Every year, all of us at fire gear up for the weekend when we make Dr Katz’s Pickles. My dad has made these pickles since I was 7 or 8 and always included me and my family in the process. At times, my mom was not interested in dealing with the mess, but the results were always savored and used.
This year, my dad trusted me and my crew to do it without him. The process begins about 2 months before, when we order all of the jars and lids. As we ran out last year with 600 jars, we decided to up it to 720 this year. Wow, is that a lot of jars.
After we get the jars, we need distilled water, local pickles, local hot peppers including finger hots and Hungarian hots – and the most important ingredient of all- flowering dill. This is where the problems occur, as you never quite know when it will be flowering. We usually find out a week before and have to line up the rest of the local product within that time. We also have to find the staff to help pack the pickles carefully, with passion and scientific exactness. One slight alteration to the recipe and the pickles may become compost.
This year, the hardest part was finding local pickles that were small enough to fit in the jars. We like big pickles, but we have to get at least 5 in a jar. This year, we received 1 delivery that had to be returned and by the second try – got the right size pickles.
It is always a great day for me as I remember packing pickles over the years with my family. I am able to show my crew the importance of teamwork and care with this family recipe. Every employee has tasted the pickles and loves them, so it is fun for them to see the process. We work diligently for 9-10 hours, measuring salt, pickling spice and garlic. We squeeze the pickles in the jars and cut really spicy peppers, occasionally getting heat rashes from our spiced fingers and hands. Even after washing hands and many hours later, the heat is still around, so we don’t forget the daylong process. I smell the peppers until I am fast asleep.
Once the picles are packed, we top the jars with the aromatic dill flowers and seal the jars. They get shaken a few times and then we wait, and wait. In 6 weeks we will get to experience the local harvest, when we open our first of the 720 jars.
Hopefully we will make it through the year with what we have made. We top our burgers with the pickles, we sell sides of pickles, we sell them as gifts and we have some die hard customers that come in every other week – to get their fix.
It is a special ritual that we look forward to all year, and luckily, we are able to speak about almost everyday.
Doug Katz, owner and chef, www.firefoodanddrink.com