Meet the Maker--Rick Field of Rick's Picks

Meet the Maker is a recurring feature in which we meet a local food or drink producer, farmer or monger of some sort. Because everyone loves a monger. This week, we meet Rick Field, founder of Rick's Picks.

What is the key to a perfect pickle? Market research will tell you that the number one thing that people are looking for in a pickle is crunch. Some mass-market companies use all kinds of crap in their jars to enhance and preserve their product. We're all natural so we don't rely on additives. To me, more than crunch, it's a distinctive flavor that's the key. Like our Handy Corn relish. A lot of corn relishes are sweetened. And that's just silly because corn is naturally sweet. Our relish is savory. You find a smokey heat there. We're using these funky peppers called aji dolce from Eckerton Hill Farm, which is across from us at Union Square Greenmarket.

You seem to want to encourage people to pickle at home. Isn't that bad for business?

In 2009, making things at home is important. Of course, we want to sell pickles. But there are lots of ways to do that. We're about to relaunch our website and we want to make it the Wikipedia of all things pickled. There'll be serving suggestions on there, information, history. People are discovering that pickling at home can be fun and rewarding. It's like knitting a sweater. You knit it, then you have this sweater. Except for with pickles, you eat it and it's gone. But it's one of life's simple pleasures.

What about the other pickle guys in the neighborhood... Is there a rivalry between you or is it more of a pickling community?

Well, we do different things. They do these fermented dill pickles in the traditional New York dill style. Ours is the home canning style, where we heat pasteurize. It's a different method and a different result. So, people come to us for one thing and them for something else. But we do try to view it as a family, at least as cousins. When we started doing this five years ago, I don't want to say we were revolutionary, but we were doing our own thing. Now, there are others doing what we do. It's a nice community. You just celebrated your fifth anniversary in March. In five years, what's been your wackiest pickle?

Well, I just pickled Brussels sprouts at home. That was kinda wacky, but just an experiment. I would say the Smokra pickled okra is what I'm most proud of.

What is in the pipeline for Rick's Picks?

This summer, we're doing something that has the potential to appeal to a wider audience. It's going to be called the People's Pickle. It'll be a chunky garlicky slice that comes in a larger jar and costs a bit less than other pickles we make. People always say (in Brooklyn accent): "Hey, you're a New York pickle company based in the Lower East Side. Where's ya garlicky New York-style pickle?" So, we're hoping [the People's Pickle] can be that.

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