Kelly McVicker has brine in her blood. She comes from five generations of farming families, in which pickling was just something they did. Her grandmothers and mother taught her how to pickle and process food at a young age. While growing up in Kansas, she was a part of 4-H, a rural sort of Girl Scout group that gave badges for showing horses, raising calves, and cooking. Now living in an urban setting, McVicker makes pickles, jams, and mustards for a living as the owner of McVicker Pickles.
"People ask if this was a lifelong dream, but I wasn't pickle-obsessed. It evolved," she says. "I grew up in Kansas and came from five generations of farming families. Canning and pickling was something that just happened, it wasn't really a hobby. My grandparents lived about 20 miles from the nearest town, and that town was only 1,000 people, so my grandma couldn't just go to the store and pick up potatoes."
Although pickling wasn't a childhood passion, when McVicker came to California she was so inspired by the farm and food culture that she decided to turn her pickling skills into a career. She began by challenging herself to pickle produce she found at a farmer's market in Hollywood.
"I wanted to do something tangible and with my hands and was thinking of leaving my job," she says. "It was kind of the right time for me personally and the right time as a culture. There was a market for small producers."
She is constantly inspired by the community of people who are food-curious and works to engage with them. McVicker teaches classes, often at Workshop SF, about a variety of DIY-topics. Recently, she taught a class on how to pickle the perfect Bloody Mary accoutrements. In the coming months, she's teaching a class on mustard-making. She's also taking burgeoning picklers on a field trip to the farmer's market and then showing them how to pickle their fresh produce. McVicker also holds "Art of Pickling" classes out of her home kitchen that cover all aspects of pickling and send students home with jars of fermented and vinegar-brined pickles (people interested in classes can buy a Groupon or contact McVicker at email@example.com).
"It's really fun, I like to make it lighthearted, interactive," McVicker says of her classes. "The idea is for people to come and see the process and get their hands dirty and get inspired. I like to teach people so they have enough skills to replicate the process when they get home. And it's social. It's really a process that lends itself inherently to collaboration and community."
In partnership with SFMade week, McVicker is giving mustard-making demos at 1564 MRKT, a pop-up featuring local makers that is operating from 10:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday. She's also participating in next week's Maker Faire in San Mateo on May 17 and 18. Concoctions like her Red Wine and Rosemary Mustard, Bacon Jam, and pickled mixtures are sold at Pig & Pie in the Mission and McVicker is working with Good Eggs, a delivery grocery service focused on carrying local producers, in the future.