Quick-pickling tricks for in-season produce

By 
Pamela Parseghian, Contributing Food Writer

pickle jars

Pickling never went out of style, but trending Asian cuisine, zero-waste cooking and the desire for local seasonal produce are converging to push it further into the spotlight. And while the pickling process used to involve hours of sterilizing and boiling canning jars, chefs are finding that speedier methods can produce fresher-tasting results.

Rob Newmeyer, executive chef of WakeMed Health & Hospitals in Raleigh, N.C., uses a quick-pickling technique to extend a local theme to his menu year-round. A blend of vinegar, water, spices, sugar and salt is brought to a boil, then poured over the cleaned, cut-up produce. The mixture is cooled, then  refrigerated for at least 12 hours.

Using this method, Newmeyer preserves red bell peppers, green beans, okra and several types of beets at the height of the season to serve on sandwiches and catering platters with a housemade green goddess dressing in the off-season. Other quick-pickle favorites at WakeMed include local red onions—a star of the house salad, along with mesclun greens, brown sugar candied pecans, strawberries, local blue cheese and radish sprouts—as well as sweet bread-and-butter cucumber pickles served on signature sliders containing local grass-fed beef.

“Instead of discarding lots of produce, we try to minimize that [waste] by preserving,” says David Meyer, executive chef at Kennesaw State University, who dedicates a section of the salad bar to highlighting a rainbow of in-house pickles, including beets, green beans, maroon carrots, baby carrots and okra. To reinforce the Georgia school’s Southern roots, he offers a chow-chow at the salad bar—an item that was cross-utilized in a recent action station dish of fried green tomatoes topped with the sweet-and-sour cabbage relish and local blue cheese. Meyer also uses quick-pickling to churn out kimchee, bread-and-butter zucchini, spicy yellow squash pickles and whole baby dill pickles.

Quick-pickling is an ideal technique for Meyer, because he feeds 2,000 students a day and burns through supplies quickly, rendering the long shelf life of traditional canning techniques unnecessary. And while this strategy reduces wasted produce, Meyer says quick-pickling doesn’t save him much in cost. “I think it’s a wash at the end of the day, because your labor cost goes up a little,” he says. “But in the quality of the food, there’s no comparison.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Regional School Unit 17 in Belfast, Maine, is banning straws beginning on Monday, the Penbay Pilot reports.

The ban was put into action by a student group and the district’s foodservice director. Over the years, the district has also phased out plastic utensils and plans to completely eliminate foam food trays this upcoming school year.

Director of Food Services Perley Martin told the Penbay Pilot that the district’s foodservice budget has not increased as a result of the transition to more eco-friendly materials, due to the fact the change was made slowly.

The...

Industry News & Opinion

School districts in Jefferson, Oswego, and St. Lawrence counties in New York will be expanding their farm-to-school programs as the result of new funding, Watertown Daily Times reports.

The expansions will be made possible by the Seeds for Success program, which awarded grants to seven school districts last year to begin farm-to-school programs. This year, it will provide $5,000 grants to an additional 19 districts to either start or expand their local food efforts.

One of the grant recipients said it will use the funds to add additional gardens and expand its composting...

Industry News & Opinion

Aramark has begun using a new system to track, purchase and report on its sustainable practices.

The system, named Open Fields, allows foodservice vendors to create and monitor their own sustainability programs. Users can run their own metrics on various sustainability initiatives based on factors such as location, product, spend, attribute, farm/vendor, miles to location and distributor. Managers can also generate reports on their organization’s sustainable purchases.

Aramark says it’s using the software to track its sustainable purchases of products that are Fair Trade...

Industry News & Opinion

Columbia Public Schools in Columbia, Mo., has introduced a farm-to-school coordinator position for its new farm-to-school program , the Missourian reports .

The district partnered with the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture to create the role, which is intended to help about 1,000 third- through fifth-graders eat more fruits and vegetables. The coordinator will be in charge of arranging student field trips to the Center’s farm as well as writing and planning a curriculum and activities for students.

The Center will provide around $42,000 for the position, and the...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code