Making a business one ton of pickles at a time

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Shai Tzabari started working on his pickles at 5:00 a.m.

He works with military precision, with the hard edge from years serving in one of the world's most elite armed forces.

"I was born in Israel," he said. "I served in the IDF for six years and got lots of discipline from the military."

He moved to America, and started a job in construction, but that wasn't where his heart was.

This hard nosed military man discovered a soft side, and a new passion, when his wife started having cravings.

"My wife was pregnant, and I started making pickles for her,then all of a sudden other people started liking them and loving them too," he said.

It was a pickle recipe he learned from another family matriarch, his grandmother.

"She would pickle one jar at a time, and the whole house would be filled with wonderful smells," he remembered.

So he made the jar for his wife.

But with friends and family wanting some of his delicious pickles too, he went to work on a case.

He quickly found that wasn't going to be enough either.

"A case is about 40 pounds," he said. "Today, we do it one ton at a time."

So he started his business "Olive My Pickle," and has set up shop in downtown Jacksonville.

And pickling one ton of cucumbers is why he and one of his employees, Austin Pool, were up so early.

They started the day with 2000 pounds of cucumbers that had been picked from a north Florida farm less than 24 hours before.

But through military diligence, the 12 feet tall pile of cucumbers had been whittled down to knee high by noon.

"Slowly," he said of the work. "But, tick, tick, tick, we have taken it down."

Tzabari and Pool inspect each cucumber individually.

Thousands and thousands of cucumbers, one at a time, either get put into one of the 5 gallon pickling bins, or get tossed into a can for composting.

Tzabari then tops each bin of pickles with his grandmother's secret brine recipe.

Among other spices it had a mixture of garlic, dill, kosher salt, and then filtered water.

"We don't use any sugar or vinegar, this is all natural," he said.

The pickles are then moved to his fermenting room, where he has the temperature around 70 degrees with zero humidity.

From there it takes 7-10 days, he says, for the pickles to be perfect.

"We babe them in here," he said. "Then they get all bubbly and happy."

He's a military man, with a soft side for pickles.

But before he gets too mushy, he's back to work.

He does have a ton of cucumbers to get into bins, something he says he was raised to do.

"There's no greater job in the world than to do what you love and make others happy and healthy."

You can click here to learn more about Olive My Pickle, and to see a schedule of the Farmer's Markets he'll be selling his products.


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