New Vlasics: Artisanal-Washing?

Vlasic Farmer's Garden Pickles

Vlasic Farmer's Garden Pickles

I Paid: $4.99 for a 1-quart jar (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4 stars

Marketing: 5 stars

"This looks like it came right from Grandma's cellar!" This is an actual word-for-word quote from a checker at a Minneapolis grocery store upon seeing a jar of Vlasic's new Farmer's Garden pickles. She was not a plant. Indeed, Farmer's Garden pickles come in a jar with a small, tasteful label, which lets the pickled cucumbers do the marketing directly to the consumer, no words or graphics necessary.

A layer of carrots, red peppers, and whole garlic cloves floats at the bottom of the jar, making each jar look as though it was lovingly canned by an old farm-dwelling great-aunt or beloved grandma. (In fact, Vlasic does describe the jars as "hand-packed," for what it's worth.)

Ingredient-wise, there's not too much going on that's cause for concern. There's some calcium chloride to impart a saltier taste without adding additional salt. There's the common and safe emulsifier polysorbate 80. Otherwise, it's natural flavors, salt, vinegar, garlic, and veggies—pretty tame and wholesome stuff. It's the same ingredient list, interestingly, as the standard Vlasic Dills (minus alum and yellow #5).

Flavor-wise, the Kosher Dill Spears are clean-tasting with a good level of salt. They could be a bit crisper, but they're not distressingly soft or chewy. The Zesty Garlic Halves offer a nice, natural garlic warmth that builds pleasantly to a bit of lingering heat.

The connection between this new product and popular culture is clear: Canning has come back with a vengeance, and a generation weary of HFCS and fried, processed foods has turned to local eating as an antidote to the mass-marketed garbage that defines the standard American diet. That Vlasic is a major brand of pickles typically sold by a wisecracking cartoon stork doesn't really matter when you take a gander at this jar: Mentally, you're transported to a farmers' market.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.