© Kristin Donnelly
Arugula Salad with Pickles.
In the wine business, purists refer to naturally fermented juice (made with wild ambient yeasts) as “real wine.” The same is now true of pickles. "Real pickles” are made by salting vegetables so they form a brine and letting them ferment—the tartness comes from the lactic acid that forms naturally. As delicious as they are, many artisanal pickles like Rick’s Picks are made with vinegar—an acidic ingredient that inhibits bacteria, including the good kind. “Real” pickles have all kinds of beneficial bacteria that are great for digestion and possibly preventing the flu. Chow recently created a video with one of the most passionate picklers I’ve come across—Alex Hozven of Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley, California. She makes naturally fermented, wildly innovative pickles with all kinds of in-season vegetables—beets and Tokyo turnips with basil and Thai chile, for instance, and carrots and mustard flower with cinnamon, paprika and cumin—along with “real” sauerkrauts and kimchees. Alex eats pickles with most meals and tells her customers to think of them as a side dish. Inspired by Alex, I'm trying to find fun ways to eat more pickles, so I recently added diced dill pickles (naturally fermented, of course) to my arugula salad. I’d take them over croutons any day.