CRYSTAL LAKE – Matt and Madison Sommerfield taste-tested a lot of nasty pickles over six months’ worth of experimentation.
Working from home, Matt Sommerfield would watch Food Network on his lunch breaks – Sommerfield jokingly air quotes “lunch break” – and after an episode of “Alton Brown’s Good Eats,” he decided to take on the pickle challenge.
After trying Brown’s recipe, Sommerfield started experimenting.
“I experimented a little bit more, added this, added that, just kind of messed around for six months, doing ratios of salt to vinegar and garlic, and balancing the garlic with the onion,” he said.
The result was their garlic dill recipe, which they gave away as Christmas presents and brought to cookouts and their Christian Fellowship Church annual retreats.
The pickles were so popular with friends and family, that when Matt Sommerfield was laid off in August 2011, the Crystal Lake couple decided to turn it into a business.
The first jar took forever, Madison Sommerfield said.
“We were waiting on the testing,” she said. “We were waiting on getting everything together for the label so it was up to the FDA standards. ... Then waiting for jars to come in on the big truckload to the manufacturer. Waiting for him to have time in his process to set up a small batch on his manufacturing line.”
It took nearly a year from deciding to open the business to getting the jars going, Matt Sommerfield said.
As Sommerfield’s rolls out its second recipe – spicy came out a week ago and sweet is the works, hopefully to be out before the end of the year – the process hasn’t been nearly as arduous, Matt Sommerfield said.
“It’s more about developing the new product now and then getting it tested,” he said.
The small pickle company also has two additional employees, Skip Haskins, who handles the financial side of things, and Terry Edwards, a professional chef.
The Sommerfields knew both from their church.
Edwards is working on a line of specialty pickles, and once the company builds up its brand and customer loyalty, Matt Sommerfield would like to see them expand into other pickled products, such as green beans, asparagus and a vegetable medley.
The pickles are made using raw vegetables and contain no artificial flavorings or additives.
“Each jar might be a little bit different because the cucumber might be more watery or the garlic might be stronger this time,” Matt Sommerfield said. “It’s just food. That’s the way food is.”
The pickles aren’t the Sommerfields’ only project or job.
Madison Sommerfield is an interior designer, and Matt Sommerfield, educated as a graphic designer, is Christian Fellowship’s operations director.
An actor and comedian, he ran a clean comedy club for a summer and is working on his second film.
“We know that pickles are ridiculous,” Madison Sommerfield said. “It’s not like we don’t get it. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
A jar of Sommerfield’s pickles cost $7 at the Downtown Crystal Lake Farmers Market. They’re also available in Lake in the Hills at Butcher on the Block and in Crystal Lake at Crystal Lake Health Foods, Kalck’s Butcher Shop, The HoneyBaked Ham Company and Joseph’s Marketplace.
They’re also served at Duke’s Alehouse & Kitchen in Crystal Lake and Durty Nellie’s in Palatine.
For information, go to sommerfieldspickles.com or call 815-451-1239.