“We’ve been focusing on getting everything in our hands into a jar” said Shamus Jones as he and partner Josh Egnew stood outside Urban Rustic giving away samples of homemade pickles, from their one-month-old pickling company. “We’re interested in pickling the weirdest stuff and experimenting with different brines and vegetables,” he said—and he isn’t kidding: One variety includes a foot-long intertwined thread of garlic scapes that are a sure way to start conversations and defy proper table manners.
Throughout the years working as a chef specializing in vegetarian and vegan cuisine, Jones learned to make quick pickles that were served as accoutrements in different dishes. He combined his skills and culinary background with a passion for fresh local produce, and embraced the world of pickling. So far the founders, and one intern, have pickled thousands of jars with various flavors and ingredients such as salty and sour heirloom cucumbers, cumin and Serrano-infused yellow wax beans, green beans (which are featured in Habitat’s bloody marys) and jalapenos, whose “salt and vinegar brine helps cut through monochromatic dishes by utilizing different parts of your palate.”
Jones insists pickling at home is an easy task, but to those who have never had to measure the ph balance of boiling brine and sterilize jars for shelf stabilization, it can be daunting and intimidating. To prove his point, Jones recalls the company’s pickling process, which takes place in both his storage-friendly Greenpoint home (and a helpful landlady) and the commercial kitchen at Brooklyn Label.
Fresh vegetables are carefully inspected, (all it takes is one bad pickle to contaminate an entire jar) washed and scrubbed, then pasteurized to be shelf stable before storing them in sterilized jars. Brine can be as simple as water, salt and vinegar or infused with various ingredients—in this case the “chef’s secret spices” whose ingredients remain untold. The brine after boiled and spiced are immediately poured into jars and sealed and put in a waterbath to heat and expand the oxygen. Once the caps are sealed, shelf stabilized jars of pickles are ready to eat. “This entire process is an open book resource. We have no secrets, no slick packaging. We’re just two dudes and an intern, and we’re proof that everyone can learn to do this.”
Produce is provided by Basis Farm to Chef, a local distributor functioning as a liaison with local farms, listing product availability to restaurants and retail shops, ordering and delivering straight from the farm directly to the chef/shop. Brooklyn Brine also collaborates local and organic farms Sheldon Farm and Bloominghill Farm and has supplied shops like Urban Rustic, Marlow & Daughters, Green Grape, and Kill Devil Hill.
The partners have been stockpiling a mammoth load of produce in preparation for winter. Cucumbers and beans are delivered hundreds of pounds at a time and they’ve got to work quickly to accumulate mounds of pickled jars to sustain the remainder of the year.
“It’s all a labor of love. But, I have been able to quit my job and reach my goal of being self-employed before turning 30” says Jones. Brooklyn Brine contributes to the ever-growing food movement that adheres to traditional, artisanal and homemade practices and at this rate every home will soon be sipping on green bean bloody marys to accompany their hangar steak with pickled jalapenos while homemade brine boils on the stove.