Photo by Tejal Rao
We're sitting in the dog park over coffee, mourning Gourmet magazine. "I had a subscription," says Joya Carlton sadly. She's the newest member of Brooklyn Brine, a small-batch pickling company that first caught my attention in July with a booth of pickled cucumbers at a Brooklyn beer festival.
Josh Egnew and Shamus Jones started the company. The friends knew each other through their speed metal band, Hibagon, with Jones on Guitar and Egnew on bass and vocals. "It wasn't the right situation," says Jones, "Dudes were getting loose." Their new band is more aptly named, considering their interest in good food: Ramps.
Earlier this year, Jones helped opened a local restaurant where he started to play around with pickling. "I was getting a really warm reception, great feedback," he says.
Brooklyn Brine's pickles change constantly based on the season and availability.
"Yeah, laughs Egnew, "I was was going by to visit every single day just so I could eat them."
Jarring ramps, garlic scapes, and whatever other seasonal vegetables he could find, Jones warmed to the idea of starting his own pickling company. After about five months at the restaurant he was, rather conveniently, fired. Within 6 hours Jones talked to Egnew about his idea and the two pitched it to Urban Rustic, a café and grocery store in in Greenpoint, one of their first clients. They bought jars down the street and talked to Lynde McCormick about running a night kitchen at Brooklyn Label. He agreed, at no cost.
He let you guys use his kitchen for free? "Yeah, he just let us use his space," says Egnew. "It was really the most tremendous thing that could have happened," says Jones. All they needed now were vegetables. "Shamus already had connections to distributors and farmers from his restaurant experience," says Egnew. "Within days," says Jones, "we had farmers coming here with produce."
Marlow and Daughters, a butcher shop in Brooklyn, was another early client. Though Jones has been vegetarian for almost 19 years, he knew he wanted to talk to someone there. He made a cold call and ran a tasting with five blood-stained butchers. They placed an order and Egnew and Jones started working overnight, going from their day jobs straight to the Brooklyn Label kitchen to get started on production.
Jones was cooking vegan food at Jivamukti Yoga near Union Square, spending his lunch breaks talking to purveyors at the Greenmarket and Egnew, who designed the company's gorgeous barrel logo, was tattooing at Three Kings (where he still works).
The pickling nights turned out to be labor-intensive so the two put an ad out in Craigslist to get some help. Must like metal and beer, it specified. Carlton, also out of a job, was spending her free time pickling summer vegetables and writing a food blog documenting her adventures in vegan cooking and eating. She answered the ad.