The Pickle Shop

Jar of Dills

This week the Mellonia kitchen smells decidedly of dill--dill pickles to be exact.  We are a small operation, our crocks are small and not many of the our local So. Oregon farmers grew cucumbers this year. I have had trouble sourcing an abundance, as the farmers that did grow them have had no problem selling them. The resurgence in home canning and pickling is alive and well here. All this to say, while we have 10 gallon crocks of pickles going, there is not enough to have pickles through the yearWe make a New York Deli style pickle developed in the early part of the last century.  My Grandmother, whose parents were immigrants from Russia, loved these.  Often the first business these immigrants would be able to get into was that of a carter. My ancestors where no exception. Push carts were cheap to rent and the market for pickles was good.  Many of these carters eventually bought their own carts, then stores.  In New York these were concentrated on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. This area became known as the “pickle district.” Though all but one of the once 80 shops are long gone, there is now an annual pickle festival.

These were by no means the first cucumber pickles.  Cucumbers where the first vegetable known to be pickled and that happened around 4000 years ago in India.  Even in New York earlier immigrants saw the pickle market. The 17th Century Dutch pickled Brooklyn cucumbers which they sold in Manhattan.

There is a part of me that would love to step back into 1920’s New York to visit these pickle shops--for a day.  To a certain extent I can imagine sights, sounds, textures and smells, but these images come to me in a murky sort of way.  A few weeks ago at market a woman told Christopher about visiting one of these shops once a week as a child.  She said that she was scared to death of the proprietor, who did not see customer service as the “customer is always right”.   It seems the pickler would not let anyone enter the shop unless they proclaimed the type of pickle they would be purchasing.  Once inside the barrels were intriguing--I imagine a dark tight space, worn slatted wood floors, the whole place smelling oaky and briny.  At the same time I can imagine an upscale pickle shop, bright and colorful, yet still aromatic, oak, brine, garlic, ginger, all the smells that waft around our “fermentorium.”  Exciting unusual sauerkrauts and pickles would be seasonal and part of the vegetable terra of our place.

An Applegate pickle shop, right along the wine tour...though pickles and ferments are trending, that maybe pushing the envelope right off the table.  So, I think about how that shop would have to be in a hip neighborhood in Portland, or Seattle, or some city. Then I think how I don’t want to live in the city. The Farmer’s Market is our pickle shop, where the little kids love to get kimchi in cups from Christopher.