Focus on: Pickles

Many vegetables can be pickled, but most people think “cucumber” when they hear the word “pickle.” The iconic pickle spears that accompany a sandwich or the slices that top a burger start out as cucumbers before they’re submerged in a pickling solution. And it’s the quality of those cucumbers that makes or breaks the pickle.

“It’s important to source cucumbers that are firm with no interior holes and consistent in width and length,” says Julie Bowman, director of marketing at Pinnacle Foods, parent company of Vlasic pickles. To make processed pickles—also known as cured or fermented—the cucumbers are washed, placed in salt brine and held in tanks for up to a year. The pickles are then desalted and packed. Quality pickles have a bright color, firm skin and texture, slightly curved shape and not too salty flavor. “It’s all about the crunch,” Bowman adds.

Some companies produce refrigerated and fresh pack pickles in addition to processed. For the refrigerated variety, cucumbers are placed directly into jars and covered with a brine solution of vinegar and seasonings, then stored under refrigeration, explains a spokesperson for Bay Valley Foods. Fresh pack pickles start off the same way, but the jars are vacuum-sealed and pasteurized. These types are not tanked.

The explosion of burgers on menus has been good for the pickle business—chips or slices on top and/or spears on the plate are expected. QSRs have traditionally been the major buyers of pickle slices, but with the premium-ization of burgers, Vlasic is in the midst of developing a “casual-dining pickle.” Chunks, gherkins (midget cukes) and whole pickles are other available formats. While burgers and sandwiches are the primary applications, pickles also show up in appetizers, salad bars, relish trays, wraps and deli platters.

The most popular pickle flavors are sweet, dill and sour, with variations within each. Kosher dills, for example, are enhanced with garlic and other spices for a more robust flavor, according to Bay Valley Foods. Bread and Butter pickles are sweetened
and flavored with a clove and cassia blend. Pickle brine may also be infused with hot peppers, honey, ginger, mustard seeds, celery seeds and/or other seasonings.

Most foodservice pickles are packed in pails, cans and jars, but plastic pouches are becoming more prevalent for their sustainability factor. Vlasic’s Flex Pouch packaging, for instance, reduces waste and shipping costs, making it more sustainable and economical. “You pay for the pickle, not the pail,” Bowman notes. The 5½-pound pouches, currently used for pickle chips and pickled jalapeños, are packed four or eight to a carton.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

An agreement between Northwestern University’s new foodservice vendor and the union that represents many of the school’s service workers has put to rest some staff concerns over its upcoming vendor switch, reports The Daily Northwestern .

Unite Here Local 1 said that it met with representatives of Compass Group North America, which assumes control of the Evanston, Ill., school’s foodservice this fall, and reached a deal to ensure that staff who previously worked under Sodexo and Aramark would have job security with Compass. In addition, the agreement continues many benefits that...

Ideas and Innovation
scratch card

Two days a week, we do scratch card purchases of $6 or more to get a free item on the next visit. Patients and staff look forward to the Monday and Friday scratch card days. It increases sales on slow days as well as guest satisfaction.

Ideas and Innovation
ramen noodles

The Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock has unveiled a new, full-time food truck called Food from the Heart. It’s the first hospital-owned and operated food truck in the nation, according to KATV .

The truck, which will offer a limited menu that includes Chef Coby Smith ’s popular ramen, served its first meal on May 2 and will roll out service throughout the area beginning next month, the report said.

In addition, it will have pop-up locations, allowing the hospital to extend its reach to communities outside metro Little Rock. The truck can also be used in emergency...

Industry News & Opinion

In a bid to boost sustainability, Dartmouth Dining Services recently replaced its paper straws with red-and-white paper versions that are biodegradable, The Dartmouth reports .

The move is “a small step but a very important one,” Associate Director of Dining Services Don Reed told The Dartmouth.

While paper straws are slightly more expensive for the department than plastic ones, the difference is slight enough to justify, Reed says.

Not all students at the Hanover, N.H., school are on board with the change, however, and some are reportedly hoarding straws from...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code