Creating a Monster

Passion for Polish pickles leads to a new cottage industry startup
Photographs by Paul Hitz

The members of the close-knit Ostrowski family of Grosse Pointe Park just love Polish dill pickles. “My brother is an even bigger fiend than I am,” says Matthew Ostrowski, whose hobby of making the tangy pickles has turned into a cottage industry business.

It was his brother, Jon, who got him started when he gave Matthew a canning kit for Christmas in 2006. Little did Jon know what a monster he was creating — a Pickle Monster, that is.

Matthew began experimenting with a few pickle recipes and techniques in the spring of 2007, modifying his grandmother’s recipe to make them “how I thought a pickle should taste.”

As an engineer, he took into consideration the science behind pickling. “Science is the key to my pickles,” he says. “I have been a science dork since I was a little kid and am a manufacturing engineer today, too. The big deal with my pickles is I moved the brine to an unorthodox ratio, and process my pickles with some extra care — under a very controlled process. This, I believe, makes my pickles stand out.” That’s about all he’ll say to protect his secret recipe.

Ostrowski says it took him four or five batches to get the desired flavor. “In the pickle world, that is six or seven months,” he says. Once he got the recipe where he wanted it, he started making pickles for friends and family, and their reaction told him he should take it further.

“He has a real passion for cooking,” says his longtime friend Adi Kokoshi, who uses cheese-stuffed Pickle Monster pickle chunks in the Bloody Marys at his Park Grill in Grosse Pointe Park, where Andy Ostrowski, Matthew’s younger brother, is a bartender.

Kokoshi was among those who urged Matthew to incorporate, and so he did, in 2012, as Pickle Monster LLC.

Since then, jars with his cartoon-style Pickle Monster label — it’s named after a favorite cookie-loving Sesame Street character — have been catching the eye and the palate at farmers markets, festivals, and special events including the Gold Cup races.

And that’s just the start. While Ostrowski isn’t exactly trying to put Vlasic out of business, his pickles should be more widely available soon.

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