Guerrilla Canning Company Brings Pickling Into the Future
Don't call them Hipsters.
Photo courtesy Guerrilla Canning Company Anything you can think of to pickle they'll probably try.
Yes, JD Woodward, his wife, Amy, and his business partners Jason Cate and Joseph Sterling are mad about pickling, but it's not something they do while waxing their mustaches and comparing the plaid prints on their shirts.
The new-ish and somewhat secretive pickling business, Guerilla Canning Company, wasn't born out of boredom or a desire to be funky and different. No, initially, it was a job.
JD Woodward, currently the chef at Goro & Gun and lovingly referred to as Nooj, started pickling while he was still working for the now-shuttered Stella Sola. He ate at Catalan, another dearly departed restaurant, and was inspired by the pickling that Chris Shepherd was doing there to try his own hand at it.
"The coolest stuff I found was in really, really old cookbooks," Nooj says. "The Fannie Farmer cookbook from 1918 and stuff. They weren't like anything I found in the stores. So I started doing really small batches, and from there, we started scaling up."
Now, Nooj and his crew are selling pickles out of Goro & Gun and at the Sunday Sunday Sunday street festival downtown on Main the third Sunday of every month. Nooj will be there with a little table covered in mason jars, perhaps with a partner, perhaps solo, and as people stroll by heading from the live music to the vintage clothing, he'll politely ask if they want to try a pickle.
Photo courtesy Guerrilla Canning Company Nooj, right, and one of his partners, Joseph Sterling.
"At first they usually look confused," he says, "but most people will try them. And then even people who think they don't like pickles like them because they're so different."
Nooj says they started with cucumbers, as one does when beginning to pickle. From there they tweaked the recipes, adding just the right amount of herbs and spices to draw particular flavors from the brine. Now they're doing everything from radishes to grapes to quail eggs. Bread and butter pickles are their specialty, and a big seller because they don't contain high fructose corn syrup like many of the store-bought brands. They also continue to do traditional dill pickle spears "just cause people want them."
Guerrilla Canning Company looked into selling at larger outlets like Urban Harvest farmer's markets, but they found out that in order to do so, they'd need a Texas manufacturing license, which is very cost-prohibitive for the small company run out of the Goro & Gun kitchen. So for the time being, Guerrilla Canning Company is just fine remaining, well, guerrilla.
In spite of the popularity of canning and pickling among the "hipster" crowd, Nooj insists the company isn't comprised of skinny jean and fedora-wearing cooks.
"We just like the old-school recipes and the handcrafted nature of it," he says.
He does note that if you want to start pickling though, it's not that hard.
"Just try out different stuff," he says. "The most important thing is the brine. If you want a sweet pickle there's a brine for that. If you want a sour pickle, there's a brine for that, too. It's all trial and error, figuring out how much spice to add and how much different vegetables absorb the brine."
The main thing he likes about it, though--aside from eating the finished product--is that it's a useful hobby he can do with his friends.
"Pickling is fun," Nooj says. "It's something you can do with your buddies while drinking beer. And after a few beers, you've got a few gallons of pickles. It's as easy as that."
You can find Guerrilla Canning Company pickles at Goro & Gun or at the next Sunday Sunday Sunday street festival on the 300 block of Main on June 15.