Unpicking the secret to great pickles with Nice Pickles

The collapse of the Australian online game business in the late 2000s left developer Robbie Mather in a pickle. Now, he makes them.

The gaming business’s downturn left a variety of builders questioning what their subsequent transfer can be. Ryan Davidson and Fil Kemp pursued their love of craft beer and based Little Bang brewery. For Mather, who labored alongside them at Ratbag Games and Krome Studios, adopted a barely totally different path.

After working as an internet site developer, he joined the State Theatre Company as their graphic designer. It didn’t take lengthy, nevertheless, earlier than he started to examine his office with that of his former colleagues. “I was just behind a computer continually and I needed an outlet,” he says. One means to channel that creativity was to convey the two worlds collectively for the Dark Arts collaboration, a chocolate stout that was launched to accompany final yr’s Creditors.

But craft beer was not what Mather needed to spend his days making. Instead, he had his sights set on beginning a meals model. To that finish, he spent a while in Japan with his pal Ichiro Inoue (who runs Little Tokyo in the Central Market Arcade) and tried his hand at making miso. “We had a successful batch and it tasted incredible,” he recollects, “but the dangers of fermented rice were a little off-putting… if you fuck it up, you could kill someone.”

Jerk Beans are Mather’s signature pickled product (Photo: Ross McNaughtan)

It was whereas he was on a video chat with his spouse Lucy Guster that he lastly discovered the proper product. She was in New York at the time and referred to as him from a store called Pickle Boys, which was filled with “barrels of really interesting products like pickled pineapple and celery and Lucy was describing it all to me as she sampled the pickles. I spoke to the guys doing the pickling and asked them about their process, fortunately they were really open and encouraging… So I thought ‘I want to do that, it’s cool, I’ll give that a crack’.” And like that, Nice Pickles was born.

Say the phrase “pickle”, and most of the people image a smallish cucumber, however it’s a course of that has been round for hundreds of years and could be utilized to any vegetable (or plant) by immersing it in vinegar or brine. The acidity of vinegar helps kill most micro organism, whereas a saline answer encourages fermentation and produces micro organism which are good for the intestine. Though initially a way of preserving meals that may in any other case go dangerous, it may also be used to add all types of scrumptious flavours and Mather was glad to prioritise flavour when he opted for the vinegar technique.

The subsequent choice was what vegetable to work with. Traditional pickling cucumbers will not be extensively grown in Australia, and he found that “Lebanese cucumbers just go soggy.” Beans, on the different hand, are extensively out there, protect their crunch and may simply work as a snack, garnish or sandwich filling.

Flavour-wise, he “thought about the Australian pickle market and the type of food that pickle fans gravitate towards which tends to be BBQ and food with a lot of heat.” With somewhat Caribbean inspiration, he discovered his first product: Jerk Beans. Since launching in 2017, he’s despatched inventory to a variety of suppliers, from butchers and smallgoods shops to eating places like Africola and bars together with Melbourne’s Bar Tini.

Mather (proper) with his Little Bang comrades Fil Kemp and Ryan Davidson (Photo: Ross McNaughtan)

Each jar accommodates an answer of apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, habanero, allspice, pepper and bay leaf. The result’s a tangy, barely spicy bean that has a really satisfying crunch when eaten alone or propped up in a bloody mary. Once they’re gone, the pickle brine is a wonderful hangover tonic – an software which will properly show helpful when he strikes his manufacturing into Little Bang’s Stepney house at the finish of March.

Because they’re designed to maintain for a very long time – Mather recommends a yr to be on the protected aspect however provides that “they would keep longer” – it’s important to put together the jars rigorously. To that finish, he cleans every jar and heats it to kill micro organism earlier than including the spices, beans and scorching liquid then shortly sealing it. The brine may be heated to over 100 levels earlier than it boils, so it flash cooks the beans in addition to killing micro organism. Then he completes the course of through the use of the “inversion method”, which is a flowery time period for turning the jar the wrong way up to kill any micro organism that may be on the lid. After that, it’s merely a matter of ready. Mather rotates the jars as soon as every week, and it takes a few month earlier than they obtain the proper flavour and consistency.

The endurance required in pickling is one in every of the key appeals for Mather. “It’s kind of beautiful, you get this product and you can’t touch it for a while… I’ve worked with a lot of tech start-ups and I became tired of the need for fast money and an exit strategy. I was really looking for the opportunity to take things slowly and be in control of what I’m releasing.”

Nice Pickles

Header picture:
Ross McNaughtan

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