For over 10 years, the New York Food Museum has been hosting and sponsoring a celebration of all things briny, the New York City International Pickle Day festival. This year marked a major change in location for the festival, moving from the historic lower east side of Manhattan to the Amsterdam Market, found near the former Fulton Fish Market and under the gorgeous span of the Brooklyn Bridge.
An avid pickle aficionado myself, I first heard about the festival around its sixth occurrence, and have been attending ever since. Jam packed with pickle peddlers and plenty of free samples, each year I find something new to appreciate about pickled foods. While mainstays such as Guss’ Pickles, a company that’s been making pickles for almost 100 years, continue to provide patrons with amazing sour pickles, the recent popularity of foods such as kimchi have introduced festival goers to all sorts of unfamiliar and delicious pickled goods.
You never know what you’ll find at the pickle festival; one year I had pickled lemon rinds, the next year I tried a chocolate covered pickle. This year, I decided to compile a list of the most interesting and original ideas I sampled. Some are simple, some very complex, but all caught my attention for one reason or another.
Pickled Turnip with Sake Lees – Wasan
Japanese restaurant Wasan is known for offering local and seasonal foods on their menu. For the festival they brought several Japanese inspired pickled dishes to sample, including this treat. Mixed with sake lees, the sediment remainder created when fermenting sake, and Japanese yuzu, the turnips retained their crunchiness, creating a very refreshing taste and texture experience.
Honey Mustard Pickles – Horman’s Best Pickles
A simple enough concept with a surprising result, you’ve most likely tasted pickles and honey mustard together on a sandwich. Pickle maven Nick Horman has separated the two distinct flavors, the sweetness of the honey and the sourness of the pickles, and combined them into an amazing snack that can be eaten all on its own. It’s a bit messy, so make sure to have a few napkins handy.
Raclette – Saxelby Cheesemongers
A popular snack in Switzerland ski lodges, especially after a long day on the slopes, raclette combines pickles, cheese, and artisanal bread. The eponymous cheese is melted on a special machine that melts it and makes it spreadable, similar to the consistency of fondue. The end result is a warming and comforting dish, while the pickles give it a nice spike in flavor and help cut the natural saltiness of the cheese.
Mustard Tarragon Asparagus – Sour Puss Pickles
One of the most important features of a good pickle to me is the distinct crunch; a squishy pickle just doesn’t do it. Sour Puss Pickles maintains that feature, but uses a different vegetable than usual with asparagus. They were crunchy and well flavored from the mustard seeds and tarragon. Pickling other vegetables, such as asparagus, beets, and peppers, is a common occurrence at the festival, but these stood out.
Pickle Spiked Lemonade – Sour Puss Pickles
It sounds a bit absurd; who would have thought to combine two sour products into one drink? The end result, though, was as refreshing and tasty as a regular glass of lemonade on a hot summer day, just with bits of dill floating in it. With the popularity of such brine based drinks as picklebacks becoming more prevalent, it’s not surprising to see pickle juice being used in other drinks. These were made to order, and the purveyors at Sour Puss Pickles would sweeten it as you liked, but it was delicious as is.