From pop-ups and flea markets to exhibitions and home-based enterprises, Mumbai’s DIY and indie food culture is booming. Riding the crest of this wave is a new set of entrepreneurs specializing in home-made pickles.

Catering to a generation of self-confessed gourmands and foodies who did not pick up the pickling tradition from their mothers and grandmothers, these new brands are determined to make preserving and selling achaar (pickles) from home hip and exciting. All of them make small batches without preservatives.

Vintage, like wine

Pinak Shah and Ishita Mehta handing out samples at an exhibition . Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

In April 2012, Shah, along with his mother-in-law and wife Ishita Mehta, launched Goosebumpspickles.com, an e-commerce website that allows shoppers to customize pickles by mixing and matching ingredients. “We’re quite literally in the business of packaging an old wine in a new bottle," he says.

Fire and flavour: The website both amused and delighted customers with its clean and slick user-interface loaded with beautiful and rustic photographs of the pickles. Many friends remarked on its cool resemblance to the Apple website.

Though the traditional pickles of mango, lemon, chilli, ginger and vegetables based on the Mehtas’ ancestral recipes do very well, Shah says the website’s best-seller is an olive and jalapeño pickle in a red chilli paste. In May, the company went one step further by introducing their “vintage" (one-year-old) range of pickles, including the gol keri (mango-jaggery) pickle. “By launching our vintages, I really feel like we will be able to market our pickles like the Scots sell their prized whiskey," says Shah.

Transfer trail

Prep time: Barnee, a two-month-old brand in Mumbai, has a backstory similar to Goosebumps’. Like Shah, Ruta Karve Misra managed to convince her mother-in-law Vandana Misra to monetize her pickling habit just a few months after marrying into the family. Vandana, a 55-year-old, high-school English teacher, didn’t need any coaxing.

In fact, Vandana says, Barnee isn’t her first venture in the pickles business either. “I’ve been making pickles for the past 20 years and, about 12 years ago, I even participated in an exhibition and sold my achaars as Vandy’s Pickles," she says.

Fire and flavour: Vandana, who grew up in Kanpur and specializes in traditional Khatri, Punjabi and north Indian pickles made in mustard oil, also makes a delicious Mangalorean vadu mangai (with baby mangoes) and Ad’Bhut’ Aam, mangoes spiked with bhut jolokia chillies sourced from Guwahati. Owing to her husband’s government job, Vandana has travelled to, and lived in, several places. She says she picked up cooking tips and tricks along the way and hopes to introduce pickles from all the places she’s lived in so far, including Bangalore, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Vadodara.

Ruta, a trained pastry chef and MBA graduate, says that once they roll out pickles from Vandana’s and her family’s repertoire, they will begin to crowdsource recipes for the brand. “Everyone in India claims their nani or dadi’s achaar is the best," says Ruta. “Barnee will be a forum to preserve pickle recipes by other moms and grandmoms."

Click here to order from Barnee.Pickles are priced at 150-550 for 200g jars.

Meat in a bottle

Celine and Joel Cardoza making fish pickle. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
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