coming back to. 206.436.8399; fireflykitchens.com


Photograph by Krista Marie Nelson Photography.

The Quickle Pickle Upper
There’s a tiny amount of work to be done before enjoying Quickles ($5), made with a pre-packaged pickling concentrate: You must procure cucumbers (or really, whatever vegetable suits your fancy) and cut them up. But then the Quickle concentrate turns your boring bowl of produce into delicious pickles overnight (the kind you needn’t bother canning because they’ll be gobbled up quickly).

Our Pick: We particularly enjoy the sweet-style Quickles, reminiscent of the bread-and-butter pickles grandma made every year. They say the pickles taste great with peanut butter, but we love them on a burger. 206.659.9394; stockedgeneralstore.com 

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