Now there is more than one pickle company in Pittsburgh. Right down to their black and gold labels and sweet and salty recipe, Pittsburgh Pickle Company pickles are quickly becoming a “burgh thing,” to the delight of BeerHive bar and restaurant owners and brothers, John and Will Patterson and Joey Robl.
Far surpassing Peter Piper’s peck, they have just passed their mark of 2,000 jars sold, after launching sales of their restaurant staple in September.
“We wanted to do a style of pickle that is a Pittsburgh style. New York has their own, why not Pittsburgh?” says John Patterson, a former video producer. His brothers are former accountants.
After researching recipes and plenty of trial and error, they started garnishing meals with the pickles at their Strip District establishment. Customers began asking where they could purchase their own jar of the all natural green spears.
Once becoming an FDA certified acidified food processor, Patterson shipped his pickles to a testing lab at the University of Nebraska to gain FDA approval of their manufacturing process—where details like acidic numbers and water activity were considered. Microbac Laboratories, Inc. in Warrendale established nutritional facts and shelf life.
“There’s a lot of science involved,” notes Patterson.
Not really a dill or a sweet variety, but rather a mix of both, Patterson says the pickles are completely natural—no “chemical-laced salt sticks” here, the company’s web site states.
The grandsons and nephews of Army chefs, these brothers know their way around a kitchen. And it’s a good thing—the three make the pickles themselves in the kitchen of the Verona United Methodist Church, a facility that has been certified by the Allegheny County Health Department and Pennsylvania Agricultural Department.
Twice a month, they clean and cut by hand 10 bushels of cucumbers—conveniently purchased from the Strip’s produce companies—and turn them into 500 24-ounce jars to make one “batch,” says Patterson.
The pickles are available for purchase at the BeerHive for $6 and next year the goal is to get them onto store shelves. With out-of-town requests increasing, the brothers are currently examining shipping options.
On November 15, the start-up celebrated National Pickle Day with neighbors at the Senator John Heinz History Center, along with Pittsburgh pickle giant, H.J. Heinz, providing samples to museum visitors.
“They were fun to work with, and the visitors actually loved them,” says Ned Schano, communications director of the History Center.
And what about that other pickle company (which, by the way, now manufactures its pickles in Holland, MI)?
“The heritage of pickle manufacturing dates back to the 1800s in Pittsburgh, and we are glad to see the legacy continuing,” says Molly White, brand manager for H.J. Heinz Company.
Patterson says there is no real “competitive mindset.”
“It’s like we are paying homage to all the hard work they did and keeping that tradition alive by creating a fine product and having it made in Pittsburgh,” says Patterson.