Fresh Finds: The Best of NYC Greenmarkets
by Alyssa Grossman, 05/01/2012
Photo: Robert Schaefer
The backstory: After 35 years as a chef, owning his own restaurant and catering business, and serving a long list of celebrities including Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Schaefer was ready for a change of pace. "Then one year I planted way too many Kirby cucumber plants, and my wife asked what I was going to do with them," says Schaefer. The answer? Using pickling recipes collected throughout his career and jarring them as gifts for family and friends. "A week later, neighbors started coming back and asking for more," he says. "I swore I'd never go back into the food business." But he did, setting up a table at a small Long Island market and eventually expanding to five New York City locations each week, with 14 different products including pickles, chutneys, caponata and beet caviar.
Prep Process: There are two main pickling processes employed by Divine Brine. One involves heating vinegar, salt and spices and pouring it over the cucumbers. The containers are then sealed and refrigerated for 10 days. The other is the "fermented pickle method." Here, the cukes are left to their own acidity-creating devices for four days.
The one thing you have to buy: Horseradish dills. "They won first prize for the best dill pickle at the 2011 International Pickle Festival," says Schaefer. "I have people that buy 2 to 3 quarts a week."
Favorite moment at the markets: A few weeks ago at the 79th Street Greenmarket. "It was about three in the afternoon and all of a sudden I heard men singing about Divine Brine. I looked around and saw three guys I went to high school with. They had gotten together to surprise me."
When and where:
Friday: Union Square
Saturday: Inwood, Greenpoint/McCarren Park
Sunday: 79th Street, Carroll Gardens