Every fall, Robin Doroshow’s parents and grandmother turned the house into a pickle factory. Golda Gottlieb — her grandmother — used a recipe from her childhood in the Pale of Settlement, an area that’s now part of Poland. Gottlieb spoke mostly Yiddish and she did most of the cooking in the household, including the pickling every fall.
“She was sort of your stereotype short, rotund Jewish grandmother who was always making good food,” recalled Doroshow, who called her grandmother Bauby, a variation of “bubbe,” the traditional Yiddish name for grandmother.
Decades later, Doroshow was a lawyer and mother of two, no longer practicing law, living in Golden Valley and looking for a business opportunity. She thought of her Bauby’s pickles, which the family hadn’t made in at least 20 years. And when she talked to her mother about the recipe, she got a surprise.
Bauby’s old-country pickling actually involves fermenting the cucumbers, rather than preserving them in vinegar. Called lacto-fermentation, it’s an uncommon method that puts Doroshow’s pickles on the cutting edge of a hot foodie trend.
“The old ways are now the modern ways,” she said.
In fermenting, the combination of air, saltwater brine and the natural acids of the cucumber produce healthy lactobacillus. These bacteria also produce flavor compounds, according to the University of Minnesota Extension.
Doroshow, whose operation is specially licensed by the state Department of Agriculture, said that the usual pasteurization of commercially packed pickles kills bad bacteria, but also eliminates healthy probiotics. Sauerkraut and kimchi are other examples of fermented vegetables.
Doroshow produces both pickles and pickled asparagus under her Trrrific! Products label. She works out of a rented commercial kitchen space in the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. Her products, which typically retail at $7 to $9 a jar, are sold at more than a dozen stores in the metro area and southeastern Minnesota. Doroshow said her best customers are Twin Cities co-ops, including the Wedge Community Co-op and the Seward Community Co-op.
“It is very much on trend with where food culture is going right now,” said Megan Molteni, a spokeswoman for the Wedge. “We kind of gutted our food culture with the industrialization of agriculture. We don’t need fermentation to preserve our foods in the way they did historically.”
Fermentation is widely used across many cultures, Molteni said. And locally, lacto-fermented products have carved out a steady place on co-op shelves.
“There is enough demand that we are sourcing from multiple local producers,” she said.