Vi­vian’s Pick­ling Party

Is your gar­den sprout­ing veg­gies faster than you can pick them? Com­ing home with too many must-have farm­ers’ mar­ket finds? Grab your friends and start pick­ling!

EatingWell - - FEATURES - By Vi­vian Howard

Can’t keep up with all the veg­gies sprout­ing out of your gar­den? Com­ing home with too many must-have farm­ers’ mar­ket finds? Start pick­ling!

I’ve al­ways been a big partier, but at age 40 you won’t find me do­ing keg stands. In­stead, my last sev­eral gather­ings have been in the name of food preser­va­tion. Sounds strange I know, but I’m a pro­duce hoarder who pre­serves ev­ery fruit or veg­etable I can stuff in a jar. It’s a time-con­sum­ing hobby that goes a lot faster if you have lots of hands on deck. So to sat­isfy both my ob­ses­sion with pick­ling and my love for en­ter­tain­ing, I throw pick­ling par­ties. At the end of it all, ev­ery­body goes home with jars of tangy jewels. In other words, pick­ling par­ties are bet­ter than other par­ties be­cause they pro­duce more than just hang­overs. But it didn’t al­ways oc­cur to me that this was the best way to do my pick­ling. For the past five years, I’ve ex­plored quin­tes­sen­tial South­ern in­gre­di­ents on my TV show A Chef ’s Life. To tell each story, I learn from grow­ers, pro­duc­ers and cooks about tra­di­tional ways to use an in­gre­di­ent. Then I take what I’ve learned and ap­ply it to dishes for my restau­rants in Kin­ston, North Carolina. I’ve

I’m a pro­duce hoarder who pre­serves ev­ery fruit or veg­etable I can stuff in a jar.

seen that mak­ing pork crack­lings is te­dious. I’ve cut my fin­ger in the process of learn­ing the best way to dice a rutabaga. I’ve no­ticed that grow­ing just about any­thing re­quires both pa­tience and faith. But the most im­por­tant nugget I’ve har­vested is that peo­ple used to do a lot more stuff to­gether as a means to get food on the ta­ble. In­stead of buy­ing a jar of rel­ish at the su­per­mar­ket, small groups of friends or rel­a­tives used to spend a day dic­ing, brin­ing, pick­ling and pack­ing once hum­ble, now trans­formed, cu­cum­bers into jars.

This is where the pick­ling par­ties came in. I wanted to em­u­late this ex­pe­ri­ence and since I don’t tech­ni­cally need to can toma­toes or make pick­les, I de­cided to throw par­ties around it. I in­vite friends, fam­ily and co-work­ers over. I do the shop­ping, pro­vide the recipes and set the stage. I ask my guests to bring drinks, snacks, aprons and jars. We start early, peel­ing, chop­ping and trim­ming veg­eta­bles over cof­fee. I throw to­gether a salad for lunch and set out a pickle plate with cheese and char­cu­terie for a late-af­ter­noon snack. We chat as we chop. And when all the jars are sealed and the kitchen ti­died, each guest heads home with an ar­se­nal of bright gar­nishes for bowls of beans, Bloody Marys and sand­wiches. My hope, though, is that my pick­ling par­ties rep­re­sent more than a shared task made easy by many hands. Fin­gers crossed we re­mem­ber them for the ideas we ex­change, the tech­niques we learn and friend­ships we nur­ture whether we need pick­les or not. And of course, we need pick­les!

Pho­tog­ra­phy by He­len Nor­man

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