Beaten, in the beer and whiskey hunters: why all of a sudden the pickles are everywhere

There’s a food product that works just as well in a sandwich as it does in a cocktail, adding a tangy, refreshing note to ice cream donuts and toast.

No, it’s not a berry.

It’s a pickle.

There was a time in New Zealand when pickles primarily referred to pickles, a smaller, sweeter cousin more closely related to the French pickle than the American dill.

But in recent years, the popularity of American-style pickles has exploded. Suddenly pickles are everywhere.

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“The pickle love affair in New Zealand is definitely getting better and better,” said Rebecca Caughey. His company, Cook & Nelson, distributes the American brand of artisanal pickles McClure’s in New Zealand.

Garage Project's Pickle Sour was launched as a novelty for Burger Wellington, but proved popular enough to become a regular.


Garage Project’s Pickle Sour was launched as a novelty for Burger Wellington, but proved popular enough to become a regular.

“The pickle is no longer just an almost superfluous ingredient in a burger, but almost becomes its star. It’s almost like a part of our culture now.

McClure’s sales have grown steadily over the past seven years, Caughey said, as Kiwis have embraced the pickle’s versatility.

Cook & Nelson has also worked to raise awareness of the issue by hosting two sponsored foodie events: The Great New Zealand Toastie Takeover, a competition to find the country’s best toasted sandwich with a pickle component (this year it has won by a Rotorua cafe that dressed its burger with sour cream topped with pickle brine), and National Pickle Week.

The company started by celebrating International Pickle Day in the United States on Nov. 14, Caughey said.

“And then we thought the pickle deserved more than a day. Let’s take a week.

National Pickle Week sees eateries and restaurants across the country create innovative products that incorporate pickle, which over the past two years has included pickle sodas from Wellington’s Six Barrel Soda, pickle ice cream made by Duck Island, pickle donuts from Doe’s Donuts in Auckland, and breaded and fried pickles galore.

Rich Johns of Okere Falls Store, winner of the Toastie Takeover 2022 entry, included brine sour cream.


Rich Johns of Okere Falls Store, winner of the Toastie Takeover 2022 entry, included brine sour cream.

While some of them were novelties, fried pickles are becoming quite a ubiquitous bar snack – you can eat them at Lowbrow in St Kevin’s Arcade, and Churly’s Brewpub in Mt Eden, Wellington’s The Hanger, or Diner 66 in Christchurch, to give just a few examples.

Proper Crisps makes a dill pickle with an apple cider crisp flavor, Wise Bros a pickle mayonnaise, and Culley’s a pickle mustard.

Then there’s the pickleback: a shot of Irish whiskey followed by a shot of pickle brine. Now served around the world – including many bars across New Zealand – the development of pickleback is actually credited to the McClure brothers, when they started their pickle business two doors down from the Bushwick Country Club in Brooklyn. , New York.

As alarming as it sounds, the brine hunter makes sense. It neutralizes the harsh flavor of whiskey and its alcoholic burn.

And even if you don’t plan on clearing things up, consumers of Kiwi pickles shouldn’t overlook the potential of the brine, Caughey said.

A pickleback is a shot of Irish whiskey followed by a shot of pickle brine.

Derek Clark

A pickleback is a shot of Irish whiskey followed by a shot of pickle brine.

“With (a jar of) McClures, you can marinate your own vegetables four times using just the brine,” she said. “Many of our foodservice customers reuse brine in cocktails.” Brine can also be used to flavor and tenderize meat or chicken before cooking.

“Pickles got a bad rap,” Caughey said.

The kiwis may have put off pickles by eating one that is soggy, she said, or not seasoned properly; too high on vinegar, for example, or low on hot spices.

“Anyone worried they might not be a pickle eater should just try a really good one,” she said — and it’s getting easier and easier to do.

When Harriet Tickler moved to New Zealand seven years ago, she struggled to find the kind of pickles she was used to growing up in the UK. So, with a background in cooking, she decided to start making her own.

Since launching Last Jar two years ago, Tickler and his “brine partner” Fiona McLachlan have made it a full-time business, starting out selling at farmers’ markets and now expanding into online sales and bulk.

“People’s attitudes are changing,” she says. “People are becoming more aware of what they eat for sustainability reasons. Pickles are a go-to for using produce when it’s at its best and storing it, then it lasts all winter.

Cucumbers are “the classic and everyone loves them,” Tickler said, but she noted that New Zealand doesn’t grow the particular small cucumber needed for pickling.

Harriet Tickler, left, with her


Harriet Tickler, left, with her “brine partner” Fiona McLachlan.

With that in mind, Last Jar also makes unique Kiwi pickles, like kawakawa zucchini and feijoa.

They also marinate eggplant and pineapple that have first been charred on the barbecue.

“It’s something that we haven’t really explored as a nation,” Tickler said. “People think it’s quite unique and weird and wonderful at first.”

But that is changing, she says. While currently the New Zealand pickle field isn’t too crowded, new players are emerging on a regular basis.

“Pickles have a bit of a cult following,” said Pete Gillespie, co-founder and head brewer of Wellington-based craft beer giant Garage Project.

“I remember coming across fried breaded pickles in America, which was pretty amazing. People talk about their grandmother’s pickle recipes.

Each year, Garage Project launches three new beers for the hugely popular Burger Wellington. Two years ago, one of them was pickle beer.

The Last Jar Grilled Pineapple Pickle.


The Last Jar Grilled Pineapple Pickle.

“Sour beers are great with burgers,” Gillespie said. “They cut out all the greasy, cheesy, greasy qualities. Add to that all the pickle flavor and it’s such a palate cleanser.

GP’s Pickle Sour is made with sliced ​​fresh cucumber, fresh dill and pickling spices: “We literally created big vats of pickling.”

The beer proved so popular that Garage Project continued to make it after the 2020 Burger Wellington packaging and it is now part of the standard range.

Although it might “sound outrageous” at first, Gillespie said Pickle Sour was popular because it was a great thirst quencher.

“It’s incredibly refreshing,” he said. “It’s really very different, but just intensely refreshing [with] lots of flavor complexity.

While the burger might be “the traditional home of the pickle,” Kiwis really embrace the pickle’s enormous potential to elevate any dish or drink, Caughey said.

“The trend is up, and it’s fun.”

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