The true history of the pickle is somewhat of a mystery. Although some believe it dates back to India 4030 years ago. However, we do know that pickles have a very long and extensive history and are found across all cultures.
Infamous pickle lovers from our history books include; Emperors Julius Caesar and Tiberius, King John and Queen Elizabeth I of England, Samuel Pepys, Amerigo Vespucci, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon Bonaparte.
The earliest known examples are cucumbers that are known to have been pickled some time around 2030 BC in Mesopotamia, when inhabitants from northern India brought cucumber seeds to the Tigris valley.The Bible mentions pickles and they were known to the ancient Egyptians (Cleopatra attributed some of her beauty to pickles), and Aristotle praised the healing effects of pickled cucumbers.
The Romans imported all sorts of foods from the countries they conquered, pickling them for the journey in vinegar, oil, brine and sometimes honey. Garum or Liquamen, a fermented, salted fish-based condiment was a dietary staple and has been found as far north as the Antonine Wall.
The English word ‘pickle’ derives from the Middle English pikel, first recorded around 1400 and meaning ‘a spicy sauce or gravy served with meat or fowl’. This is different to, but obviously related to the Middle Dutch source, pekel, meaning a solution, such as spiced brine, for preserving and flavoring food.
Pickled cucumbers achieved great popularity in many parts of Europe and the Middle East, but arguably nowhere more than among Eastern European Jews, who ate them with black bread and later potatoes as the bulk of their diet.
The Jewish love of pickles dates to the ancient world. Throughout recorded history, both the elite and impoverished masses relied on pickles, there was a wide variety of pickled produce was standard fare in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. While wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites lamented the loss of the cucumbers they enjoyed in Egypt.
Until recently, sauerkraut (pickled fermented cabbage) was a mainstay throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Over the centuries, Ashkenazi Jews filled wooden barrels or ceramic crocks with cabbage, cucumbers or beets, leaving them in root cellars to ferment in salt brine seasoned with spices.
2030 BC – Cucumbers brought from their native India helped begin a tradition of pickling in the Tigris Valley.
2400 BC – Archeologists and anthropologists believe that the ancient Mesopotamians pickled.
Cucumbers are mentioned twice in the Bible ( Numbers 11:5 and Isaiah 1:8 and history sets their first usage over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Egypt and Greece.
350 BC – Aristotle praised the healing effects of cured cucumbers.
It is said Roman emperors, among them Julius Caeser, fed pickles to his troops in the belief that they lent physical and spiritual strength.
Ancient Sources not only refer to the nutritional benefits of pickles, but claim that they have long been considered a beauty aid, as Cleopatra attributed her good looks to a hearty diet of pickles.
THE DARK AGES
900 AD – Dill has been introduced to Western Europe from Sumatra.
Since the Middle Ages, pickles were a common condiment and snack on in England. Queen Elizabeth chefs made note of her liking them, and Shakespeare references not only pickles, but new uses of the word as metaphor.
Before Amerigo Vespucci set out to explore the New World, he was a pickle peddler in Seville, Spain. Since concerns of food spoilage and the lack of healthy meals were issues on long voyages, he loaded up barrels of pickled vegetables onto explorer ships. Hundreds of sailors were spared the ravages of scurvy because of Vespucci’s understanding of the nutritional benefits of pickles.
In 1535, Cartier found cucumbers growing in Canada.
In the sixteenth century, one of the prized delicacies were cultivated pickles done by Dutch fine food fanciers. The area that is now New York City was home to the largest concentration of commercial picklers at the time.
Pickles were being produced at home and commercially in Virginia as early as 1606.
By 1659, Dutch farmers in New York grew cucumbers all over the area that is now known as Brooklyn. These cucumbers were sold to dealers who cured them in barrels filled with varying flavored brines and were sold in market stalls on Washington, Canal and Fulton Streets.
Thomas Jefferson notes: “On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally’s cellar.”
Napolean valued pickles as a health asset for his armies, he offered the equivalent of $250,000 to anyon who could develop a way to preserve food safely. The man who won the prize in 1809 was a confectioner named Nicholas Appert, who figured out that if you removed the air from a bottle and boiled it, the food wouldn’t spoil. He’d have to wait for Pasteur to describe why by making the bottle aritight, no microorganisms could enter, and by boiling it, any microorganisms that existed were killed. Known today as the “boiling water bath,” Appert’s discovery was one of the most influential culinary contributions in history.
In colonial America, the pickle patch was an important adjunct to good living. Pickles were highly regarded by all America’s pioneering generations because, under frontier conditions, pickles were the only zesty, juicy, green, succulent food available for many months of the year.
In 1858 – John Mason designed and patented the first Mason jar. Made out of heavier weight glass than normal jars, these were developed to withstand the hight temperatures necessary for processing pickles.
In 1893 – Pickle Packers International, a trade organization for workers in the pickling trade, was founded.
County Fair’s original roots are established in 1910.
During World War II, the U.S. government rationed pickles, and accounted for 40% of the country’s pickle production.
In September, 2000, after the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys, many players attributed the win to the vigor they gained from drinking pickle juice.
2001 – The First Annual New York City International Pickle Day begins – a celebration of pickling traditions for all ages, cultures and culinary persuasions.
Today County Fair is the largest pickler on the West Coast of America producing Fresh Kosher “Refrigerated Dills” daily from sustainable farms. Utilizing old traditional recipes with new advanced technology, County Fair is the leader in quality products , innovation and sustainablity.