A Tale Of Two Pickle Festivals

As someone who is not a professed pickle enthusiast, I surprised myself by attending not one, but two pickle festivals in the course of a single week. Never did I imagine I would attend any pickle festival, but there I was at the New Amsterdam Market in New York City edging my way through the voracious crowd of pickle-lovers at the Peck Slip Festival.

Among bites of wasabi dills, half sours, and the occasional plate of kimchi (what a relief!) I picked up bits of pickling wisdom. One especially passionate vendor spoke at length about the wonders of lacto-fermentation (where pickles are fermented in water and salt instead of vinegar, which creates more lactic-acid thus making the pickle a better source of probiotics). I have to admit, these lacto-fermented gems were among my favorites. Another vendor instructed me to eat my pickles and/or kimchi on a peanut butter sandwich (something I have yet to try).

When I came across the table of "Puckers" pickles I couldn't help but notice the blue ribbons from the Rosendale International Pickle Festival that adorned their half-sours. The vendor told me that he had placed first last year in the annual pickle festival in Rosendale, NY and that he and his prize-winning pickles would be attending it again this year. As fate would have it, I was going to be in High Falls that very next weekend when the festival was going on, only a short drive from Rosendale. "I'll probably see you there!" I told him, only later realizing that I probably sounded like some unhinged pickle groupie.

In fact, I did see him there, and many of the other vendors too. The guys from McClure's Pickles in Brooklyn had made the trip up to Rosendale as had the team behind the award-winning Divine Brine wasabi dills.

The Rosendale festival was just as crowded as its New York City counterpart, but it far outdid the Peck Slip festival in terms of eccentricity. Unlike the Peck Slip festival, this one had a man in a pickle suit walking around and posing for photos, and it had two other tents adjoining the pickle tent packed with vendors hocking Jamaican curries, Polish sausages, and, strangely, pet rabbits.

Half of the pickle vendors seemed like young, hip Brooklynites who were very seriously pursuing the pickling trend — while the other half were older men who seemed like they had been pickling in the depth's of New York's countryside for decades. Both parties produced outstanding products.

By the end of the second festival I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the ins and outs of the pickling world and on my own pickle preferences. What started out as one quick trip to lower Manhattan with my friend (an avid pickle consumer) to check out the best of New York's pickles turned into a whirlwind of pickling festivities. I had thought picklers were a pretty laid back group, but I quickly came to realize that anything goes when it comes to competing for those blue ribbons.

You may be wondering who won the Rosendale International Pickle Festival — unfortuantely, I can't tell you. Full disclosure: I left before judging commenced and the Pickle Festival's website clearly hasn't been updated in the last week, but keep checking it and you may just get lucky. In the meantime, start gearing up for Rosendale's 15th annual pickle festival on November 18, 2012.