“I get nervous during growing season now,” says North Salem resident Steve Kinnear, whose crisp and spicy Steve-O Pickles are a local favorite. Carefully tending his crop of Kirby cucumbers with fingers crossed, Kinnear knows he needs a bountiful harvest as “demand for the pickles has really grown.”
Luckily, the small cukes flourish in the town’s soil. In fact, a bumper crop prompted Kinnear to start pickling years ago, as a way to prevent waste. But it wasn’t until he partnered with North Salem’s Hayfields Market (where his products are sold), that he entered the pickle biz in earnest, using the commercial kitchen there to streamline production. His exact recipe is top secret, but he will say his brine strikes the perfect balance of salt and sugar. Other ingredients include dill and garlic that he also grows himself, turmeric for color, and enough dried chili pepper to provide a “kick.” The crunchy texture comes from harvesting the young Kirbys at just the right time and cooling the jars quickly after adding the boiling brine, he explains.
Kinnear, a former Wall Streeter who’s always loved to cook, will pickle and preserve just about anything, rather than toss it out. Like-minded Hayfields owner Renea Dayton sends him surplus produce — beets, lemons, summer squash — which he turns into delicious treats, including a local squash relish that’s a huge hit on Hayfields hot dogs. But Kinnear adds that his real secret is “the passion I put into the process.”
Steve-O Pickles at Hayfields Market