For those who enjoy the zesty crunch of a fresh pickle, everyone has their favorite variety, whether it’s bread-and-butter, kosher dill or sweet gherkin.
Picklesburgh is a culinary celebration that will feature foods from local chefs who house-cure pickled vegetables, how-to demonstrations related to the farm-to-table movement and the increasing popularity of at-home canning, as well as live music, pickle-theme merchandise for sale and a pickle juice-drinking contest.
The time was right for organizers to bring an event focusing on pickles to the public, says Leigh Ann White, vice president of marketing and communications for Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, sponsor of the festival.
“The do-it-yourself canning movement has really exploded around pickling and fermenting in recent years,” White says. “Also, the restaurant scene in Pittsburgh has really taken off, and we were noticing loads of pickled elements and accompaniments to dishes popping up on menus, most of which were made in-house.”
Pittsburgh Pickle Co. owners hope visitors to the first Picklesburgh festival will have a taste for their own creation, an all-natural “Pittsburgh-Style” pickle, a variety they say is unique to the region and a tribute to the people who live there.
“It’s both a salty and a sweet pickle,” says John Patterson, co-owner of the company with his brothers Will and Joe, who own BeerHive bar and restaurant in the Strip District. “It’s like Pittsburghers, who are rough and tough people with a sweet side. We knew there were already New York City Seli-Style pickles — so why not Pittsburgh-Style?”
They tried out their pickles on their restaurant patrons, who gave them a thumbs-up and asked where they could buy jars. That’s when they decided to start the Pittsburgh Pickle Co.
The brothers received permission to work out of a commercial kitchen in Verona United Methodist Church that is certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and Allegheny County Health Department. John says they produce up to 1,000 24-ounce jars in a week, and their Pittsburgh-Style pickles are now available in local Giant Eagle stores. They will be available for sampling and for sale at the inaugural Picklesburgh festival.
With Pittsburgh being home to H.J. Heinz Co., the tradition of pickles and pickling has deep roots in the Pittsburgh community.
“The Genuine Premium dill was the first pickle variety made by Heinz and is still produced to this day, using a similar brining process developed over 100 years ago,” says Joe Giallanella, the company’s brand manager. “Heinz is very excited to be the lead sponsor of the first annual Picklesburgh festival where we will have the opportunity to share the heritage, love and versatility of the Heinz pickle portfolio.”
The company will have a 30-foot Heinz pickle balloon on display and offer samples, as well as information, about pickling at home and the history of pickling in Pittsburgh.
Picklesburgh will feature continuous demonstrations of pickled specialties by local chefs, including Greg Andrews, executive chef at The Supper Club at Greensburg Train Station. He has a pickling company, The Pickled Chef, and sells a variety of his farm-fresh produce recipes at local farmers markets.
Andrews will prepare his recipes for kimchi and piccalilli, an old-school recipe also known as chow-chow.
At Meat & Potatoes, Downtown, pickled products are popular with patrons, especially the homemade bread-and-butter pickles served with burgers, according to chef de cuisine James Ciminillo. Other recipes that incorporate pickled products are pickled green tomatoes added to a pimento-bacon grilled cheese sandwich, and crispy pepper-bacon paired with creamy pimento cheese and thick-cut slices of pickled green tomatoes.
“Pickling has been around for a very long time and created a way for people to enjoy a taste of summer in the middle of winter,” Ciminillo says. “With the farm-to-table and organic food trends, pickling has grown as a food trend, as well, because it gives people the opportunity of preserving their organic or farm-fresh produce all year round.”
At the festival, Meat & Potatoes will be serving smoked pork-shoulder sandwiches with ranch cole slaw, barbecue sauces and their homemade pickles. Also available will be pickled green beans, pickled peaches, pickled cauliflower and rhubarb and a pickled shrimp salad with farro and avocado.
BlackDog Brinery, a growing pickling company located in East Greenville, Montgomery County, will have sweet dill pickles for sale, as well as their “nontraditional” offerings of pickled okra, beets, string beans and fruits, including a customer favorite, pickled spicy pineapple.
Pickled foods are not a hit only with bars and restaurants served on charcuterie boards with meats and cheeses, says co-owner Matt Newman. They also are a tasty way to get children to eat healthier.
“Kids that don’t like vegetables will eat our pickled okra, dills and pineapple,” he says. “It’s a win-win.”
The festival will feature local vendors selling pickle-theme products and merchandise. Among them will be Joyce Massucci of Joyce’s Copper Kettle Fudge selling dill-pickle chocolate potato-chip fudge and dill sea-salt fudge.
Gwyn Zollinger of Happy Camper Cakes, Jeannette, will have three offerings incorporating pickled fruit, including The Pickled Pirate, pickled rum-pineapple compote sandwiched between a brown-sugar macadamia nut cake and a coconut cake with vanilla buttercream and a rum-caramel sauce.
PICKLE FUN FACTS
• American households purchase pickles every 53 days.
• More than 67 percent of all households eat pickles, with more than 9 pounds of pickles per person consumed annually.
• Dill pickles are the most popular type of pickle, followed by sweet.
• Approximately 100,000 to 125,000 acres are devoted to growing pickling cucumbers in more than 30 states.
• Pickling is one of the oldest forms of food preservation, discovered at the dawn of civilization, thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia.
• North Americans prefer pickles with warts. Europeans prefer wartless pickles. Refrigerated pickles account for about 20 percent of all pickle sales.
• International Pickle Week is one of the country’s longest-running food promotions. It’s been observed for more than 50 years. Pickle Week actually runs for 10 days during the last two weeks of May.
• According to the U.S. Supreme Court, pickles are technically a “fruit” of the vine, like tomatoes, but they are generally known as a vegetable.
Source: Pickle Packers International