Matt Bressan’s only complaint about the pickle business is that he’s always being compared to people’s grandmothers. “Grandmothers’ recipes come up a lot when people taste my bread and butter pickles,” he says, “but they still buy mine.”
Craving cukes? Nab a freshly grown few at the City Market.
Fresh Crunch Pickles, which make the Maryland, Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville Farmers’ Market rounds every weekend, grew from Bressan’s background in catering, his brief foray as a deli owner and his realization of an unfilled niche. Four years later, he’s pickling everything from beets to okra, but it’s his jarred, refrigerated cucumber pickles that keep his customers puckering up for more. Whether it’s his best-selling classic dill spears, his sugar-free dill chips, his bread and butter, or his sweet hots, he always gives the cucumber the spotlight. “I use local Kirby cucumbers, scrub them thoroughly, cut them consistently, balance my acid, salt, sugar and spices, and then sell them three to five days later,” he says. “I put a two week expiration date on them because I want them to retain their cucumber quality and I want each customer to experience at home the product that they taste at the market.”
What’s his favorite use for his pickles? If he’s not crunching them on their own or alongside a deli sandwich, he likes to use them in his potato salad, tuna salad and his dad’s egg salad (we would too if our dad was the head of culinary arts at CATEC). And, he says, “Don’t throw away the brine. Mix it with oil for a great salad dressing.”
Who: Folks in southeast Asia were the first to cultivate cucumbers, more than 3,000 years ago. What: The Cucumis sativus is an excellent source of potassium, antioxidants and, surprisingly, Vitamin K, which promotes bone strength. Where: Located in McDowell County, West Virginia, the town of Cucumber is the only community in the United States with its name. Recognized for its mining industry, Cucumber has a population of just over 3,000 and averages 86 degrees in July.
It’s all Greek salad to me
When it comes to Greek salads, there are lettuce believers and nonbelievers, but one ingredient that both believe in is the cucumber. Too cool for school, cukes add a refreshing crunch and summery flavor to these prime salad specimens found around town.
Aromas Cafe tosses romaine lettuce, kalamata olives, feta cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers together with owner Hassan Kaisoum’s lemon-lime vinaigrette.
Bashir’s Taverna adds green peppers and roasted red peppers into the mix of usual suspects (cucumbers, kalamata olives, red onions and feta) and piles them all on top of fresh greens with their house citrus dressing.
Bluegrass Grill & Bakery joins lettuce and spinach with tomatoes, spicy pepperoncinis, feta cheese and kalamata olives, letting the cukes do their thing in the tzatziki dressing.
Eppie’s combines chopped romaine, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onion, cucumbers and feta with Greek vinaigrette.
Orzo omits the lettuce and gives top billing to the cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives and feta all with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar reduced until syrupy.