Did anyone else happen to glance at the calendar and exclaim, “Holy schneikes! Next week is Christmas?!” Well, I did. Luckily, I just came from a visit with the Pittsburgh Pickle brothers. What’s that got to do with Christmas? You DO know about the Christmas pickle, don’t you? Let me tell you the story….
Legend has it that Germans hid a pickle deep within their Christmas trees. On Christmas morning, the first child to spot the pickle got an extra present and the first grownup to spot it would have good luck for the new year. Does pickle spotting sound a little bogus to you? Your cynicism is well founded.
Research reveals that’s something the German never did…not one German can be found to substantiate the story. Yet, the Christmas tale – and tradition – continues right here in America. You can even buy glass pickle ornaments for your very own tree at the Heinz History Center!
Here’s my theory. Germans and Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh and Heinz; Heinz and pickles; pickles and Heinz History Center. Full circle! Of course, Heinz pickles are made right here in Pittsburgh, right? Wrong! They moved that function out of Pittsburgh long ago. So who keeps the pickle homefires burning here in the ‘Burgh? Well, the Pittsburgh Pickle Company, of course!
The Patterson brothers (John, Will, and Joe who also own the Beerhive), last year founded their pickle business after having made pickles for use in their Strip District hotspot. The pickles were a hit, customers wanted to buy the long green spears to take home, and a spinoff business was born. And let’s face it, the brothers not only know a thing or two about pickles, they have good business bones – one brother is a CPA and another an accountant.
Come one, let’s take a little tour of the very hands-on pickling process at their facility in Verona. You can tell every jar is packed with not just pickles, but with love.
After a nice long pickle-hot-tub spa session, the jars come out of the bath, are cooled down quickly and await the appropriate label for the variety of pickle within. This day it was the Dill-Mill variety (kind of sounds like “steel mill” pronounced in yinzer speak), the kind with extra dill and garlic. On other days, it might be the original Pittsburgh style dill that’s a little sweet, too. Or maybe their newest, Fire & Smoke, that gets its dark and smoky color from the addition of a whole dried chipotle chile in every jar. The color reminds me of what the night sky above the steel mills usedto look like.
In fact, the entire pickle lineup is inspired by the very real, gritty, hardworking people of our city’s industrial (and industrious!) past. You might even say the Patterson brothers embody that very same spirit.
The brothers generously handed me a trio of jars – one of each variety – as I left after a long, productive morning. And I had plans for those colorful jars of pickles…especially for the Fire & Smoke ones.
I couldn’t wait to make one spicy, smoky Bloody Mary. You can tell by the first pic (at the top of the page) that I didn’t wait for long. My Fire & Smoke Bloody Mary doesn’t even have hot sauce…the smoky, chipotle pickle juice (and just a smidge of Mike’s Hot Honey) gave my favorite brunch cocktail that kind of slow, sweet heat that creeps into quite a gentle warmth.
Posted by Linda Weissert