In one of my previous houses we had an olive tree. As harvest time came along, the branches would be heavily blessed with small olives. I would send my children out to pick the olives low down, I would pick some of the higher ones. Neighbours would come and pick more, and people would come with ladders to pick the ones in the highest branches.

It would take weeks to get them all and everyone was happy with their haul. My children would be desperate to try this little fruit that they had watched for months metamorphosize from bud to fruit. Then the real work came, the pickling process. Being new to the area, I had no idea what to do but my local friends all had their tips and tricks. So the weeks of the pickling process started. Finally, they were ready to eat.

We were proud of the wait and dedication we had given to the process and the end product was, well, disappointing! I had tasted much better olives from the shops, from the delicatessen and at friend’s houses.

Here in Israel we are blessed with great pickles and of course mediocre, mass produced pickles. I just love it when my wife treats us to a shawarma and they put in a little pot of pickles for free. They include the obligatory olives and cucumber but I am more interested in the cabbage and carrot. But these pickles are generally not of such great quality they are made for everyone’s taste and are not for eating alone.

The truth is that different people have different tastes. Some people like it when their cucumbers are pickled in salt and some prefer them preserved in vinegar. It is purely a matter of individual taste and how you will be serving them. Some people are purists and believe that pickles should be plain whilst others like their pickles to have added ingredients. When you want your olives to make a statement, you want them to look great and taste extra special.

To get more interesting pickles, you generally have to vere away from the canned aisle and head for the refrigerated or delicatessen area. There you can find all different additives from chillies to herbs. The only limitation is the imagination of the person preparing them.

Whilst it used to be the domain of the individual pickler to mess around and produce something a Special, customer demand has led to manufacturers providing more choice. People have become pickle connoisseurs and families that were renowned by their friends and families for producing the best pickles have decided that now is the time to share their family recipes.

In 1980, Mohsen Assali realized that even though he couldn’t reveal his family’s secret recipes he could offer his unique and authentic pickles for sale to others. So he opened Pri-Chen, which takes only the best olives and vegetables and preserves them in a way that was passed down from generation to generation. The demand for a better and more interesting pickle was so great that they had to keep expanding his production facility to meet demand.

Pickles most certainly are not created equal. You have the bulk standard and you have the inspired. You have regular vegetables such as cucumbers and olives and more interesting choices such as carrot and cabbage and of course what you add to the mix can lift it to a whole another level. Enjoy pickling!