The pickle countdown has begun! In just over 24 hours we will kick-off the “World of Pickling” as part of Machine Project’s Summer Jubilee. Here’s what’s in store:
- Food pickling demos by local chefs and film pickling with a Walker curator (4:15-7 pm)
- Barb Schaller, State Fair Blue Ribbon winner and Gedney jam lady, in conversation with Andy Sturdevant (plus, she’ll be signing jam and posing for photos with fans) (5:45-7 pm)
- Dilly, the Gedney pickle, serving as a life model for Drawing Club and bringing good, dill-filled cheer (4:30-6:30 pm)
- A caricature artist capturing you with your favorite pickle (or friend) (4:30-6:30 pm)
- Pickle ice cream (5:30 until it’s gone)
- A chance to share your favorite pickling recipe—real or fantastical—in the pickling journal (4-7 pm)
In anticipation of the day, I asked several of our guests a few questions. Their responses are below.
What’s the strangest thing (food or otherwise) that you’ve pickled or canned?
Dean Otto (Walker curator):
While it may not be strange, when my brothers and I were growing up our mother decided to make an enormous batch of homemade ketchup using the tomatoes from her garden. To say that it was awful would be an understatement. Not wanting to suffer through years of being denied our favorite condiment while the stock depleted, my older brother helped the process by dumping jars of it down the drain whenever my parents weren’t around.
Chris Roberts (Local chef):
I’ve tried pickling some fish, I still think of that as somewhat strange.
Rhett Roberts (Local chef. And yes, Chris and Rhett are brothers):
When I first started cooking at Haute Dish they had a dish called “Duck in a Can”, an homage to chef Martin Picard. Duck breast and foie gras cooked to order inside of the can along with cabbage, bacon, confit garlic, and red wine demi-glace, which was stuffed into a tin can and sealed with a hand-operated can seamer.
Barb Schaller (State Fair Blue Ribbon Winner):
Hands down, my blue ribbon-winning Pickled Boiled Dirt Chunks. Okay, you probably call them pickled beets or beet pickles. Ishta. They have placed at the Minnesota State Fair three of the last five years, and have been awarded two ribbons, including last year’s first place blue! I have never tasted them. I wouldn’t dream of putting a beet in my mouth. Blech!
What have you always fantasized about pickling or canning, but haven’t quite found the nerve to place in a Mason jar?
While it may not be a fantasy, I once had a nightmare meal of picked vegetables when I went into the former East Berlin the weekend after the wall fell. I just stared at the plate of sour pickled cauliflower, beets, and carrots and tried to decide which I could attempt choke down. It didn’t end well.
I’ve always wanted to pickle spam; spam is my goto ingredient for doing anything weird.
Crispy mushrooms. I would want it to snap like a cucumber pickle since I don’t like the texture of wet mushrooms. Also baby corn but it is pretty hard to find fresh. And I’ve always wanted to try fermented pickles but I lack the patience to wait weeks or months before breaking into the jar.
Well, there is that woman who has been pestering me with questions. . . .
What pickled and/or canned items are in your pantry right now (homemade or store-bought faves)?
My parents are the canningest! I have hot pepper jelly, salsa, green beans, tomato juice, and raspberry jelly.
Kimchi, sauerkraut and some spicy radish pickles.
I have some Nathan’s spears, Boar’s Head sweet pickle chips with horseradish, some hot dog sport peppers, and a jar of neon-green pickle relish.
Bread and butter pickles, cherry chipotle relish, more jam than you can shake a stick at, watermelon pickles, cherry chipotle barbecue sauce, raspberry jelly, pickled boiled dirt chunks — all homemade. My favorite pickled food? Not homemade, the cerignola olives that are sold here in Burnsville at Brianno’s (Italian) Deli off Cliff Road, near Mary, Mother of the Church. Think they’ll give me a quart free? Probably not.
Bread and butter or dill?
Dill, please. Better yet, simple refrigerator pickles.
Neither really, I love pickles that are uber spicy.
When I make my blue ribbon (eight times) bread and butters, my husband says “Quit giving away my pickles!” And I tell him they will be his pickles when he has a hand it preparing them. He’s a pretty good pickle scrubber. Me? I like the family dill pickle recipe.
Jam or jelly?
Sure!! What’s not to like? The Gedney folks make my blue ribbon cherry jam for commercial distribution as part of their State Fair line of ribbon-winning pickles and jams. What they make is every bit as good as what won the blue ribbon for me. My Boozy Floozy jams are pretty tasty. Plum jelly is what got me started in this madness 30 years ago. Who knew where two blue ribbons the first time out would take me? Not me.
For Dean specifically: What exactly is film pickling?
When we first started discussing pickling, I remembered the amazing pickled films of Tony Conrad. In the early 70s he started mixing food preparation techniques with film stock to create sculptural works through cooking, frying and pickling. A more recent batch of these pickled films were included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial.
Conrad used Fannie Farmer’s recipe for Pickled Onions, substituting the onions with positive fine grain print stock—one that most simulated the look of pearlescent onions. According to the recipe one adds mustard seeds, horseradish, peppercorns, bay leaves, and pimento slices and pours brine over the mixture. It’s a fantastic way to think of film preservation.
There is a hilarious sequence in Marie Losier’s documentary Tony Conrad: Dreaminimlist which captures Conrad in his kitchen making a batch of new picked films. Sporting a peach colored long apron and shaggy wig, he and his assistant use a film rewinder to twist the film into long curly strands and insert them into the jars with their special ingredients.
Walker currently is displaying another of Conrad’s unconventional film works in the Absentee Landlord exhibition. His work Yellow Movie 2/28/73 is a film that lasts a lifetime and is installed in Gallery 2.
Finally, any words of wisdom for aspiring picklers and canners?
Spice it up.
I’d say experiment with whole spices and try to find new sweet and hot flavor combinations. It’s fun.
Start with cucumbers. Once you see how easy it is then you can really pickle anything.
1) Read my canning blogs, linked from the home page of my website. The State Fair Ribbon Slut is still at it!
2) Don’t be afraid of killing yourself by making jam or jelly you don’t get botulism poisoning from jam or jelly. Green beans, maybe, but not strawberry jam.
2a) We’ve all made ice cream topping at one time or another. . . .
2b) Follow the damn directions!
3) When you are learning, use a tested and blessed (by an institution that’s done the research) recipe. Have a good basic text for reference. My favorites are “So Easy to Preserve” from the folks at the U of Georgia (site of the National Center for Home Food Preservation), our own Extension Service at the U of MN, and the most recent edition of the Ball Blue Book.
3a) Heed Myra Arrendale’s words of wisdom to me many years ago: “When our grandmothers and our great-aunties put by the harvest, they used the most current equipment and information available to them at the time. We should do no less.” Read it again and think about it.
4) Fleet Farm has the best prices on canning supplies for the average consumer’s use.
To learn more about all of the activities happening on Open Field on Thursday, July 28th, please visit the Open Field calendar. Here’s a teaser: sheep and musical lawnmowers, amplified watermelon, and filmmaking out of the back of a bus.