GTPulse: Traverse City Pickle Company Makes Pickles In A Fresh, Old-Fashioned Way
Traverse City cherries, Traverse City Whiskey and Traverse City…pickles? Yes, you heard right. Traverse City Pickle Company are locally made, small batch pickles. I met up with owner Brian Shaughnessy to talk pickles.
In his early career Brian was a Brooklyn cop, then sergeant in New York City. A torn knee made Brian retire from law enforcement, which catapulted him into a career as an education administrator.
“Second career for the last 14, 15 years had been as an administrator. I retired early, so I w
ent into education and got a master’s degree and a six year certificate. We moved to Michigan because all three kids went to school here. State. We came for in-state tuition.”
Brian took on a job as a principal-superintendent at a Lansing school and recently retired this past September. A new grandson inspired him and his wife to move to Traverse City.
“We have like, an Everybody Loves Raymond thing going on. So, my daughter lives right behind us. There’s a hole in the fence. The baby is a year old. My wife’s over there right now, she babysits three days a week.”
Brian expected to enjoy the slower pace of retiree life, but after only a couple weeks of being retired he found himself bored and yearning for a new adventure. Brian has been able to enjoy homemade pickles his whole life, especially being surrounded by Jewish delis in New York City. He had been making pickles for the better part of 10 years, so when a friend suggested that he sell the pickles, Brian went for it.
Traverse City Pickle Company has been a success so far. Brian sells the pickles at the Interlochen, Elk Rapids and Suttons Bay farmers markets. He will join the Traverse City Sara Hardy Farmers Market next month. The pickles are also being sold at HNM Wellness and Goodboy Provisions. The company has a current collaboration with Moomer’s for a limited release pickle ice cream.
How has the little company done so well in less than a year? The pickles speak for themselves!
Typically, pickles are boiled and brined in vinegar. The pickles that are mass produced and sold in big box stores are pickles boiled and brined in vinegar. Traverse City Pickle Company pickles are not boiled, instead they are soaked in a salty brine containing no vinegar for a few days, and then packaged to sell. Because the process uses no heat or boiling, prebiotics from the natural fermentation are kept intact. Happy taste buds, happy tummy.
This fermenting process yields delicious pickles. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Traverse City Pickle Company pickles had a crisp crunch and salty, refreshing flavor and no sogginess. The recipe is a simple of mixture of salt, pepper, dill, garlic, coriander and bay leaf, an old family recipe with New York City roots.
“Joanne’s grandmother, my wife’s grandmother. She did it with tomatoes. Pickled green tomatoes. She did them with vinegar on the countertop, but it’s not the same. Mine is all saltwater brine.”
The fermented pickles are more of a bright, emerald green than the typical darker, murkier green of boiled pickles.
Brian hopes that the pickle business will take off so he can have his loved ones close to him. Family is important to Brian, as demonstrated by his move to Traverse City to be close to his first grandchild. His hope is that he can make Traverse City Pickle Company a family business that involves his whole clan.
“My daughter is on board, she does the marketing stuff. My son is down in Detroit he works for Third Man [Records]. He tells me, ‘I’d like to come up there and work for you,’ and I tell him that’s the goal. That would be cool. I miss him.”
Brian would love for the pickle business to expand to more local markets and even bars in the area. The pickles would make an excellent addition to any bloody mary, and the brine would be a new way to enjoy pickle backs.
Traverse City Pickle Company is through and through local. Brian makes the pickles in his commercial kitchen, and the cucumbers used to make the pickles are from Altonen’s fruit and vegetable farm stand. Brian loves having a project to work on in retirement, especially one that is so community-centric and stems from such a long and rich family history. He may find that this small, postretirement project is going to become a lot bigger than he imagined, and so far he is enjoying every moment with the business and his family. Well, mostly.
“It’s been great, we’re selling out. The only problem is…all we talk about is pickles.”