Sunday was a cold day for a greenmarket, at least by South Florida standards. Vendors at the Tequesta market met the challenge, selling sweaters and keeping the hot coffee flowing. And among the usual stands featuring local cheeses, breads, produce, jams and meats, newcomer Clint Willis made his presence known with a simple product:
Willis is swashbuckler-size and pirate-bearded, and has a quarter-century of chef experience behind him. His brine recipe belonged to his grandmother, and after years of working for other people, he decided to put her recipe to work, using mostly local produce. “Our vegetables are grown hydroponically in Okeechobee and our garlic is California product,” he says. “We grow local and we sell local. My goal is to keep people working in this area.”
In addition to the Tequesta market, Willis also sells his products at the Fort Pierce market and Jupiter Produce Market. His pickles come mild or spiced, sliced or in the cleverly-named “Britney Spears” variety. He also pickles carrot slices, Napa cabbage and a trio of hot peppers (serrano, habanero and jalapeño). One of the things you learn from this passionate pickle producer is that vegetables brined at varying times can taste different with as little as a week between the batches. And with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavoring agents used, you taste the dill, the garlic, the vinegar and vegetables Willis uses. The pickles are so crisp, you’ll think fresh and raw salad ingredients, not packaged product. And the Napa cabbage has a bite suited to a well-spiced bratwurst, knockwust or sandwich stacked with pastrami or corned beef.
Willis is literally hands-on from start to finish, not only creating the products, but delivering them and rotating the stock to ensure freshness. He wants his customers to have a prime product for the price. Fortunately for north county residents, a pleasing pickle experience is not far away.
Pirate Pickles is available at the Fort Pierce and Tequesta Greenmarkets and Jupiter Produce, 1533 North Old Dixie Highway, Jupiter, FL. The Tequesta market is the first and third Sunday of the month through April at Constitution Park, 399 Seabrook Road, from noon to 4 p.m. Fort Pierce’s market is year-round and runs every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon along the waterfront, next to the library (North Indian River Drive and Orange Avenue, also known as County Road 707 and County Road 68 respectively, is the closest intersection to the waterfront).