Britt Eustis came to Seattle in 2010 to help his sister and brother-in-law finish a remodeling project at their West Seattle home. And he stayed. And fermented pickles.
His jars of Britt’s Pickles have been available at PCC markets (and a few other spots) since March, and now Eustis is planning a store at Pike Place Market. Britt’s Pickles on Pike will open some time in August, in a space near the Corner Market Building’s elevator shaft, next to butcher BB Ranch.
Britt’s Pickles are fermented, meaning he preserves the cucumbers with lactic acid bacteria and salt, rather than the now-more-common method of vinegar and, at least for many pickles sold commercially, heat and pasteurization. Advocates of fermented foods say the resulting products are full of healthy, probiotic bacteria and retain more nutrients. The flavor is certainly different from your garden-variety vinegar pickle, but more garlicky and vibrant than funky or pungent.
“People are very familiar with the concept of probiotics,” he says. “If it tastes good, that’s the major piece. The rest you can absorb over time.”
Britt’s Pickles on Pike will sell pickles in barrels, says Eustis, “with some modifications for the health department.” When he applied to the market’s notoriously selective board, Eustis says the Pike Place Market team was especially excited because the market had a wooden-pickle-barrel vendor back in the 1920s.
The pickles are produced up on Whidbey Island, and Eustis is eager to expand his product line. He plans to sell sauerkraut, full-sour pickles, half-sour pickles (which he says have more cucumber flavor), spicy, hot and sour, and ginger pickles, as well as saurkraut and kimchi and, later, black garlic. He’s also hunting for some small, green tomatoes to pickle, a specialty in Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe. A woman from Bulgaria approached him about some traditional Christmas cabbage, and there’s also a fermented lemon recipe out of Spain that has Eustis awfully intrigued. In short—he wants to take on some fun, seasonal projects in addition to his mainstays.
Eustis has been in the organic and natural food business since 1975; he got into fermented food in the early 1980s, when the distributor he was working for sent him to Japan to learn more about the soy and other foods they were importing. He learned about lactic acid fermentation through his job with Eden Foods, specifically from a German family in Toledo that had been making sauerkraut for three generations. Like any small-batch product, Eustis warns that his wares aren’t exactly uniform. He ferments his pickles in wooden barrels and notes that some people can taste the oak, and newer barrels give off more tannins. But, he says, it’s just pickles. “This is not chardonnay we’re making.”
And finally there’s the small matter of how to use the brine. Eustis suggests salad dressings, potato salad, or even brining a chicken.