Vast variety of pickles adds flavor – sans salt – to ‘Pickle Annie’s’ life

The metallic green nail polish says it all for Ann Jordan who is also known as Pickle Annie. Pickle-making is her pastime, and so far Jordan and her husband, Alan, have come up with 20 unusual pickle flavors they sell at various farmers markets in the area.

Their home base is Hubbard Road Farm, a sprawling space in rural East Aurora where each week 400 pounds of pickles are made – in flavors you could eat around the clock if you wanted. There’s Cinnamon French Toast, Eggplant Spread, Pickled Jalapenos and Buffalo Chip. Created for Jordan’s debut Labor Day weekend at National Buffalo Wing Festival, it tastes like a vegan chicken wing.

Jordan describes herself as a product of the ’60s, when she frequented the coffeehouse circuit with her guitar and sang Janice Joplin songs. She and her husband of 19 years met during off-road racing, and judging by the amount of vehicles in their barn and on the surrounding property, they could conduct their own rally. A small fleet of old Saabs provide wheels for their pickle delivery service.

They go through eight to ten bushels of cucumbers each week through October, when the market season finishes.

Jordan and her husband live on the farm with their four cats.

People Talk: Tell me about your childhood.

Ann Jordan: I probably drove my parents crazy because I’m into everything. I dragged a guitar around with me, and I looked like Janice Joplin because I used to have a pipe and the long hair so I was all over the place. It was the ’60s. That’s what you did.

PT: Where did you live?

AJ: I lived in a house my grandmother built on Potter Road in South Buffalo. She built her house by herself in the ’20s. I have a lot of my grandmother in me, I guess. My gramma was 83 when I knew her. While she built the house, my mother and her brother lived in a tent. It was a barn roof gable house. I wished I would have talked to her more.

PT: When did pickles come along?

AJ: I’ve had like 40 different jobs. I sold cars. I taught school. I was the director of social work at Hopevale. The list goes on. But three years ago, I was a door-to-door salesman for a cable television company, and my car almost got stolen. Somebody pickpocketed my keys and this guy had my door open, but he couldn’t drive a shift. I needed to find a new job.

PT: What about the pickles?

AJ: I was running the Lancaster farmers market at the time, and I thought that I would just make my refrigerator pickles like I always did. I thought they were really good because they don’t have any salt or preservatives. That’s how it started. And now we make 400 pounds each week.

PT: What’s so good about your pickles?

AJ: I make them flavored to taste like just about anything. I made Byron Brown a pizza pickle. I have a swamp pickle, an armadillo pickle. There’s a story behind every pickle flavor.

PT: Do you teach pickle-making classes?

AJ: Actually, at the Lancaster farmers market, we had a four-year grant from Ball (home canning supply company) and taught people how to can. They’re pickles. They are not that hard to make. They’re good for people with heart problems and diabetes. A lot of people with circulatory diseases can’t have salt.

PT: What’s their shelf life?

AJ: Two months, but they usually last a half-hour. One person went from the parking lot to her car, and she ate the entire container of pickles in about a half-hour.

PT: What is your business goal?

AJ: To be in Tops supermarkets by the end of the year. I want to make enough money so I can sell the business and walk away from it. I don’t want to work until I’m 90 doing pickles. I’m no Vlasic.


Pickling days are here

We are a long way off from Nov. 14, the official National Pickle Day, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping anyone at the Grand Rapids Farmers’ Market from picking up bushels of cucumbers along with fresh dill, garlic and the occasional hot pepper for homemade pickles.

As peak produce season continues, Farmers’ Market customers are also coming in for bulk orders of beans, cabbage and beets to put up pickles and kraut for the winter. It’s a given that our just-picked local veggies with their abundant natural sugars make the best pickles; that’s why folks wait until their favorite veggies are in season to buy them locally.

This tradition is one of our strongest points of culinary heritage. Like lemmings, we feel drawn to make these same batches of pickles to be savored later in the season, reminding us of our past with tastes and textures we’ve enjoyed since childhood with loved ones now passed on.

Have you ever tasted someone’s home made pickles only to be taken back to a forgotten specific place and time when you enjoyed the same flavor? I have; it’s both wonderful and a little eerie!

My late aunt Yvonne was a fantastic pickler, and I’ve included her refrigerator mustard pickles at the end of this article. For someone that always told me “Food is love”, I know Yvonne would be tickled pink to be remembered posthumously through her pickles.

Americans eat over 5.2 million pounds of pickles each year – most of them dill cucumber pickles. Indeed, that is what we instinctively think of when we hear the term pickle, and that has roots to the very beginning of pickles in India 4,000 years ago.

Cucumbers, native to southern India, were preserved for long trips at sea and for out of season eating. They expanded to both the middle and far east as a method of keeping food from spoiling and as a way to add flavor to fruits and vegetables.

Cleopatra is said to have attributed her diet of pickles to her good looks, and Julius Ceasar fed pickles to his troops to give them physical and mental strength. Personally, I think they were just pickleheads like you and me!

There isn’t an area on earth (well, maybe Antarctica) that doesn’t have it’s own variety of pickle, and many are quite a stretch from a kosher dill.

Pickled plums stuffed with sauerkraut from Hungary, pickled pig’s feet from Peru, pickled herring from Scandinavia, pickled eggs from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, pickled lemons from Morocco, pickled turnips from Romania, pickled mushrooms from Poland, pickled bamboo from Thailand, pickled mango from India, pickled tea leaves from Burma and fiery pickled cabbage or kimchi from Korea are but a brief overview of the tapestry of pickled foods from across the globe.

What is it about pickles that we love? Love is a many splendored thing, and if you look in many of our fridges and cupboards, you’re bound to see many preserved foods using a pickle-style process: olives, artichoke hearts, pickled jalapenos, sauerkraut, hot sauce, maybe a jar of beets or herring. Even ketchup is a kind of pickled sauce with it’s vinegar, salt, sugar and spice ingredients.

First off, pickles are salty. As home kraut and kimchi makers know, salt is the magic ingredient that draws liquid from the cabbage, thus starting the fermentation process that gives that wonderful tart acidity and healthy probiotics. That salt helps season the foods they’re paired with, and also help stave off food cravings.

Speaking of acidity, that tart sour flavor is another thing we love about pickles. The sometimes heavy foods that are a Northwoods staple like roasts, sausages, burgers, hams and fried fish need a little acidic zip to help cleanse the palate and make the last bite taste as good as the first.

Salty and sour are balanced by sweet and spice, whether aromatic or hot. Pickled beets may get cinnamon and allspice and a healthy dose of sugar, while bread-and-butters might get hot peppers and garlic along with their sweetness.

No wonder we like to put some form of pickles on sandwiches. An old American saying goes, ‘Bread and butter without a pickle is like an itch without a tickle.’

Folks make fermented pickles, hot-water-bath canned pickles and the simplest of all, refrigerator pickles.

But if cooking up big pots of spiced vinegar, firing up the pressure cooker, or sterilizing the old 80-pound stone crock aren’t in your summer itinerary, there’s no need to fret. Vendors are making pickles from their own produce too, and there’s a stunning array of options to choose from.

Indeed, we even have local pickled fish, along with dilly beans, pickled peppers, kosher dills and pickled garlic scapes. There’s plenty of sauerkraut too, made from local, sustainably grown cabbage just waiting to be heaped on a hand-made Market bratwurst.

Plan a visit to the Grand Rapids Farmers’ Market and keep our culinary traditions alive: get some fresh picked veggies and try an old family recipe. Expand your palate and try a new recipe like kimchi made with local napa cabbage. Or simplest yet, come down to our new location next to Glen’s Army/Navy and pick up a few jars of lovingly crafted local pickles and bring salty, sour, sweet and spicy flavors to your next meal. We’ll be waiting for you Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Aunt Yvonne’s Deliciously Easy Mustard Pickles

4 quarts small (2-3 inch) cucumbers

2 quarts vinegar

½ cup salt

½ cup dry mustard

1 cup sugar

Optional additions: dill seed, chili peppers, garlic, onion, horseradish, peppercorns

1. Pack 4 quart jars with cucumbers. Or use any plastic tubs or containers you wish. If you have larger cukes, cut them into 3 inch pieces.

2. Mix all other ingredients together, heating gently in a saucepan, if necessary to dissolve sugar. Allow to cool.

3. Pour mixture over cukes, covering completely. Allow to rest in refrigerator for at least a week, stirring occasionally, for best flavor. Enjoy for up to six weeks.

Note: This recipe also works well in ½ batches

London is in a pickle: meet Freddie Janssen, the kimchi queen making preservation cool

What do you picture when you picture a pickle — probably the soggy sliver of cucumber fished from your 2am McDonald’s? What you probably don’t are neon-pink plums, coffee-pickled beetroot, or “monster” kimchi hot sauce.

But you should. Pickles are having a moment. Every restaurant worth its brine boasts home-ferments. The “eat clean” Twitterati screeches of their bacterial benefits from the virtual rooftops. Instagram is filled with photos of adorable, cucumber-packed Kilner jars (#nofilter). And tequila shots have been pimped into picklebacks (chase your tequila with a shot of pickle juice). Yep, the art of preservation, says Freddie Janssen of F A T pickles, is finally shedding its “naff identity”.

With her bleached hair, vintage denim jacket and pewter knuckledusters, Janssen, who lives in Lower Clapton, is no Fifties gingham-clad housewife boring visitors with her preserve collection. “Naff” she is not. Two days before a photo-shoot for her as yet unnamed pickle book, published by Hardie Grant, her kitchen is perilously stuffed with bubbling jars. A misplaced elbow would trigger a brine-storm. “My flatmates have nowhere to put any of their food because I’ve been experimenting with so much new stuff,” she says.

Hailing from Maastricht in the Netherlands, Janssen grew up on pickles. “Because it’s so close to Germany, whenever you go for a beer they serve you a pickle on the side. You go to these dungeon bars and trays of massive juicy pickles go past.” Then there are the snack bars, always with a big old jar behind the counter, “filled with yellow, turmeric-sweet Amsterdam onions”.

AN78152249Freddie Janssen p.jpg
Art of preservation: Freddie Janssen’s pickles

When Janssen began running supper clubs three years ago, brined veg was obviously going to feature. “To me it’s one of the nicest things that you can snack on with a drink: it’s salty, it’s savoury, it’s refreshing.” Her pickles were then picked up by Hackney institution Rita’s.

Specifically, they wanted Janssen’s vegetarian kimchi. The fermented cabbage — essentially Korean sauerkraut — is traditionally prepared with fish sauce and so is unsuitable for veggies. she adapted it, upping that critical umami factor with sesame and soy sauce. From that came her famous kimchi hot sauce: “a monster. It just doesn’t stop fermenting!”

Terrifying but unlikely to deter the kimchi cult. Because London is embroiled in a kimchi K-hole, beating off kale as the hipster’s favourite veg. In Korea, the condiment is eaten with rice, stews, any vegetable or meat — everything, in fact. Except cheese toasties. Step forward Freddie. Her Stilton kimchi toasties have a dedicated following at Druid Street Market. The uninitiated are always dubious. “People say ‘it’s insane. You shouldn’t be putting kimchi in a sandwich’.” Presumably they quit moaning once they’ve got a hunk of the insanely moreish sandwich in their mouth.

Such maverick flavour combinations are instinctive. “I understand pickles. I’m not scared to experiment. It’s all about really beautiful produce — and who doesn’t love a cheese sandwich and a pickle?”

Nowhere is “beautiful” so often used to describe veg than in pickling circles. Janssen raves about the “beautiful” Chegworth Farm cucumbers in her favourite, the classic dill pickle. “I’m trying to get the last ones before they go out of season,” she says with the zealous urgency of one itching to go to the greengrocer.

Vegetables are obviously key, and the popularity of pickles owes much to the perceived health benefits. Fat-free but flavour-rammed, they’re a dieter’s dream, while devotees extol the virtues of the good bacteria released by fermenting, which allegedly aid digestion and immunity.

Try not to neck that whole jar of gherkins though. As Janssen points out, brined pickles are “packed with salt and sugar for extra flavour”.

Health benefits be damned — if anything can cure a childhood fear of cabbage, it’s FAT’s patented Stilton and kimchi sarnie. Fight you for one at Druid Street!



There are plenty of other picklers getting down and dirty with brine and vinegar. Here are three of the best

Kylee Newton – @newtonandpott

These are holistic pickles: preserving for Kylee is all about wasting less and eating seasonally. Not that Newton & Pott products are just for the hair-shirted: gin pickled cucumber is made for noshing with a generous martini while perusing her new book, The Modern Preserver.

Nick Vadasz – @vadaszdeli

Nick is known in food circles as The Pickle Man. A Hungarian heritage is responsible for his addictive sweet-and-sour veg — the Vadasz Deli garlic dill sauerkraut is so good that Monty’s Deli will use nothing else in its famous Reuben sandwiches. Find him at Brockley and Borough Markets.

Josh Katz – @berberandq

How to power through the rich, oleaginous smoked meat at Haggerston’s Berber & Q? A cleansing dose of chef/owner Josh’s pickles — the Moroccan-American menu has a dedicated section. “I liked the idea of ordering your chosen pickle as you would a shot or glass of wine,” he says. Cheeky round of turmeric cauliflower, anyone?

Opinion: Pickling is in my genes

12 jars of Texas pickles: Some we relished, others were no big dill

Emma CourtThe Dallas Morning News

Running through a cool sprinkler, hearing the sizzle of a burger on the grill, seeing the faint outline of a flip flop tan: Of the summer traditions, there’s none quite like biting into the perfect pickle.

That summer staple — which uses fermentation to preserve the cucumber crop — has a peculiar pleasure all its own: the crunch, the sour scent, the vinegary bite. Done right, a pickle can elevate a sandwich, burger, salad or wrap. Some even merit being eaten on their own. And yet, if executed poorly, pickles can easily leave a sour taste in your mouth.

We did the legwork for you, surveying the best pickles this Texas summer has to offer.

Our pickle consortium, made up of interns Connie Lee, Wynne Davis and me, tasted 12 kinds, sourced from high-end restaurants (Front Room Tavern) to farmers markets (T-Rex Pickles, Taste This Pickle) to gas stations (Buc-ee’s).

See which we relished and which were no big dill.

Spicy Chicken Pickle, Taste This Pickle, $12

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

Of the 12 we tasted, these were the fan favorite. Spicy, with a surprisingly strong chicken flavor and a powerful pickled taste, Davis described them as “so good.” I could easily eat a whole jar in a day; my colleagues agreed.

House Pickles (Giardiniera), Front Room Tavern, Dallas, $10.83

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

This pickled mixture included various vegetables (although no cucumbers) and was one of the better pickled items we tasted, with a mild spicy edge and an enjoyable crunch factor. “Good” was the adjective of choice around the tasting table. But they were not life-changing.

Garlic Pickles, T-Rex Pickles, $10

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

A pickle by any other name would taste more garlicky. Our tasters said the garlic flavor was really only present in the aftertaste, though they did like the pickle’s crunch. Maybe they’d be better in a sandwich, I mused. Lee and Davis, however, were unimpressed. Davis said the pickle was “too much like a cucumber.” (And yes, we know pickles are made of cucumbers.)

Spicy Garlic Pickles, Jimmy’s Food Store, Dallas, $5.99

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

Confusing: That’s this pickle. Despite the name, and although there was a spicy presence, this pickle was surprisingly sweet. Everyone agreed that the texture was “weird.” Even so, Lee pronounced the pickles “good.”

Habanero Chunk Pickles, Jimmy’s Food Store, Dallas, $6.99

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

Living up to their name, these pickles were unilaterally pronounced both spicy and “so good.” They were crunchy, vinegar-y, tangy and had spice, Lee said. Two of us would buy them again.

Jamaican Sour Gherkins, T-Rex Pickles, $7

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

Even still in the jar, these pickles provoked strong reactions, including comparisons to “alien babies.” Though the primary objections to the pickles seemed to be the gherkins themselves — baby cucumbers, which had the texture, though not the taste, of cherry tomatoes — the tasters also thought the gherkins weren’t pickled enough. Lee called them “soggy.” Then Davis: “Nope.”

Gourmet Cucumber Salad, Taste This Pickle, $10

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

Our tasters enjoyed these ones, which had mild pickled flavor and a little spice on thicker cucumber slices. They might be a good addition to a salad, Davis suggested. Lee wanted more crunch.

Habanero Pickles, Oma’s Choice, $6

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

Living up to its name, this pickle was incredibly spicy. “Good but super sour and spicy. Pretty intense,” Lee said. “I like it but I wouldn’t buy it.”

Whole Baby Dill Pickles, Slovacek’s West, West, $10

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

Purchased from a place known best for its kolaches, these pickles were mediocre, our tasters decided. I described them as “your standard dill.” Lee found them bland and soggy.

Dill Pickles, T-Rex Pickles, $7

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

We expected a normal dill pickle flavor, from the name, but these had an “odd, herb-y flavor,” Lee said. I found them to be too sour.

Hot Dill Pickles, T-Rex Pickles, $7

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

Though these were spicier than the T-Rex Dill Pickles, our tasters had similar reactions: “not good,” Lee said, despite the spice. As with the regular dills, she liked the crunch and texture, but it wasn’t enough.

Dill Pickles, Buc-ee’s, $6.69

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

Ambivalence is the best way to sum up the reaction to these pickles: “They’re not offensive but not enjoyable,” I said. Maybe that’s a sign: Don’t buy pickles at a gas station.


Everything is hot. The steering wheel, the bridge, those metal birds in Deep Ellum, the hose nozzle out back, Jim Schutze and the mailbox are all like smoking nuclear rods. Yesterday I grabbed a metal chair that had been sitting outside on a bright patio, and now I can shoot powerful repulsor rays out of my hand like Iron Man. Don’t even think about using the parking brake on your car, unless you love plastic surgery. Everything is lava, but spicy foods are welcome. Whatever the science is, the thunderclap of a eye-opening, spicy dish can awaken the mind and clear out the weeds in a big whoosh. At Blues Burgers on West Mockingbird Lane, the HMF (confirmed acronym of Hot-Mother-Fucker), is the spicy burger you need right now.

Blues Burgers is an unassuming little place. It’s an order-up-front spot, with three flat screens showing the menu in ocean blue above the bar-area. I’m there on a Sunday, the sun strong-arming like the cop in a noir film. Faux-brick lines the dimmed sitting area, and fans churn along. I ordered the HMF, which has ghost pepper cheese, apple-wood smoked bacon, grilled jalapeños, grilled onions and a “Spicy Blues Sauce.”

The burger comes, bun glistening and those grilled, blistered jalapeños are nearly leaping out of the burger with excitement. The ghost pepper cheese looks like a white dwarf underneath. I should probably order a backup burger, right? To cleanse the heat from the palate? I dive in, expecting a column of orange flames to erupt from my hair as I run around looking for a horse trough full of water. I didn’t ignite.

First: Those jalapeños are buttery, sliced into a long strips, and fired enough to not feel like you bit through a handful of road flares. Raw, crisp jalapenos can be caustic. The ghost pepper cheese provides just enough heat to linger, growing in strength like an orchestra tuning up. That Spicy Blues Sauce, an addictive mayo-based mix, is tangy. Very crisp bacon adds texture to the softened onions. The patty is right around medium rare, well-salted and held up by a good and puffy bun.

After a few bites, I feel a wash of heat move up to my collarbone. The burger is a mind-clearer, but it’s not too much. I think it budged-loose some previously lodged thoughts, like how to answer that trigonometry question and where my copy of Michael Crichton’s Sphere is. So, the HMF burger is the good spicy. It’s not tears of the hategret (hate + regret) spicy.

I was the last one in the place by the time I finished the first half of the burger. The staff is memorably kind: At several points they check in with me, casual enough to not be intrusive. I let them know the heat didn’t punch me in the face, and it is damn good. The Toadies are playing. It’s a hell blaze of a summer, and this fun, spicy burger will actually save you.

Food Notes: ‘Pickle addict’ wins Akron contest

By Katie Byard  Beacon Journal staff writer

Yeah, yeah, yeah … I relished the assignment.

And it was a cuke contest.

Those puns are courtesy of Beacon Journal colleague Jim Mackinnon, about my task of helping to judge this year’s Pickle Making Contest, organized by the nonprofit Downtown Akron Partnership.

This was the fifth year for the contest, held in conjunction with the Friday farmers market at Lock 3 park downtown. Most contestants had dropped off their pickled this and that at the Downtown Akron Partnership office; others showed up Friday with their entries.

Delila Owens, a professor at the University of Akron, was one of the few contestants who showed up for judging, and she was one of the winners, snagging first place in the “sweet” pickle category.

The other winners were: dill pickles, Dave Clay of Richfield; hot pickles, Chris Robertson, Akron; and other pickled vegetable, Bob Epling, Green.

It was a blind judging, so Owens’ presence didn’t sway the judges.

I’ve included her recipe below. She calls her entry “Sweet and Sour Lime Pickles,” and like many refrigerator pickles, it is easy. You put cucumbers and the other ingredients into a container (Owens used a plastic one-quart container) and you let it sit in the fridge. I’m going to try it with some beans I have on hand.

Owens did let us know she was there, and made it clear that she was hoping to win. It was a low-key affair, with myself and three other judges sitting at a table under a small tent at the market, sampling pickled this and that from little plastic cups.

After the contest, Owens told me she’s a “pickle addict.” This was her first pickling contest.

At UA, Owens is an associate professor of school counseling and counselor education. Outside of work, she loves to cook and loves pickles. “I eat them daily,” she said.

The other judges were Bryan Edwards from the Akron office of the Economic and Community Development Institute; Heather Linebarger, a senior associate at accounting firm Bruner Cox; and Beth Magalski, branch manager of Citizens Bank downtown.

The next contest at Lock 3 is the Salsa Making Contest at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 4. Salsa should be turned in Sept. 1-3 at the Downtown Akron Partnership office at Greystone Hall, 103 S. High St. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Registration forms and rules are available at by calling Anthony Long at 330-374-7676 or

Here’s Owens’ recipe:

Sweet and Sour

Lime Pickles

About 7 pickling cucumbers or two “giant” cucumbers

1 lime (remove peel and chunk up “for the flavor kick,” Owens says)

3 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt; more as needed

1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup water

Place chunks of lime in bottom of plastic container. Bring sugar, vinegar and water to boil in a saucepan. Let cool and pour over sliced cucumbers in container. Sprinkle salt on top. Refrigerate overnight.

Being a beet fan, my favorite pickled vegetable was David Boughton’s beets. Boughton, of Akron, sells produce from the family’s Copley Township farm each Friday at the farmers market at Lock 3. The market is open from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays through Sept. 11.

Boughton said he added dried orange zest to the pickled beets recipe from the Ball canning jar folks:

Pickles and ice cream promo markets new U maternity ward

By Star Tribune

Pickles & Ice Cream might sound like the latest Minnesota State Fair craze, but it is actually a new marketing gimmick that the University of Minnesota Medical Center has launched to compete in the crowded world of maternity care.

 Starting late last week, a food truck bearing the “M Health” logo started appearing outside OB-GYN and pediatric clinics in the Twin Cities area to give away free pickles and ice cream — the stereotypical food cravings of expecting mothers — and to promote a $21 million renovation of the U’s Birthplace maternity ward.
“We wanted to think of a fun way to engage new moms,” said Dr. Dan Landers, the medical center’s director of maternal-fetal medicine. “You can’t take these buildings and drive them around town.”
Competition for deliveries has intensified recently: The annual number of babies born in the state has declined 6 percent since the start of the last economic recession in 2007, but the number of competing hospitals has increased. Maple Grove Hospital went from delivering five babies in 2009, its first year in business, to 4,317 in 2014 — making it the second-most-active maternity ward in the state.
Meanwhile, Allina Health found success with its Mother Baby line of holistic maternity care, which increased the number of deliveries at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis and is being mimicked at Allina’s United and Mercy hospitals in St. Paul and Coon Rapids, respectively.
The U Medical Center, Abbott and United have remained top hospitals for high-risk pregnancies, in part because of their proximity to pediatric hospitals with sophisticated neonatal intensive-care units. Their survival rates for premature births are among the best in the nation. But while Abbott has increased its status as the state’s busiest maternity ward — it delivered nearly 8 percent of all babies in Minnesota in 2014 — the number of babies born at the U center declined from 2,543 in 2009 to 2,333 last year, according to state birth certificate data.
Amenities such as flat-screen televisions in recovery rooms and comfortable futons for visiting family members help to entice patients, who already expect top-flight nurses and doctors, Landers said. “We needed to have facilities that reflect the level of care we are giving and not look like it is the 1980s — because we’re not providing ’80s medicine.”
Such features are now standard in the larger, more private recovery rooms at the U’s new maternity ward, which is adjacent to the Masonic Children’s Hospital on the West Bank campus. So are ceiling-to-floor windows with dramatic skyline views.

Sarah Peterson of Elk River said she’s excited about the renovations, even though she plans to use Maple Grove to give birth to her first child in three weeks.

 A patient-care coordinator at the U hospital’s oncology ward, Peterson is working until her due date and is braced for the possibility of going into labor at work on campus.

“I could deliver at the U, or I could deliver at Maple Grove,” said Peterson, who picked up pickles and ice cream when the truck stopped at the Fairview Health Services outpatient center in Maple Grove.

The U hasn’t been alone in feeling the competitive pinch. North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale went from 2,896 babies born in 2009 to 933 last year, but as a co-operator of Maple Grove, it has shared in the new hospital’s success.

Declines in births at Unity Hospital in Fridley compelled Allina to cease scheduled deliveries there as part of its expansion of maternity care at Mercy hospital — which also has seen declining numbers. Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park saw its birth numbers decline by one-fifth in the past five years.

The migration of young families to Maple Grove made a maternity boom likely at the new hospital, but the demand outstripped expectations, said Jennifer Krippner, who directs patient relations at the hospital.

Empty hospital space that had been planned for a 2017 expansion was opened in 2012 instead to accommodate the demand for maternity care.

“We just didn’t think we’d grow that fast,” Krippner said.

‘Where the patients want to be’

The Pickles & Ice Cream truck will return to Maple Grove later this month and park outside the Maple Grove Hospital to market the university’s new maternity ward to potential patients.

It’s friendly competition, considering that the U hospital is part of Fairview, which has a 25 percent stake in the Maple Grove hospital.

“It’s really got to be about where the patients want to be,” Krippner said. “As long as the services they need can be provided, I think they’re both great options.”

Melissa Berends stopped at the truck on Monday for pickles and ice cream.

The physical therapist is already planning to return to the Maple Grove hospital for her third childbirth in January, though.

The only mystery is whether her husband will get the boy he wants to complement their two girls.

“Knowing his luck,” she said between ice cream scoops, “it will be a girl.”


People’s Pharmacy: Lotion’s acidity neutralizes jalapeno burn

by Joe Graedon M.S.   –

Q. I de-seeded 15 jalapenos without using gloves, so of course afterward my hands were burning. My daughter-in-law said that her grandfather had always told her to apply “something creamy,” so I rubbed on some AmLactin I normally use for dry skin.

The burning stopped almost immediately! I hope you will share this tip with your other readers.

A. Capsaicin, the hot stuff in chili peppers, is alkaline. AmLactin hand and body lotion is acidic, containing alpha-hydroxy acid. We suspect that may explain why it worked so well.

Capsaicin is not soluble in water, which is why running your hands under cold water probably wouldn’t do much for the burn. But the casein protein in milk (or cream, as per grandfather) can grab onto capsaicin and help neutralize it.

Tsukemono! The Wonderful World of Japanese Pickles


When we think of pickles in the US, it’s mostly the spear along with our sandwich or the slices on a burger. When I was growing up we had two types, sweet and sour. And maybe there were some pickled beets in the fridge that I refused to eat. Little did I know the riches I was missing elsewhere in the world.

In Japan, they’ll pickle anything that’s not moving. All kinds of things are pickled in different ways, creating healthy side dishes that add variety to traditional meals based on rice.

If you’ve never been to Japan, you may have seen a couple of these in restaurants (That pickled ginger with your sushi is one of them). But when you get there, you’ll find all kinds of mysterious things on little dishes with your fancy dinner and tucked in your convenience store bento. Come along with Tofugu on a journey through the wonderful world of Japanese pickles and find out what all those amazing little tidbits are about.

Many Ways to Get In A Pickle


Photo by Tokyo Times

Tsukemono 漬物 is the Japanese word for pickles, derived from tsuke “soaked” and mono “things.” You’ll see that most of the Japanese names for different types end in -zuke, which is the same word as tsuke when it undergoes rendaku in the second part of a compound word.

But “soaked” is far from the only way that pickles are made. Yes, some are made in liquids like vinegar, but other methods will probably surprise you.

Shio-zuke – salt pickles

The original and simplest, there are a couple of different ways of making salt pickles.

In one method, the vegetables are sprinkled with salt – although the word “sprinkled” may be misleading given how much salt is used – and put in a container. They’re covered with a weight or lid that presses down on them, which makes sure the salt penetrates. (Nowadays you can buy plastic containers that come with a pickle press). The salt makes the water content of the vegetables seep out by osmosis, so the container needs regular attention to drain the liquid.

Removing the water from the vegetable concentrates the flavor, and with less water, the vegetables are less susceptible to rotting. Salt pickles can take varied length of time. There’s a version that you just leave overnight. Another one is measured in months. Pickled plums, for example, are supposed to be left in the salt for the whole rainy season. The longer the pickling time, the more intense the flavors.

In the other method, vegetables are put in salt water in an airtight container. As Kikkoman describes it, “in this environment, the enzymes in the ingredients break down the food’s components into very different and flavorful substances.” That sounds a little scary to me actually but it’s nothing compared to our next example….

Nuka-zuke – rice bran pickles

Rice bran pickles are made by laying vegetables down in a specially prepared bed of rice bran. Boiled salt water is mixed with the bran. Then, similar to sourdough bread, you add some of the bed from an old batch that contains microbes to get the lactic acid fermentation process going. It must be mixed up regularly, traditionally with your bare hands, to keep all the little microbes growing and healthy.


Photo by Max Wheeler

I’ve never had the privilege of getting close to one of these beds (although I’ve seen them displayed in shops). But The Black Moon says this is how you know when it’s ready: “After a week or so the pickling medium should have a heady aroma and look like damp sand.”

Some rice bran pickling beds have been passed down for generations. It’s an astonishing thought in a century where everything in the supermarket has an expiration date printed on it. Like salt pickles, vegetables can be left in briefly or for a long time, up to several months, with different flavor results.

Kasu-zuke – sake lees pickle

Sake lees is the solids left over after sake, which is made from rice, is filtered. Like rice bran, instead of being discarded, people figured out how to use it to make pickles. Also cured for a variety of lengths of time from a few days to several years, they may actually be slightly alcoholic. Kampai!

Koji-zuke – koji pickles

You probably have never heard of koji, but Japanese food wouldn’t exist without it. It’s a microbe (let’s not call it mold, that sounds so unappetizing!). This little one-celled friend is responsible for soy sauce, miso, and sake, and it’s even been proposed that it should be called Japan’s National Fungus. Koji is mixed with rice to start the fermentation process that results in those fundamental products. And this koji mash can also be used to make pickles. These are somewhat sweet because koji produces amylase, an enzyme that produces sugar from the starch in rice.

And the rest….

Pickles are also made using soy sauce, miso, and vinegar. The most familiar to us, vinegar pickles are not usually for long-term storage. This is because Japanese vinegar is low in acid. I make one regularly with vinegar and a little soy sauce and sugar. Eaten fresh it’s more like a little side salad. Leftovers the next day are more pickle-y.

What’s that? You’d like to try the recipe yourself? No problem. Here it is.

Recipe for quick pickled cucumber:

Use pickling cucumbers or another type with the minimum of seeds – they have a better texture. If you have to use a regular American cuke, scoop all the seeds out.

  1. Slice cucumber and cut slices in quarters or halves. Finely shred some gingerroot.
  2. For a large cuke, mix 1/4 c soy sauce, 1/4 c rice vinegar and about a tablespoon of sugar. (Start there and experiment – you can go up to 2 T next time if you want it sweeter.)
  3. Mix it all up and refrigerate for an hour or two or three before serving. It’s also good but different the next day.

(Adapted from a recipe by Harumi Kurihara)

Tsukemono’s Little One-Celled Friends: Fermentation and Microbes


Some of these methods may seem weird to us. In our culture, we think food will spoil if left out of the refrigerator for five minutes. How can it possibly be a good idea to put vegetables in a tub of rice bran and leave them there, at room temperature, sometimes for months? And those pots of rice bran have been passed down for generations! And people mix them with their bare hands! Why aren’t people dying of food poisoning left and right?

Because these methods actually preserve food: They encourage good microbes, which keep out the bad microbes that make you sick.

In the US, fermentation is the new cool hipster foodie thing. There’s a kombucha bar at my Whole Foods and a stand at my local farmers market selling kimchee and sauerkraut. Maybe we’re finally starting to catch up. But Japanese cuisine always been all about the fermentation. As mentioned earlier, miso and soy sauce, both fundamental to Japanese cooking, are produced by fermentation. And aside from those quick vinegar pickles that are more like salads, most of the pickling processes involve fermentation too.

Preserving vegetables this way not only made them last longer when there was no refrigeration, some methods even made them healthier. Some types of pickles aid digestion. Rice bran pickles are high in B vitamins – a vitamin that the Japanese diet was short on when it was based mostly on white rice. Rather than throw away the B-vitamin-rich rice bran after it’s removed while making the white rice, pickling with it adds these vitamins back into the diet.

Famous Japanese Pickles


Photo by Shigemi.j

Japanese people make pickles out of almost every vegetable in so many ways that we could never list all the combinations. There are local specialties and all kinds of ingredients added for flavor. From herbs and citrus fruits to ingredients that add umami like kombu seaweed, bonito, and shiitake mushroom.


Photo by Sushicam

But there are a few pickles that you’ll see everywhere:

  • Umeboshi is the Japanese plum, salt-pickled then dried in the sun. They come in a variety of sizes and different textures. They’re colored with red shiso (an herb) and are intensely sour. You’ll see them in bento and inside onigiri rice balls (careful, because they still have the pit). They’re said to have been made for over a thousand years, and to have an antibacterial effect that keeps the other foods in your bento fresh.
  • Gari is the pickled ginger you get with sushi. It’s a simple vinegar pickle. And in case you didn’t know, you’re supposed to eat it between pieces of sushi to cleanse your palate so you can appreciate the different flavors of each kind of fish. Young ginger naturally turns pink when pickled. But the bright pink kind you’ll often see is made with artificial dye.
  • Takuan is rice-bran pickled daikon radish.  It’s usually served in half-moon slices, and makes a good vegetarian sushi roll filling. Manufactured takuan is also often dyed nowadays, to a bright yellow color. Traditionally it’s dried in the sun before being pickled, which can make a pretty awesome photo.
  • Beni shōga is ginger in little red strips. You probably seen these on top of yakisoba or takoyaki. It’s pickled in the vinegar used to make umeboshi pickled plums. So its bright red color ought to come from the red shiso leaves. Sadly, today it is also usually artificially dyed.

How to Approach a Strange Tsukemono


Photo by Ruth and Dave

The earliest pickles were vegetables preserved in salt. One legend of the origin of tsukemono places it at Kayatsu Shrine in Nagoya. The shrine is now nicknamed Tsukemono Jinja and home to a festival celebrating the occasion each August. It’s said that the local people there traditionally made offerings of salt harvested from the sea and the vegetables from the first harvest. Because the offerings spoiled quickly, someone came up with the idea to combine them together in a barrel.

The result was a fermented product, which lasted a longer time. This was considered a gift from the gods, and with good reason. Before refrigeration, and greenhouses, and flying produce all around the world from places where seasons are different, there weren’t a lot of vegetables around in the winter. Pickles were the answer. They preserved spring and summer’s bounty for the cold time of year.

Now we can buy all kinds of fresh produce at any time of year. So they’re no longer necessary for providing vitamins and fiber when they’re out of season. But Japanese cuisine developed to include them, so a traditional meal doesn’t make sense without them. In fact, just rice, soup, and pickles count as a complete traditional Japanese meal.

Japanese food is often stereotyped as having delicate, subtle flavors. That may fool you into taking a huge mouthful of pickle, which could be a shock. Think of them more like a condiment. And remember that Japanese cuisine is based around a bowl of rice. Rice is indeed a subtle (some would say bland) food, and there’s nothing like a little bit of pickle to kick it up a notch when you take a mouthful of rice.

If you watch Japanese cooking shows, you’ll often see them taste something and say “this makes me want to eat a lot of rice.” That’s tsukemono in a nutshell. Oh, and that’s supposed to be a good thing.

Aside from their flavor, don’t forget how important presentation is to Japanese food. Tsukemono in their varied colors add eye appeal as well.

Japanese Pickles Today


Photo by anjuli ayer

Pickles used to be made by hand in each household, and each tasted a little different. Your mom’s rice bran pickles really were different from everyone else’s, because the microbes on her hands were different. Now, homemade pickles are usually lighter kinds that only take an hour or a day or two to make. Most people go to the store and buy the more labor-intensive kinds.


As noted above, manufactured pickles are often made with artificial dyes. Read the ingredients on the packaged ones. You’ll find they are about as similar to traditionally made pickles as instant ramen is to a real local ramen shop. Remember that many of these pickles take days or weeks or even months to make in the old-fashioned way. So commercial ones take a lot of shortcuts.

However, you can still find traditional stores specializing in handmade pickles, which may have hundreds of kinds. You should look for them when you’re in Japan, because even if you don’t buy anything, it’s as much a true traditional Japanese sight as any temple or rock garden.