It all started with a realisation. Due to a change of ownership, this year’s Not Fest didn’t take place at North Melbourne’s Public Bar and instead, moved to The Old Bar in Fitzroy. A staple of Not Fest has always been the Pickleback. A gift from the Gods made up of a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice. Some describe it’s flavour as similar to a cheeseburger, some enjoy the way the pickle juice counteracts the burn of the whiskey; whatever the case, Picklebacks must be consumed at Not Fest. The one small problem being that The Old Bar does not sell Picklebacks…
We were sitting in the beer garden at a show when Whisk & Key owner James told me that he was thinking of buying lots of pickles for Not Fest so Picklebacks could still happen. A switch flicked in my mind and before I could think about it I blurted out “I’ll make the pickles! I’ll make all of them!” I’d never made pickles before… but I sure have eaten a lot of them. How hard could it be?
The first challenge was finding jars. I started saving every jar that I finished at home, some being pickle jars, some being large jars from Passata, some being tiny jars that olives or sundried tomotoes would come in… but it wasn’t enough. I drove to at least four different people’s houses asking for jars. I was even caught smuggling them out of the recycling at work but, in the end, I had enough for 37 jars of pickles.
The second challenge: cucumbers. Cucumbers come in all shapes and sizes, finding ones small enough to fit into the jars was a struggle. The first batch of pickles were made with full size lebanese cucumbers that had to be cut to fit into the jars. It wasn’t until a trip with friends to La Panella (Preston’s finest Vegan bakery) that I stumbled across mini lebanese cucumbers at Preston Market. I bought every one they had. With the cucumbers in hand, it was a simple matter of starting the pickling process.
My brine is simple: equal parts vinegar and water boiled with salt and then poured over the already jarred pickles. The secret to the flavour lies in the spices found at the bottom of the jar. Dill is obviously present as well as garlic and chilli flakes but I will take the secret herbs in the mix to my grave. After each batch of brine I made over the months leading up to Not Fest, my girlfriend would come home and know I’d been pickling. “I can smell it from the street” she would say. The smell lingered in our home for weeks at a time but the results spoke for themselves. 37 jars of homemade pickles were sealed and ready for Not Fest.
When the time finally came, I dropped a box of jars at Jimmy’s house the night before Not Fest. I didn’t attend on Friday and was surprised to come in on Saturday and find most of the box had already been sold. With only 4 jars meeting a grizzly end at the hands of passers by and my own clumsiness, a handful of jars were given to the jar for use of brine in Picklebacks and all of the remaining jars sold. When the last jar left my hands as a parting gift to Helena Pop, I felt a sense of relief.
Was it worth it? I gazed madness in the mouth after months of inhaling vinegar fumes but I came out on top. Every jar was gone. I could sleep soundly again knowing that it was over. Until the messages came in asking if I had any more…
Written by Luke Seymoup
Luke’s new single Mosquitoes is out now through Whisk & Key Records at http://lukeseymoup.bandcamp.com
Check out these great images captured at NotFest 4 by Ragged Press contributor Emily Newbold.