Dear Sun Spots: I have been trying to find Claussen Sweet Gherkin pickles to no avail. No one seems to carry it. I did locate them somewhere but I cannot remember. – No Name, No Town.

Sun Spots received a message from Rene Zahery at Kraft Foods who said Kraft appreciates your loyalty. She recommends you ask your store manager to carry the products you would like if you don’t find them at your local store.

In addition, Mary O’Neill of Kraft Foods directed Sun Spots to the company’s new Web site, which now lists the following stores in the Lewiston-Auburn area that carry Claussen Pickles’ Sweet Gherkins:

Hannaford Food & Drug, 95 Spring St., Auburn, (207) 784-6497; Shaw’s Super Store, 600 Center St., Auburn (207) 784-6971; and Hannaford Food & Drug 692 Sabattus St., Lewiston (207) 784-0721.

Sun Spots hopes you and your family enjoy the following recipe located online at

Curried Chick Pea and Rice Salad with Sweet Gherkins: Ingredients: 1 jar (10 ounces) sweet gherkins, about 15 pickles; 1 tablespoon oil, 1½ cups long-grain rice or wild rice blend; 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas (garbanzo beans); 1 can (14 ounces) chicken broth, (or 1¾ cups water); 1 tablespoon curry powder; 2 to 3 green onions trimmed and minced; salt. Method: Choose six gherkins for garnish that are the same size, and fan each one by making several parallel slits, leaving the stem end intact. Set aside. Slice the remaining pickles into small even-sized pieces and set aside, reserving the brine. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add curry powder and stir until the perfume of the spice is released. Add the chickpeas (reserve the liquid from the can) and rice, and cook a few minutes until the rice becomes slightly translucent. Combine chicken stock and chickpea liquid and enough pickle brine to make 2¼ cups. Add liquid to rice and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and simmer gently about 15 minutes (or bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 17 to 20 minutes). Cool to room temperature and toss the rice mixture with sliced pickles and onions. Add salt to taste. Mound the salad in a bowl and decorate with the gherkin “fans.” Tip: Cooked shrimp or chicken cut in chunks can be added, which would turn this side dish into a main course. Serves 6.

You may also be interested in noting that the pickle history began sometime around 2030 B.C., when inhabitants of Northern India brought cucumber seeds to the Tigris Valley. Soon, cucumber vines were sprouting throughout Europe. Shortly thereafter, people learned to preserve the fruits of their labor by pickling them in a salty brine. By the 17th century, the crunchy pickled cucumber had made its debut in the New World. Early colonists grew so fond of them that in 1820 Nicholas Appert constructed the first pickle plant in America.

In fact, America was named for a pickle peddler – Amerigo Vespucci. He was a ships chandler, outfitting vessels scheduled for long explorations with vitamin C-packed pickled vegetables – particularly cucumbers – to prevent scurvy among crew members.

Through the years, pickles enjoyed a flourishing reputation. From continent to continent, the world’s most humorous vegetable made an in-dill-able impression on monarchs, presidents and even military men. Cleopatra believed they contributed to health and beauty. Queen Elizabeth I developed a passion for pickles, as did Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Troops under Julius Caesar and Napoleon relished the thought of having crunchy pickles at mealtime, and during World War II, the U.S. government earmarked 40 percent of pickle production for the armed forces.

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