in-a-pickle-standToward the end of last year, Elizabeth and I were walking through Eastern Market when we noticed a new vendor.

Okay, ‘noticed’ is kind of an understatement.  I believe my exact words were, “Ooooh!  Pickles!”

I’m starting to realize that I say “Oooh” a lot more than I would have thought…

Be that as it may, what stopped me in my tracks was something that Washington had been sorely lacking for quite some time – a source for good, old-fashioned, deli-style pickles.  img_7182Don’t believe me?  Check out the number of pickle-related threads on Chowhound that read like dill-soaked cries for help.

When I stopped bouncing up and down like a six-year old, we I decided we would check out what the stand had to offer.  Sure, they might say they had old-world, handcrafted pickles…but were they worth buying?  If you remember my attempts at homemade half-sour pickles last summer, you know how eager I was to find out.

Relishing the results of our visit after the jump.
more-picklesWe walked up to the stand and found ourselves face to face with a heavily bundled man trying to scoop pickles with one hand while fighting off the winter chill.  In front of us were half a dozen barrels, each bearing a label identifying its contents.

Half sours?  Check.  Kosher dills?  Got ’em.  Horseradish pickles?  Oh hell yes.

It seemed too good to be true, so I started to chat up the guy behind the barrels.  Considering that this was early on a cold Saturday in December, I must have looked pretty keyed up for Elizabeth to be such a good sport about the whole thing.

half-soursI learned that In a Pickle hails from Baltimore, and that the entry into the DC market scene was an attempt to expand the brand.  Apparently news of our pickle deficiency has spread at least as far as Charm City.  Their peck of pickled products is actually quite impressive.   They’ve got a full range of pickles, everything from half-sours to full (garlic) sours as well as kosher dills, horseradish sours and even the occasional offbeat variety like wasabi pickles (eye-wateringly piquant) or cinnamon pickles (sweet and spicy).  They also do pickled green tomatoes, mushrooms and cabbage (yup…sauerkraut), as well as a pickled vegetable salad known as giardiniera and an assortment of olives.

For $5 per pint container or $9 per quart, you get a well-packed crop of your choice of pickles.  They’ll even mix and match, selling a pair of pints for $9.  Pricey?  Perhaps.  But the cost seems well worth it once you’ve had a chance to experience the crisp crunch and clean, bright flavor of these handmade delicacies.

img_7181The half-sours (Elizabeth’s favorite) are the youngest pickles, sold before the brine has had a chance to fully infiltrate the cucumber.  As a result, the flavor strikes a delicate balance between the bite of a garlic pickle and the fresh taste of cucumber.

I tend to favor the horseradish pickles.  In this presentation, dill pickles are taken a step further by introducing freshly grated horseradish into the brine for a final stage of curing.  The little white flecks of the pungent root floating in the brine give it a wonderfully bitter sting and a taste that immediately makes its presence felt on your tongue.

In a Pickle doesn’t always make it to market on especially cold or foul-weathered days, but the forecast for this weekend suggests that you should have no trouble finding them on Saturday and Sunday.  If you’re a pickle-lover (or someone you know is), let them know that their wait is finally over.  And if you REALLY love pickles, you may even inquire about helping out at the stand – they anticipate a significant increase in customers as the weather continues to warm up, which will necessitate additional manpower.  DC finally has some great pickles, so pick some up this weekend and find your own favorite.