'Pickle-palooza' held on Long Island

February 14, 2008 11:32:34 AM PST
More than two dozen people gathered on a recent morning in the basement of Congregation Beth Sholom Chabad for what a rabbi billed as a "pickle-palooza." As the clamor subsided, a young man sporting a long beard and a black apron that declared "Real Men Don't Use Recipes" announced the start of "the kosher pickle experience."

Part carnival barker, part Borscht Belt comedian, Rabbi Mendy Margolin was bringing his road show to Mineola to teach these mostly elderly students the proper way to make a crispy, spicy pickle.

"Prepare your mouths," shouted the 25-year-old Margolin. "Prepare your souls. Get ready for kosher pickle-palooza!"

Despite the lighthearted presentation, Margolin noted that real kosher pickles must be made in strict accordance with Hebrew tradition and law: no preservatives and only the best ingredients, including kosher salt.

"The Pickle Show," as it is formally known, was started about three years ago by Margolin's cousin, Rabbi Shmuel Marcus, director of the Orthodox Jewish Chabad organization of Cypress, Calif.

Margolin and his assistant, Rabbi Mendel Sossonko, want to take the presentation to a national audience.

After Long Island, the pickle proceedings are scheduled to make stops in Florida before returning to Southern California. Margolin estimates that 3,000 people have taken the seminar so far.

Roberta Popper of North Hills said she came because of her love for the little green delicacy, but also to support her culture. "I think that tradition has a lot to do with this," she said.

Samuel Frank of Searingtown, who came with his wife, Shani, agreed.

"I think there are people who want to connect with their Judaism but they don't feel comfortable going into a synagogue in a regular formal setting," he said. "So instead they come to cultural programs like this."

As Margolin's students bantered about the weather, and the wonderful renovation job on the synagogue basement - destroyed by a flood last summer - he walked them through the pickle-making process:

- First, a little less than two tablespoons of kosher salt go into a plastic quart container. Then comes 1 3/4 cups of water to make a brine.

- Next comes a scoop or two of pickling spices. Then, depending on their size, four or five kirby cucumbers are wedged into the container, followed by between one and five cloves of garlic.

- Then, the whole concoction is topped off by some pieces of dill, before the container is closed for the trip home.

The last instruction from the pickle professors surprised many in the audience.

- When the pickles arrive home, take off the lid and let the cucumbers rest in the brine on a kitchen counter.

"Make sure it's uncovered!" Margolin said. "Otherwise the pressure inside the container will get to be too much and you'll have an explosion of pickle juice all over your house."

Really good sour pickles take about seven days until they're ready to eat; half-sour, not surprisingly, take half the time.

The midday seminar ended with Rabbi Anchelle Perl, the leader of the Mineola congregation, donning a green pickle suit and dancing in celebration with his fellow rabbis.

He said he was pleased with event.

"Who can't like a class where you learn a little something and get to take home a jar of fresh kosher pickles?"


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