One of my favorite celebrity chefs is Vivian Howard, who owns the Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, NC. I love her cookbook titled Deep Run Roots, and watched every episode of “ A Chef’s Life”. While scrolling on Facebook recently, I saw a post where she had hosted a pickling party at her home and I just knew I had to host one too!
What is a pickle party?
For those who have never been to one or have never pickled food before, it is a group of people who get together to learn how to use mason jars to spice up vegetables and/or preserve their produce to store for consumption for later in the year. These parties often consist of people bringing, vegetables, seasoning, mason jars and sharing recipes. It is a great excuse to get together and is a fun time
Our party turned out to be a huge success, our guests not only had a great time, but the comments to us were things like “I now feel more confident about making pickles at home.” “You should do one of these at a place like Wholefoods!” “I learned a lot and had great fun doing so” “My pickles turned out so yummy” etc.
One of the things that I get excited about is having people gain more food knowledge. Which allows them to feel more self-assured in the kitchen. Whether they are cooking, smoking, grilling, baking or pickling, one of our goals is to help home cooks stretch them from their current culinary comfort zone to reach their potential. We offer videos, recipes and more without a ton of ads, to make your experience more enjoyable.
We also help home cooks by offering our culinary coaching services for one-on-one, private hands-on learning opportunities. If you want to host a group class we have access to a network of professional chefs who can facilitate a fully cooked meal. And of course, we help you create amazing, fun food experiences like pickling parties!
You may be wondering how difficult it was to put this party together and how did we facilitate all the moving pieces and parts? By reading this post, I will share with you all the dos and don’ts of hosting your own pickling party.
First things first, think of what you want the outcome of your party to be. Do you want to make new friends, get together with existing friends or family? Do you want your guests to learn to pickle or share their recipes?
Now that you have your objective, it is time to put together a guest list. Depending on the purpose of your party, you can decide how many people you would like to host at your home. Take into consideration the size of the area you have available to handle food preparation. Invite more people than you think will come, the rule is for every 13 people invited 3 or 4 will not be able to attend.
Pick a time that works well, like a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I did our party on a Sunday afternoon and limited it to three hours. This way my guests did not feel obligated for their entire day and I got everyone out of the house in time for me to clean up and relax a bit on Sunday evening. Once you know who and when then you can decide on an invitation. How would most of your guests want to be notified?
Perhaps Facebook is the perfect medium. You can create an event right on your page. The drawback is that you are limited to those people you are Facebook friends with and not everyone checks their Facebook often. So you may want to think about a combination of good old fashioned email and social media.
Facebook will offer you the option to use their design and if you are confident that your group is all checking their feeds regularly so this can then be a good choice for you. Regardless, if you are using Facebook as a stand-alone invitation source or a combination of Facebook and Email you may still want to create your own invitation’s look and feel. I like to use Canva. It gives free access to many basic templates, images, and graphics. It is intuitive and fun to use.
If you plan to use another social media platform to invite guests such as Instagram please know that their images are shaped differently than Facebook’s. In Canva, therefore, you will have to create two invitations and size them for their appropriate mediums.
Now that you have created an objective for your party, selected your guest list, and designed your invitations, it is time to evaluate your space and think about the flow of your party. Where will your guests prepare the food and where will they convene when not cooking? Where will you serve food? For my spread of appetizers, I pushed my dinette table against a wall and used tripolis to save space. I then created a defined space for my guests to prepare their pickles by adding a wooden table to my already large island. I still placed another small folding table at the end of it. I had fifteen guests, but you may not need as much room.
Next, envision the decor for your pickling party“Shop in your own closet.” Whoever came up with that one was a genius! I raided my pantry for the rustic wooden storage boxes that normally hold all my staples and I dug out my autumn decor early. My husband, who did not really understand my theme said “you already put out the fall pumpkins? It is still August!” I got creative with raffia and other dollar store items too. The craft stores are also flush with fall items this time of year.
Whenever I have a themed event I start moving things and decorating at least a week before the event date, if not earlier. We just live around the changes and deal with it until the party is over.
One time I did a murder mystery party that required I turn my home into a 1940’s New Orleans style mansion and another party for my husband’s birthday where I turned my home into a Vegas-style casino. Those took weeks to prep for! The pickling party was much easier to set up.
I decided to give everyone a gift bag. I filled mine with seed packets and labels for the jars, along with some cute fall items I found at the dollar store. I included a few pieces of themed candy such as Cow Tails and Jolly Rancher. But the best gifts inside the bags were some hand-painted garden rocks my neighbor made with her two small children. She included sayings that were about food and gardens.
Next up is food planning, not just what do you want to serve but also what will people pickle?
I planned a trip to my local farmer’s market the day before and selected cucumbers, green tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and watermelon. Yes, pickled watermelon rind is a thing and it is delicious! At the bottom of this post are links to some of the recipes.
I have been playing with pickle recipes for a couple of months so I decided that I would print out a few easy ones and one that was more advanced for people to try out. I placed the recipes in picture frame holders on the counter.
A word to the wise, I suggest you stick to the refrigerator style methods of canning. Do not try to sterilize and pressure seal jars with so many people in your kitchen. The boiling water can pose a danger when handling.
When you are making refrigerator pickles many do require a cooked brine. On the day of the party, I heated a big pot of vinegar and water to a boil then let it warm on the stove. This achieved the desired hot liquid to adequately mix with the spices and kept everyone safe.
You will need to make available the pickling spices and herbs for all to make the recipes. Make sure you have plenty of utensils such as knives, funnels, peelers and cutting boards. Lots of paper towels and dish towels will be required. You can either supply all items yourself or instruct people to bring their own. I provided everything and just had guests bring their own jars.
I planned a light appetizer menu as my party was after lunchtime and before dinnertime. On the menu, I used items like pickled shrimp and pickled beef sausage. I also made deviled eggs with sweet pickles and anchovies as well as some marinated mushrooms. We had bruschetta with garden tomatoes on toasted pumpernickel bread. I enlisted the help of my husband to smoke some meat on his Kamado Joe grill. I chose a beef brisket since a hearty and or fatty meat pairs well with anything vinegary.
For dessert, I made a cake out of ice cream sandwiches. (Truth be told I forgot to pull it out of the freezer in time for most of my guests to get a serving, oops. Now we will eat this for the entire week). Perhaps a good idea is to plan dessert for forty-five minutes before the party’s scheduled end time. If you have an Amazon Alexa this would be perfect. If not, at least set the microwave or oven timer.
When planning your menu, any type of finger food can work. I did my best to keep the use of dishes to a minimum, sticking to those that could be put in the dishwasher or easily disposed of. For example, I used cupcake liners to hold the deviled eggs. I encouraged people to scoop pickles from the mason jars with designated forks. We used disposable cups for the drinks and lined the tripolis with parchment paper so we could safely place food on all the levels.
We also had a Bloody Mary bar complete with candied bacon, pickled celery, and carrots. We offered a lighter melon style cocktail along with some fizzy seltzer water. I tried using the Mason jars with the spigot built into them but had an issue with the seeds and the horseradish clogging up the spigots. Learn from my mistake, if you do use these be careful of any pulp or seeds in your liquids.
One thought about facilitating the event. Your guests will need instruction when they arrive, so be prepared. Plan where they can lay down their jars and or other items. Think about how you plan to instruct them or not. Do they have to wash their vegetables? Where will they discard unwanted vegetable ends? Lucky for us a neighbor has chickens. She took all the pieces and parts and her birds had a brightly-colored, smorgasbord-style, Sunday dinner.
Last night, once the clean up was all over and my house turned back into its original state, I played back the party in my mind. I like to think about what went well and what I could have done better (aside from forgetting the dessert). I got lucky enough that some of my guests took photos so that I can share this all with you, however having a designated person to get some photos would have been wise. I did plan a group photo and had the tripod set up, I am so glad of this.
Also, I keep my trash under the sink in a small bucket, I could have placed a larger trash can in the kitchen and thought through all the vegetable scraps by having a separate bucket for them instead of the designated, eye-soar of a plastic grocery bag that was easily misplaced.
As far as social media goes, I should have had everyone use my blog’s hashtag for their photos. Oh well, no one is perfect.
Today I am receiving messages from my guests sharing how well their pickles turned out. It is always a great sign when you host a party that people keep talking about a day or days after the event ended. This is how you know you have created a real experience. We can confidently say the objective was achieved and our pickling party was a big hit!
Please let us know if you want to host a pickling party or any of our other many fun chef events. We can help you plan and prepare. Or we can send a professional chef to come and cook for your guests to create a dining experience they will talk about for a long time to come.
Either way, we would love to hear from you and have you share your food experiences with us on Facebook or Instagram.