Friday, 24 January 2014 12:31
Pucker Up!: Award-Winning Pickles From Puckers Gourmet
SARATOGA SPRINGS –Want to make your taste buds stand up and shout during your next trip to the market? Head upstairs to the second floor and sample several types of pickles and other fermented foods by Puckers Gourmet of Greenwich. Puckers provides pickles like ‘Garlic Half Sours’ and ‘Habanero Fire’, as well as international cabbage favorites such as Kim Chi and Pak Dong. Their foods are raw and vegan, free of all preservatives, wheat, soy and gluten. All of Puckers products are fermented in 64-gallon Kentucky oak whiskey and bourbon barrels, which adds a subtle oaky flavor to the products. They are packaged in clear glass jars, putting the beautiful arrangements of vegetables on display. Recent new additions to the Puckers product line are Dilly Beans and a lightly fermented, tangy Italian vegetable medley called Giardiniera. Puckers purchases many of the vegetables used in its products from local farms, including Sheldon Farms, another vendor at Saratoga Farmers’ Market. The fermentation process delivers health benefits, and preserves foods for a period of time (though not forever). The growth of bacteria and cultures adds back healthful elements that may have been purged in our bacteria-averse society, helping our bodies’ natural systems—including digestive and immune functions—to work more effectively. “Some fermenters add live cultures to their brine, but we do not. We let lacto fermentation happen from start to finish on its own every time. We do not inoculate,” explains Kelley Hillis of Puckers Gourmet. The fermentation process produces Lactobacillus live cultures, with similar associated health benefits of probiotics that the yogurt industry has promoted so heavily in its marketing during the past few years. Hillis further explains, “People ask all the time how fermenting is different from canning. Canning involves cooking the brine, which essentially kills the product. Fermentation never uses heat, creating a live healthful product.” At the 2012 Rosendale (NY) International Pickle Fest and Competition, Puckers Gourmet won awards in three categories: first place for its cabbage and carrot Pak Dong; second place for its brilliantly colored Kim Chi; and third place against a broad field of competitors in the Full Sour Pickle category. You can sample all these products each week at Puckers Gourmet’s table at the Farmers’ Market. If you need a few ideas of what to do with them once you get home, try adding fermented vegetables like Kim Chi as an accompaniment to something plainer in flavor, such as rice, or tuck some Pak Dong inside a fish taco, sandwich or on a salad. The pickles pair well with a variety of foods, and also make a nice snack, straight from the jar. Sauerkraut is often added to deli sandwiches, in the same way a pickle might provide crunch and zest, but it also goes well with potatoes and winter stews, providing a tangy bite to contrast with mellow, slow-cooked flavors.