“Have a sour day!” If you’ve been to the farmers market at Atherton Mill recently, you may have heard this exhortation shouted out from a pleasant voice. “It’s a sour day in Pickleville!” Bill Averbach says from behind his colorful stand, handing a huge dill pickle to a tiny girl who wraps both hands around it and bites at it until it’s all gone.
Written in chalk on a board above the stand is, “Pickleville- Not the best…the FINEST!” Another board lists the varieties of pickles that Bill has today: dill, garlic, hot garlic; samples of the different kinds are displayed in front of him. Born to an Eastern European family in Philadelphia, Bill says pickling was something he grew up with. “Everyone in my family makes festering vegetables,” he jokes.
When I ask what brought him to Charlotte, Bill answers, “A car,” with his good-natured laugh quickly following. Turns out, this man has pretty much done everything in every place before becoming the pickler extraordinaire. Along the Gulf Coast and in Austin, Bill has been a restaurant manager, commercial fisherman, bicycle shop owner, pizza maker, shrimper… and of course musician.
Pickling is great, but Bill’s real passion is music, and he plays with different musicians around town. Bam-Jazz is one group that describes itself as “jazz, blues, Cajun and more,” and then there’s the Carolinas Klezmer Project, which plays Yiddish music. Bill says it’s a lot of the same guys in both bands, but they’re separate projects because “It’d be hard to book a klezmer band in a jazz club, you know?”
Bill compares the art of pickling to the task a short order cook has to get everything ready at the same time. Salt, temperature and spices all have to come together in the right way to create a good pickle. Kosher-style dill pickles are still the most popular thing Bill sells, and one taste of their unique flavor explains why (this from a girl who didn’t think she even liked dill pickles).
If you just think of pickles as a garnish for a sandwich or a topping for a hamburger, Bill has other ideas. Breads are one of the unexpected places he suggests incorporating the item. For a regular loaf of bread with a kick, he suggests making the dough as you normally would, then rolling small pieces of dill pickle into the dough before baking it. Rye bread is also a good fit for pickles, Bill says. Substitute about one cup of pickle juice for water and omit the salt for tasty, unique version of the bread.