The Cultured Pickle Shop
Within the American food lexicon, the pickle suffers from rigid and compartmentalized thinking. To many, the pickle is a sour cucumber, period. However, on any given day, one can visit the tasting area of The Cultured Pickle Shop and sample ten varieties of sauerkraut, four varieties of kimchi, fourteen different types of seasonal specialty pickles, eight different flavors of kombucha tea, two sake lees pickles, one rice bran pickle, and, of course, the ubiquitous Classic Dill. In the spirit of enlarging the collective culinary mind, Cultured challenges the narrow confines of America's pickle prejudices. Global pickling traditions of the past interact dynamically with the Northern California foodshed in our Berkeley shop.
Our business began in a sleeping bag incubator on the side of a mountain in Northern Mendocino County. The Cultured Pickle Shop is now an entrepreneurial wonderland of bubbling stainless steel tanks producing thousands of pounds of locally grown organic soured vegetables each week. Along the way, we have seen a tiny in–law apartment with bullet hole ridden refrigerators used as incubators. We have seen all usable floor space in our apartment lined with pallets of ceramic crocks. We have carried our children on our backs through hourly rentals at community kitchens to qualify for required permits. That journey—of so many early mornings and late nights, of tonnage of vegetables thrown away, of intimidating amounts of debt incurred—has provided us with so much insight into this vast world of vegetable alchemy.
While the recipes we employ at our Pickle Shop hold true to time-honored processes from around the world, our feet remained firmly planted in Northern California agriculture. Globalized knowledge with a locavore mission. For example, a Nuka Pot is an ancient style of fermenting vegetables in rice bran dating back to rural Zen Buddhist monastaries in 16th century Japan. But when one steps beyond the usual daikon radish, and buries Central Valley asparagus in this mash, then a unique intersection of cultures, centuries, and locations transpires. Then you are in the Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley, California.