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McClure’s Pickling Class at The Brooklyn Kitchen

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On Monday, January 13, we participated in a pickling class at The Brooklyn Kitchen’s  Manhattan location. We headed in a day early to hit up some craft beer bars (Blind Tiger & Ginger Man, most notably), enjoy some rare outdoor time this winter and eat a plethora of Japanese treats with Jeff & Lauren, Alicia’s brother and his girlfriend. They are the ones who gave us the class as a Christmas gift (thanks guys).

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Having never been to The Brooklyn Kitchen, or the Gotham West Market it calls home, we ventured there a couple hours before the class began to see what else the market had to offer. Turns out, a lot! Well, if you like to eat and drink that is, which we just happen to. We made sure to arrive hungry so we could try some offerings from multiple vendors and we are glad we did. The bowl of hot and delicious noodles from Ivan Ramen was as good as any you’ll find throughout NYC. The oysters at El Comado were fresh and super affordable during happy hour. Our favorite stop on this tour of GWM was The Cannibal.

They pour several beers on tap as well as a fully stocked fridge with craft selections available to stay or go. In addition, they offered a varied selection of small plates that paired perfectly with the beverages. We ordered deviled eggs, pretzel dumplings and a Japanese sweet potato with sea salt and butter. Though these all sound insanely simple, they were quite delicious and we lamented that we didn’t have more time to go for a second round of both drinks and snacks. But alas, the pickle class was about to start.

We easily checked into the McClure’s Pickle Class at Brooklyn Kitchen and were able to take a seat at one of the two metal tables set up for the evening. Each table was stocked with a few bowls of McClure’s commercial pickles, of varying styles and heat levels, and Brooklyn Brewery had supplied the beer for the evening. We grabbed a bottle of East India Pale Ale, tried some pickles and looked over our handouts while waiting for the class to begin.

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The pickling class was taught by Kendall Holmes, a McClures alum who still represents them at educational seminars. Since his philosophy is to only pickle produce that is in season, the star of the show was carrots. Though this theory totally makes sense on paper, it was interesting to hear that so much of the integrity of the vegetable is preserved in the pickling process and if you use a subpar fresh veggie you are not going to wind up with a great pickle. No hiding anything in those mason jars.

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After learning about the art of pickling for a bit, and hearing about how easy it can be at a basic level, it was finally time to get our hands dirty. The Bell’s Mason Jars that we would be using had already been cleaned, but they were now submerged in a large pot of boiling water for 3-5 minutes to further sanitize them. Don’t worry about them shattering; the jars were made to withstand boiling water for this very reason. At the same time, a mixture of 4 cups vinegar (we used white-though apple cider or white wine could also be substituted), 2 cups cold water and 3 tablespoons kosher salt should be boiling in a separate pot. Note: this recipe was for a 4 lb. batch of carrots, so adjust accordingly if you will be pickling less.

Once the jars are clean and your liquid is boiling, it’s time to pack them full of spices and carrots. First come the spices. As a base, we used 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp brown sugar, a pinch of garlic and 1 tsp chopped ginger per jar, though Alicia went heavier on the pepper and Kevin was aiming for a sweeter pickle, so we will see if that result was achieved. Next, the carrots are added. They should be cut into sticks that are about 1/2” shorter than the jar and packed in so there is no room for them to move around. Finally, the brine mixture is carefully added to the jar, just covering the carrots. Once the lids are placed on, the jars are returned to a pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes to seal them up. Let them cool and voila, you almost have pickles.

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We left the class with a newfound excitment about pickling, a tummy full of McClures and Brooklyn Brewery Products and our very own jar of homemade pickled carrots. The jars sat in our closet for about two weeks, as Kendall instructed us to not refrigerate or open the carrots until they had a chance to pickle, which should take about 7-10 days. We decided to really let them age, or more accurately, we totally forgot about them until today when we decided to chill and then sample the carrots of our labor (ha ha).

Both jars popped upon opening, which we learned is a good sign. If you don’t hear a pop, you may want to discard your pickles as there is a small chance they may be infected with Botulism, which will really put a damper on your tasting experience. The two jars had distinctly different looks since Kevin used more purple carrots, but the aroma, taste and textures were also contrasting. Alicia went heavier on the spice, which was immediately evident. Her pickles had a lingering heat and oddly enough, a less crunchy texture. Our non-scientific guess is that the cayenne may have changed the feel of the carrots, since that was really the only different variable in our two jars. Kevin used ginger as his front & center spice, so his pickles had a sharper, slightly sweet taste to them. Overall though both jars were enjoyable and it was fun to see how the flavors developed in just a couple weeks. We look forward to really experimenting with pickling in the coming months and of course, seeing how they pair with beer. Are you a pickle fan? Let us know what kinds you have enjoyed!

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Written by A+K

February 12th, 2014 at 9:35 am

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