Food & Drink » Three-Course Spiel

3 questions with Bill Averbach, pickler

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Bill Averbach, a pickler by day and musician by night, stands behind his booth currently nestled in the Atherton Mill Market. Just look for the Pickleville sign. He has been pickling everything from pickles to jalapeños to tomatoes for many years. "I've made pickles my whole life; that is something that everyone in my family did. My family is all from Eastern Europe, and I grew up where every house had jars of pickles bubbling away." In his eyes, sand can be sold to a beach if the sale is executed correctly. "If you can just get someone to even taste a pickle at nine o'clock in the morning, you're a good salesman," he says.

Creative Loafing: What pickled food item would you not want to eat or sell?

Bill Averbach: I've never tried pickled pigs' feet. Growing up in Philadelphia, I played trumpet in high school. I used to play "soul" music back then in the late '60s, early '70s. A lot of the places I played were at these party houses and bars outside of the city limits. They always had pickled pigs' feet and chitlins there, and I just never got into eating them.

Do you process everything at the Atherton Mill Market or do you have a pickling laboratory at home?

I have a commercial kitchen that I use. I'm basically using salt water to prevent certain bacteria from growing. This allows the good stuff to grow quickly and it makes the brine very acidic, and when it gets to a certain point, the bad stuff just can't grow. That's what the sour taste is, the lactic acid. It's a fermented product; it's got a live culture (same bacteria as in yogurt), "lactobacillus," and it's a very old process — it goes back probably to the Tigris Euphrates river valley.

Do you enjoy any other activities in the kitchen besides pickling?

When I lived in Texas, my day job for a long time was cooking. I had to have a day job because I wanted to play music. My wife and I owned a pizzeria in Texas, and I worked as a chef in an Indian and Cajun restaurant. In the end, I found that after 20 years, my favorite job was flipping eggs in the morning at a busy restaurant. Cooking eggs for breakfast is like a dance. You have 20 to 30 tickets ready to be cooked — everything has to happen all at the same time. You have many, many different orders going and they all cook at different speeds, and they all have to come together at the end, all at one time and all go out on the plates. So that was a real challenge that involved timing.

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