It's the time to rummage into the back of your cabinets and get out those barely unwrapped gift jars of pickles. They're a fantastic winter time treat and they bring the idea of seasonal menus to the forefront.
I'm on a campaign to bring pickles back as a celebration of last summer's bounty in a tart and tongue tantalizing incarnation. This is one way we can keep eating local foods through the most brutal part of our year and the other is freezing (but that's another post). Yes, it's old-fashioned, but it's also completely in tune with the contemporary spirit of sustainable local food.
Here are my campaign goals: local pickles featured in restaurant meals as garnishes and side dishes, local pickles in area groceries that do those sorts of things, you and me making pickles out of everything - especially easy pickles like our CSA carrots and those gorgeous diakons at the Asian groceries.
I just opened my jar of The Berry Farm pickled brussels sprouts and gosh darn it, those are some amazing flavors. My friend Lauren pickled her gigantic pole beans last summer and they are every bit as tasty and summery now with my turkey burgers. I doused my sliced daikon with sushi vinegar and voila - deliciousness on a stick! The pickled beets and pickled garlic in the fridge are looking appetizing too, not to mention the pickled red cabbage, which makes a ham sandwich sing. Pickles wake up sleepy comfort food meals.
Pickles are a way that restaurants can add the unique touch. I'm remembering the days when Helsinki Cafe in Great Barrington used to serve dilled cucumbers with gravlax and dark rye bread and it was a meal you couldn't get anywhere else within 150 miles.
They're great for potlucks where you know that everyone else is going to have the main dishes covered. Take the most odd ball pickles you can find and it adds to the entertainment as well as to the widening of people's experience of unique foods. One of my favorites is ocra pickles because they are just SO much better than people think they are going to be.
Pickles!!! Get 'em, use 'em make 'em.