He calls himself “Pickle Me Pete,” he sports a jaunty uniform of emerald green and gleefully dishes out fresh, handcrafted pickles to a string of inquisitive customers.
Plainview resident, Pete Starr left behind life as a CPA four years ago. “I just wasn’t happy with the corporate 9-to-5,” he says. Now he’s a self-proclaimed Pickle Man, selling 13 flavors of artisan pickles at 100 street fairs, farmers markets and festivals annually.
“I’ve got pickle T-shirts, green hats and green sunglasses,” says Starr. “Everything I do is green.”
No longer confined to a desk, Starr brines his pickles in Brooklyn and is constantly on the go with a full schedule of pickle events in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Nassau and Suffolk. At peak times, he’s often producing 300 to 400 gallons a week. He’s preparing for a gig at the upcoming Feast of San Genarro and will have a daily booth at the Bryant Park Holiday Market beginning in November. He also delivers and ships orders anywhere in the United States.
Starr talks about artisan pickles like a sommelier pouring flights of wine. If you’re a novice when it comes to pickles, he recommends starting with the half sour, a bright green, crisp, bracing pickle that is only a couple of days old.
“Some people call this a new pickle,” Starr says. “My sister calls it a confused cucumber. It’s basically a cucumber in a saltwater solution with some spices. It’s very mild and there’s no vinegar.”
He walks me up the pickle hierarchy, offering a slice of a full sour that has sat in brine for a month: “A lot of flavor and a lot of garlic. It makes you pucker a bit.”
At the other end of the spectrum, ridiculously spicy is for the adventurous who can’t help but play with fire. Expect a slow burn that erupts with a backdraft of explosive heat and flavor.
Though he now views the world through emerald-colored glasses, there are still hints of the old CPA in Starr.
He says the key to success is inventory management. “It’s making the right amount at the right time, so it’s at the best flavor when I’m at the markets.”
Recently he added fried pickles to his repertoire, Kosher dill chips on a skewer, battered, breaded and fried.
“A pickle on a stickle,” says Starr. “You can’t beat it.”
Pickle Me Pete can be found at the Zorn’s Farmers Market at 4321 Hempstead Turnpike in Bethpage on Friday and Saturday from 11 AM to 4 PM.
Pickle Me Pete
T.W. Barritt blogs at culinarytypes.blogspot.com