TORONTO – You know pickling has become a trendy hobby when one of Toronto’s hottest hangouts, the Drake Hotel, hosts a Pickle Battle.
“Basically it’s a chance for anyone who makes pickles of any type to enter a jar of their pickles…and see if they’re the best pickle maker,” explained Ivy Knight, the organizer of the Oct. 19 event.
The sixth annual pickle smackdown has evolved to include a division for “professional” picklers (like chefs) and amateurs, aka the “home picklers.”
“When I first started I didn’t have an amateur category because there was no interest,” Knight said. “Then as the years went on, I had more and more home cooks asking if they could enter. People are so enthusiastic about it. So many more people are doing this at home than they used to.”
It’s now about a 50-50 split between the pickling pros and amateurs, many of whom are in their 20s.
“The DIY thing is cool now. It’s sort of in popular culture. It’s not seen as something only your grandma did.”
Dill pickles are kind of like the gateway drug to the world of pickling, so that’s a popular entry with the young newbies. But as Knight pointed out, you can pickle pretty much anything.
“It’s crazy what’s been entered in the past,” she said. “I’ve had everything you can imagine. I’ve had pickled peaches, pickled walnuts, pickled eggs. It’s crazy.”
Pickled beef tongue was a previous winner on the professional side, as were pickled cauliflower leaves and stems.
“There are no rules. You can pickle anything. As long as it’s edible, and pickled, you can enter it.”
Knight’s not the only one who’s seen the interest in pickling and preserving grow. It had already started picking up three years ago. When Toronto’s Cookbook Store held a class on fermentation, people came all the way from Rochester, N.Y., said store manager Alison Fryer. She said then the number of new titles on pickling and canning “has doubled each year in the last four or five years.”
She said some older women are coming to brush up on their techniques, which have changed over the decades, but there also high-schoolers who come eager to learn.
“As people are more interested in understanding what they’re eating and knowing where food is coming from, there’s a real swing to people of all ages being interested in preserving again,” Manning said.
Grandma would be proud.
WATCH: Canning expert Christine Manning teaches us the basics of how to pickle or preserve food from home.
With file from The Canadian Press