When it comes to pickles, I’m a huge brand loyalist to Claussen. Growing up we always had a big jar stuffed into the fridge, and whether it was a morning grab and go, or at night with sliced cheese and crackers, the Claussen Kosher Dill pickle was my prominent pick for snacking success. They were always cold, crisp, and garlicky – a supreme pickle atop the refrigerated pickled product kingdom that housed inferior brands such as Vlassic (the worst pickle ever). As I grew up, I started to explore various applications for the pickle, starting with enjoying them deep fried in spear form during my winter stays on Mackinac Island or every Sunday brunch dunked into my Bloody Mary. Yes, I lived my years ignorantly ridding the Claussen train of pickled pleasure, until a few years back when my passion for brined cucumbers was derailed by Wende Faulk and her homemade PickleLuv™ brand pickles.
The first time I received a jar of Wende’s pickles was out of thanks for some really awesome overly kind neighbor-esq deed I did . . . or it was just out of the pure generosity of Wende’s heart. The root of her endeavor is planted within her Southern heritage and the time she spent with her Aunt Toby when she was a wee one down in North Carolina. From Wende’s childhood on up, she remembers her aunt would throw “pickling parties”. On the front end, it was a great way for Aunt Toby to get a few helping hands on the growing demand and quantity of her pickles, but on the backend— the heart and soul behind it all, was the chance for family and friends to drink, eat, chat, and catch up, every summer, when life would start to get a little hot and hectic. The “pickling parties” were a means to re-connect with the people you love, and at the end of the operation, everyone could walk away with a jar of their own. Wende held that southern tradition and recipe close to her heart, and three years ago she decided to take the vinegary plunge on her own.
Today the pickle parties she throws at her house retain their southern heritage, and manage to melt in plenty of West Chester flavor. Aside from the Heinz vinegar that she swears by, everything else is locally sourced or grown herself. Dill and cucumbers sprout from her personal garden, peppers, string beans, and garlic come from nearby grower’s markets, and helping hands from neighbors, have all become part of the new equation that makes a PickleLuv™ pickle so unique. And they’re not only unique, they are the best damn pickle I’ve ever snacked on . . . period. They’ve got a cold, crisp snap so strong they make Claussen’s feel like rubber, the salty brine and garlic mildly infuse themselves into the cucumber like a delicate tea steeping, and thick slices of Jalapeño peppers leave a lingering heat that doesn’t let you forget about what you just ate. It’s a medley of Mason jars that contain, what I’m convinced is a rendition of heaven . . . if it was pickled.
30 jars pack her fridge today, most containing cucumbers, a few housing various new items to her repertoire like pickled green beans, cherry peppers, and a few sprinklings of a new additive, dill seed. All this effort is for, as Wende so southern charmingly puts it, “An experiment in gastronomy, love, flavor, gardening, and creativity.” She has transcended history’s purpose of pickling for preservation purposes, put it in a glass jar with family heritage and tradition, and poured in the perfect balance of West Chester briny love.
Wende’s pickles are not for public sale, but if you follow and donate to her constant pursuit of Dravet Syndrome Research. . . you just might find a jar or two on your stoop one day.