Food Stuffs is a bi-weekly column examining the gastronomic landscape of Bensonhurst and the surrounding neighborhoods. Each entry will cover anything and everything even remotely related to food because here in Bensonhurst, food is always news.
My adventures in pickling continue through the bright buckets and barrels at the Cherry Hill Market on 86th Street. While circling the pickle bar, I stop and notice the vibrant red color of a baby tomato.
In the world of pickles – tomatoes are definitely the most delicate. They can be too firm or too soft. They can become mushy liked canned crushed tomatoes. They can absorb all the pickle brine and explode like a sour fruit.
Growing up in Southern Brooklyn, my mom used to grow tomatoes in our backyard and we always had too much of everything. She was not a pickler or a preserver and after years of gardening the abundance was too much for her. My dad installed a wooden deck over the garden patch. I only wonder if my mother had tried some of these more exotic pickles (and yes, pickled cherry tomatoes are exotic to my parents), would she still be gardening and growing wonderful things on East 31 Street.
Pickling tomatoes is a delicate process, and when you have a good one, you certainly feel appreciative.
To have a successful pickle we need to avoid the mush, avoid the toughness and avoid the vinegar bombs. It’s a delicate flower. One should also be prepared for the sweet side of this pickle. Like pickled beets or pickled carrots, the sugar in the tomato is going to change the flavor of your normally salty pickle expectations. Just roll with it, roll with that salty fruit sugar.
Cherry Hill Market’s pickled tomatoes are fine. They are not too mushy and not too firm. The bright red color makes you excited about the first bite, and they don’t explode with vinegar juice. The subtle sweetness is a great addition to pickle diversity. The baby tomato pickles are some of my favorites. They remind me of spring, of gardens, of new seasons. The other good thing about this tomato, totally off the record, is that it is small enough to sample. So while you are packing them up (and remember to re-use your containers or bring some Chinese soup containers from home) feel free to sample and see if this is your kind of snack.
Of course, 86th Street is also the place for food and pickle deals. At $2.25 and with tomato season nearly over, it’s an exciting time for pickles like these.
Biting into this pickle in the middle of Bensonhurst may wake up some of those thoughts for you as well. Even as the D train roars above the elevated tracks, the pickle gives you some kind of peace.
Until the next brine!
Cherry Hill Market, 2278 86th Street at 23rd Avenue, (718) 373-4900.
Is there a restaurant or specific dish you think we should check out? Let us know!