A Mighty Fine Brine Indeed
Pickling is an ancient tradition with a very practical purpose: to preserve the value of various foods beyond their natural lifespans. It was a way of extending the availability of summer produce into the winter months, for example. And for thousands of years it has been accomplished with help from the very oldest of our old friends, bacteria, in the process of lacto-fermentation.
Obviously, some bacteria are bad for us and we've developed tools to fight them off, but we and bacteria have evolved together and they live with us and in us throughout our lives. Without our microbial allies we would not be able to digest all the foods we do, we'd be subject to diseases we fight off easily and we wouldn't have foods like cheese or yogurt or wine or sourdough bread or proper pickles. That's right, proper pickles. Pickling using vinegar (another fermented product) is a technology we developed as a kind of shortcut and they can also be delicious. But nothing beats a real fermented product. Many cultures developed this technique of preserving foods and they include favourites like kosher dills, sauerkraut and kimchi. We already carry an excellent organic kimchi made by Kyopo Kitchen here in Toronto and we're now very pleased to welcome to the Mercantile shelves another local producer (founded by a transplanted New Yorker) called Mighty Fine Brine with a product line that includes two styles of pickles and two styles of sauerkraut. You'll find all of these excellent, healthful products in the fridge at the back of the shop.
Now, for those of you intrigued by the possibilities of pickling and ready to test both your creativity and your patience, you might want to explore home pickling as well. There are plenty of useful guides online but perhaps the greatest bible of home fermentation is that of Sandor Katz, whose book "The Art of Fermentation" is available up the street at Another Story bookshop. But beware, it's a life's study and you could find yourself lost in all the possibilities. For quicker research, you'll also find a wealth of tips and ideas at the Wild Fermentation website. But for the quickest shortcut of all, just come into the store and head to the fridge!