The pickle industry, or should I say, the gherkin industry, is a thriving concern pleasing the palates of millions world-wide. Whether it is sliced, speared, hamburger-chip, sour, half-sour, kosher dill, to name just a few varieties, there is a flavor and shape for all sorts of taste buds — and a solid, steady demand for these delicious treats to boot. Quality standards assure a delectable product; OU supervision assures the highest standards of kosher as well.
Gherkins are grown and produced in many areas around the globe from the rural American Midwest to Romania to Vietnam, with a primary focus on a booming gherkin industry in India. Gherkin farming takes place over several short harvests and the raw gherkins are shipped to many state of the art facilities throughout the country. They are then measured and inspected for quality and placed in large barrels of brine or vinegar for packing. The brine, of course, is innocuous, as there are no kosher concerns, but the vinegar must be constantly monitored.
Rabbi Yosef Tirnauer, our veteran RFR in India, devised an elaborate system that monitors every liter of vinegar that comes in or leaves a plant. Every last drop can be traced to its origin, thus ensuring that only approved kosher sources are used throughout OU certified plants.
This is extremely important when it comes to the infrequent use of wine vinegar for specific customer use. Rabbi Tirnauer’s tracking system is a valuable safeguard that guarantees that the provenance of every of ounce of wine vinegar is accounted for and kosher.
Standard OU practice for preparing sensitive ingredients that are prone to insect infestation, such as dill, is another possible kosher hurdle that careful planning and administration have resolved.
One of the challenging aspects of gherkin production regards the constant monitoring of flavors used in jar production. Each client has developed a specific taste for his product and finding a kosher substitute for a precise flavor requires much patience and experimentation. All flavors in a pickle plant, whether for a kosher client or for a client who is not looking for kosher certification, must be approved before they can be used an OU certified facility.
Some of these requirements may seem daunting at the outset to newly certified companies. Rabbi Tirnauer patiently reviews the system with the companies, helps them set up a finely-tuned kosher system, and guides them periodically, making the transition to kosher both pleasant and rewarding.
Rabbi Shaul Gold joined the Orthodox Union as a rabbinic coordinator in 2004. He services the pickles, tuna and pasta industries and was recently appointed to serve as the Webbe Rebbe to respond to the many inquiries received on line at http://www.oukosher.org. Rabbi Gold received his rabbinic ordination from the famed Mir Yeshiva after studying at the Telshe Yeshiva and the Mir Yeshiva branches both in Jerusalem and New York. He has taught at a number of prominent Jewish schools including Magen David Yeshiva and Yeshiva R’tzahd. For ten years he served as rabbi of Young Israel of Avenue U in Brooklyn, NY.