A rundown of some metro Detroit premier pickle producers
Published: June 13, 2012
Although it isn't one of the younger upstarts in the Detroit pickleverse, Topor's cold-pack blue-label pickles are the gold standard: no sodium benzoate, no potassium metabisulfites, no artificial coloring, no artificial flavorings or additives — just natural ingredients packed and chilled in a jar. Their blue label natural barrel dill pickles are made with the same recipe owner Larry Topor's father used when the family ran a deli at Seven Mile and Greenfield roads — a recipe Topor's grandmother brought over from Europe. A family business, Topor's has been manufacturing and distributing pickles from a plant on Standish Street in Detroit for about 30 years.
While hot-pack pickles have greater shelf stability, cold packing means the delicate cukes never have to be superheated, pasteurized or homogenized. Although the process produces excellent pickles, it does limit the company's reach a bit. "When we get special orders," Topor says, "we have to send them by next-day mail, because they're cold-packed and need to be refrigerated."
In addition to Topor's natural barrel dill, the company also sells an overnight "new" dill pickle, golden dill, baby dill and hot dill pickles, and also pickled green tomatoes, banana peppers, and red peppers.
Where to buy: Al's Famous Deli, Bozek's Markets, Bread Basket Delis, Hiller's Markets, Holiday Market, Kroger, Meijer, Nino Salvaggio, the Tiger Den at Comerica Park.
Location: Brooklyn, N.Y. and Detroit
Like the Topor family, brothers Robert and Joseph McClure have brine in their bloodline, as pickle-making was a family tradition. They base their pickles on their great-grandmother's spicy pickle recipe, and have expanded from that to produce garlic dill pickles, spicy pickles, garlic dill relish and spicy relish, even extending their brand into a Bloody Mary mixer and potato chips. Their pickles are mainly hot-fill and shelf-stable pasteurized, with some refrigerated pickles and even a bit of seasonal fermentation.
In six years, they've proved that it's a dilly of a business model. Two years ago they addressed the Troy Chamber of Commerce, and this year they've expanded their operations, moving into a larger building in Brooklyn that formerly housed a Pfizer plant, and another larger space at American Axle in Hamtramck.
Where to buy: Eastern Market and other fine groceries across Michigan and the country.
Location: Ann Arbor
Brinery honcho David Klingenberger got into farming as a high school student, after finding his way out to Tantré Farm, an organic farm doing community-supported agriculture on the outskirts of Ann Arbor. For Klingenberger, it was a great fit; he calls the farm "a pillar of the Washtenaw County local food community." After learning organic farming hands-on, he started looking for ways to extend the use of farm-fresh food by preserving it in traditional ways.
He says, "I actually started making pickles and sauerkraut because I was interested in all forms of food preservation, from tomato sauce to jam to beer to sauerkraut — and sauerkraut is one of the most ancient forms of food preservation. Before refrigeration, this was how people lived through the winter months."
In addition to pickles, tempeh and a wide variety of sauerkraut styles, Klingenberger also makes kimchi, a Korean style of pickled cabbage.
"Kimchi has become one of our most popular items. It's our take on a real classic Korean style of kimchi."
He's also using a more ancient style of pickling known as lactofermentation, fermenting vegetables in brine. The results are unusual, as beneficial bacteria living wild on the produce do the work.
"I like a good vinegar pickle," Klingenberger says, "but it's like comparing sourdough bread to quick-rise dough. It's really good."
His products are sold by the jar, cold-pack style, which means they're kept on ice when sold at farmers' markets, or refrigerated when sold in stores. Right now, he's selling pickles in 16-ounce and 24-ounce jars, and in 5-gallon buckets to restaurants.
Where to buy: On sale at 30 stores, including Hiller's Markets, Plum Markets, the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market Wednesdays and Saturdays and Eastern Market Saturdays. Also the official sauerkraut of Zingerman's deli, a coup considering their locavore-centered operations.
Thyme and a Bottle
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