dates back at least 2,000 years, he says.
“Most cultures from the beginning have
a fermenting culture as a natural way of
preservation from harvest.”
“In America, most of what we know
came from old European tradition.
Pickling here is as old as the first
immigrants who came over to America
from Poland, Germany and Italy,” Lee
says. He suggests there is no such thing
as American pickling—only tradition
passed on from the many cultures that
make up the population. This is evident
from the pickled herrings of Northern
Europe to fermented fish and fish sauce
basic to Vietnamese cuisine.
Lee’s upbringing and appreciation for
pickling led him to write the book Smoke
and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New
Southern Kitchen (Artisan Books, 2013).
modern american thinking
As the U.S. restaurant plate increasingly
makes room for pickled pleasures,
it comes with modern farm-to-table
sensibilities and faster methods. Besides
preserving a season’s harvest, a pickle
may surface simply for what it could
add to a dish’s flavor profile.
Matt Christianson believes pickles
make perfect sense to the restaurant,
the customer and the farmer. He is
director of culinary operations for
the two Urban Farmer restaurants,
Portland, Oregon, and Cleveland,
owned by Sage Restaurant Group. He
works out of the Portland restaurant.
Christianson says, by purchasing 100
pounds more of green beans from his
farmer than he immediately needs, he
only way to capture and extend the
season of healthful and popular fruits,
vegetables and fish was to preserve them
through a form of pickling called lacto-
fermentation. Thus, sauerkraut was born,
which became a staple in European diets
and dishes. Similarly, kimchee took its
place in the Korean diet.
Before vinegar rose to the forefront,
lacto-fermentation was the standard
preservation method. In that process,
over time, lactic acid-producing
bacteria found on the outside of food
raises the acidity of the food and breaks
into gases that turn the item acidic, says
John Kowalski, chef/professor at The
Culinary Institute of America, Hyde
Park, New York. “This fermentation
process is old-style. It takes longer,
since you don’t add acid.”
Given his Korean heritage, pickling is
second nature to Edward Lee, chef/
owner of 610 Magnolia and Milk Wood,
both in Louisville, Kentucky. Kimchee
previous spread: Okra,
carrots, pattypan squash and
pearl onions are just a few
of the items pickled at TART.
Photo by Cherokee Neas.
spread from left to right:
1. Pickled jasmine peaches
with star anise, from Edward
Lee. Photo by Grant Cornett
2. Edward Lee, chef/owner of
610 Magnolia and Milk Wood
and author of Smoke and
Pickles: Recipes and Stories
from a New Southern Kitchen.
3. Pickles are part of the
ambiance at Urban Farmer.
Courtesy of Sage Restaurant
Group 4. Matt Christianson
is director of culinary
operations for the two Urban