Pickle Like You Mean It
How to Pickle with Passion with Hattie Donley of Pickled by Hattie
Hattie Donley is busy mixing drinks. On this Thursday night, she is here for an art show at the Los Angeles County Store in Silver Lake where guests are patiently waiting at her pop-up pickle stand for a hand-crafted Bloody Mary. They are also getting the perfect cocktail complement in her signature Bloody Buddies, created expressly for the delectable drink.
In a city buzzing with the local, hand crafted and artisanal made, it can be easy to get jaded. But how cynical can one get with the pickle? The green cucumber is silly-looking and smile-inducing. At its best, in pickled form, the brine-fermented fruit is spicy and snappy. Two adjectives that are apropos for both Hattie and her pickles.
“I really have always loved pickles,” the Kansas native says. “When I was in college, we used to make these things called pickle-ritos which was [she laughs] a tortilla...and ranch dressing and a pickle spear and we would roll it up and it it and we thought it was amazing because we were in poor and in college.”
Armed with an M.F.A in Theatre, after college Hattie navigated the ins and outs of acting life. Her world changed when a gift of homemade pickles and a recipe torn from a G.Q. magazine sparked her mission to create the perfect pickle.
“I went out and started looking online, putting together recipes trying to figure out what I would like, what flavors I enjoyed...and then I just started messing around with it and making stuff. Making things spicy...what I was initially trying to duplicate is this place back in Kansas called Porubsky’s …It’s an old Russian deli that’s been there for years and years.”
A year of experimentation and enthusiastic taste testing by friends and family led Hattie to create her four signature pickles: Vampire Slayers, (classic garlic dill), Bloody Buddies (spicy cocktail veggies), BB’s (spicy and sweet bread and butter pickles) and Hattie’s Hotties (spicy dill pickles).
Hattie’s innate business sense, winning personality, and the striking packaging and marketing of her company have all helped her brand grow over the past few years. Regulars pick up jars at her farmer’s markets and people seek out her product at craft fairs. One family even sent her a picture of their new baby, also named Hattie posed with a jar of her spicy dill “Hattie’s Hotties”.
Her loyal band of “Pickleteers” includes her supportive husband Tony, an artist who helps run her farmer’s markets and assists with visual branding. But, perhaps more than anything else, for people who love pickles, it’s her focus on great taste that truly sets Hattie’s product apart. She works to create depth of flavor, putting the spices in at different stages of the pickling process.
Almost anything can be pickled Hattie says. It’s a healthy snack, and she notes athletes sometimes drink pickle juice as the electrolyte effect between vinegar and salt used in the brine helps with hydration. In addition, pickles are loaded with potassium and are known to ease cramping. A jar of pickles makes a lovely homemade gift--it’s something most people would appreciate but might not think to purchase themselves.
If you would like to give pickling a try, here is a simple dill recipe courtesy of Hattie along with some of her best practices for pickling:
What you will need to get started:
1) A canning pot--This can be easily ordered online. This will be the pot you seal the jars in. It should be large enough to hold several jars of pickles. Here is the pot Hattie uses.
2) A brine pot — This should be large and made from a non-reactive metal. Stainless Steel is the best. Do not use aluminum or copper.
3) Canning jars -Two piece Ball canning jars are of good quality and inexpensive for canning. They can be found at Smart and Final.
4) A tea steeper-Found at most grocery stores, speciality cooking stores, tea and coffee shops.
5) Kitchen gloves-Use for protection when dealing with hot water.
6) Water— 6 cups for the brine. Regular tap water will do as the boiling process of the brine purifies it enough for pickling. If you prefer to buy or make filtered water, it works equally as well.
7) Pickling Cucumbers--the essential ingredient! The amount you will need will depend on how many jars you will like to create. Hattie says “If you can find Kirby or Pickling Cucumbers use those. Most Farmer’s markets will have enough to do a small batch.” A 32 ounce jar will hold approximately 1 pound of cucumbers, or any veggie you are pickling. You can base the amount of jars you purchase off of that yield. If you are doing a smaller 16 ounce or half pint jar, then factor 1/2 pound of cucumbers, and so on. It is important that with whatever variety of cucumber you buy, they have not been wax treated. This will hinder the pickling process.
For this recipe we will use 6 pounds of cucumbers, requiring a dozen of the 16 ounce or half pint jars.
8) White vinegar— 6 cups for the brine. Champagne and apple are good types of vinegar to use for pickling. Don’t use balsamic vinegar. It’s tricky and can make for an unattractive presentation.
9) Spices-Here is where you can get creative. Hattie recommends the following spice mix to get started: coriander, mustard seed, black pepper, clove, fresh dill, dill seed and celery seed. You’ll only need about a tablespoon worth of spices total per jar.
10) Salt— 1 cup added to brine. Use Kosher salt instead of table salt as table salt is iodized and reacts poorly during the pickling process.
11) Calcium chloride—This can be found in the canning section of the grocery store. It is a stronger natural salt that aids in keeping your cucumbers crispy under the stress of the boiling brine that will be added. Add 1/8-1/4 teaspoon per jar.
12) Sugar—1/4 cup added to brine. This is optional and you can up the ratio if you are doing a sweet/spicy pickle like Hattie’s BB’s. You can also try honey, agave or brown sugar.
Pickling Cucumber Directions
Step 1: Sanitize your jars, washing all of them thoroughly with soap and hot water. Fill your canning pot ¾ of the way with hot water. Place on the stove and turn the heat to high. Lower each jar into the pot using the tongs provided in the kit. Be careful the water will splash as you lower the jar and it fills with water. Then place your lids in the pot as well. Just let them float to the bottom. Once the water has reached boiling, set a timer for 10 min. When the timer is up, remove the jars and set them aside. They are now sanitized and ready for use. You can use a sanitizing option on your dishwasher if you have one.
Step 2: Wash and cut cucumbers. You can cut lengthwise and make sure to cut off the blossom end (opposite the stem end) of the cucumber. For a sweet sandwich pickle cut horizontally.
Step 3: Prep your jars with your spice mix. Again, here’s where you can get creative, but if it’s your first time pickling you can stick to some of the spices Hattie listed above. After the spices have been added, stuff the jars tightly with your cucumbers.
Step 4: The all important pickle brine consists of water, vinegar, salt and sugar. Hattie also likes to add spice to the brine mix using a tea steeper. This will add flavor but keep the brine clean. To your non-reactive brine pot add 6 cups water, 6 cups vinegar, 1 cup Kosher Salt, 1/4 cup sugar and your pouch of spices. Bring the brine to a full rolling boil.
Step 5: Put on your kitchen gloves and use a measuring cup to dip into the boiling brine. Slowly fill each jar with the brine, careful to stop within a quarter of an inch from the lip.
Step 6: Place the lids on the jars and tighten to hand tight. Do not over tighten. This will make your lids buckle. Some pickle recipes allow for refrigeration immediately after, Hattie seals her pickle jars- which is a great step to lock in flavor and sterilize. Bring water to a rolling boil and lower the jars with a set of tongs into your canning pot. You must then wait until your water reaches the boiling point again. Start your timer and let the jars boil for ten minutes.
Step 7: Remove jars with tongs. Place in an open area where they can cool quickly. In a few hours, you will hear a satisfying pop as each jar completes it’s seal. Once the jars cool, place in any cool, dry spot until you are ready to share, give away as a gift, or open and enjoy. Make sure to refrigerate your pickle jar after opening. That is of course, assuming you haven’t eaten them all up in one sitting!
Bonus recipe! Hattie’s Bloody Mary:
Combine Zing Zang and Tabasco Bloody Mary mix paired with Bombay Sapphire gin (4 ounces of mix and 2 ounces of gin) in a tall pitcher. Add garlic salt, celery salt, Worcestershire, horseradish, Old Bay seasoning along with salt and pepper. If desired, add the hot sauce of your choice. Stir with a cocktail stirrer between 8 and 12 seconds, double strain and pour into a tall pint glass. Garnish with Bloody Buddy cocktail veggies.
Pickled by Hattie is expanding its Farmer’s Market locations going into the summer. Hattie’s entire lineup of pickles can be found in hotspot retail outfits like the Sunset Beer Company and the Los Angeles County Store, while her Bloody Buddies are used in cocktails at El Cid and her spicy BB’s enhance the lauded grilled cheese sandwiches at Rock and Reilly’s Irish Pub. She recently appeared at Artisanal L.A. and will be at Unique L.A. this coming May 9th and 10th.
Pickled by Hattie’s current Farmer’s Markets:
Hollywood Farmer’s Market
“It’s the second biggest Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles, so it’s really really great to be there,” Hattie says about the Hollywood Farmer’s market.
Sundays from 8:00am-1:00pm
Cook’s Garden Venice
Hattie’s new market is in “a little garden...specifically for restaurants.”
Sunday’s from 10:00am-3:00pm
Playa Vista Farmer’s Market
Saturday’s from 9:00am-2:00pm
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