By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Special to Peninsula Daily News
SEQUIM — Mrs. Vinegar is throwing a pop-up pickle event.
Everybody is invited, whether they prefer powerful dills or the sweet bread-and-butter variety. Mrs. Vinegar, aka Betsy Wharton of the Clallam Canning Co., sees the pickle as a ticket to a community conversation.
Clallam Canning products — which go beyond pickles into chutneys and a new thing Wharton calls a “Splash” — are taking a field trip to the Sequim Farmers Market next Saturday, Oct. 8.
Wharton will host one of a handful of pop-ups in Sequim and Port Angeles this autumn. The Saturday event will go from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the market, which takes place outdoors at the corner of Sequim Avenue and Washington Street. Admission is free.
Under her pickle-green tent, Wharton will serve samples from this year’s jars, which include spicy dill and garlic dill pickles. They’re made with cucumbers from Greg and Marilyn Gundy’s Sea Basket farm in Sequim and garlic from Wharton’s Port Angeles garden, so theirs is a distinctly local flavor.
“Sea Basket grew some beautiful cukes this summer, and we pickled every single one,” Wharton said.
“But it turned out to be a cool summer and production was light,” making for small batches this fall.
The coming pop-ups, Wharton said, are pretty much the only public sales of her freshly preserved products.
When asked what exactly a “Splash” is, Wharton poured a taste into a glass over ice.
This particular kind is a deep magenta color. Naturally: It’s concocted with beets from the River Run Farm near Sequim.
The flavor is sweet and sour at the same time. The Splashes come in spicy beet and pear-ginger — “a sip of summer,” said Wharton, to infuse a cocktail, flavor a soup or punch up a salad dressing or sauce.
Wharton, who dubbed herself “Mrs. Vinegar” awhile back on Instagram, founded Clallam Canning seven years ago as a way to promote local produce and, in so doing, connect people.
She has since worked with the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center art students on labels and led classes in food preservation in the Clallam Canning Co. kitchen.
Starting a small business was a brand-new challenge. Wharton has long worked for nonprofit organizations. When she first started canning cucumbers, she was serving on the Port Angeles City Council, so she gave herself the tongue-in-cheek label of “pickling politician.”
She has since moved from politics into other forms of community involvement. A registered nurse, she worked with First Step Family Support Center and the Fifth Street Community Garden and served on the board of the Feiro Marine Life Center in Port Angeles.
She also writes a column on local food and cooking for the Peninsula Daily News’ Sunday edition.
The whole enterprise continues to evolve, said Wharton, who is developing new products. A green cleaning solution made with vinegar and local herbs — lavender and rosemary, for example — is on the horizon.
So as much fun as they are, “it’s not just about pickles in a jar,” she said.
Wharton keeps looking for ways to bring people together with local produce. So in her kitchen and garden, she plans to offer more classes, from food preservation to sustainable gardening and rainfall collection.
For her, it boils down to one thing: good health, for people and the Earth.
And yes, these pickles are priced on the higher end, comparable to a bottle of good wine, Wharton said. So she offers significant discounts on cases of pickles and welcomes email orders — write to betsy@ clallamcanningcompany.com — from those who can’t make it to one of the Sequim or Port Angeles pop-ups.
Once you have the goods in your possession, don’t put off enjoyment, she added.
“Don’t save your pickles. Eat them.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz is freelance writer living on the North Olympic Peninsula. She is the former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News.