Just Dill With It
By guest blogger Sheena of Sheena’s Pickles
I am an entrepreneur by nature. When I was 27, I began pickling—a hobby some might view as antiquated. However, my friend Victoria gave me a pickling kit for my birthday. The kit included a couple of jars, some pickling salt and a couple of recipes. At the time, I was working for the school district and I had every Friday off. Since most of my friends actually had to work during the day, I thought spending some time pickling might be a good way to use my time. It took me all day to complete a recipe. I didn’t have the proper tools to lift the jars out of the hot water, my sterilization and water bath technique was questionable, and overall, I didn’t know if my product would be good or… give someone botulism. Even so, after my first batch of pickled cucumbers, I decided to give them out as Christmas gifts. To my surprise, it was a hit! From that moment, I begin reading and researching the best practices and techniques for pickling and making my own fruit butters (a sweet spread made of fruit cooked slowly for about 10 hours, then lightly sweetened).
I love what I am doing, and I have slowly turned my hobby into a business. Sheena’s Pickles now makes an array of delicious pickles and jams. I also teach community classes and workshops on pickling. Using locally grown and seasonal products, I strive to make fun and innovative food with exciting flavor profiles. I also pay a lot of attention to the design and marketing of my product. The mascot for Sheena’s Pickles is Pete, a pickle who looks a little a bit like me. Pete has a slight gap between his front teeth, and he represents my fun and quirky personality, and my love for pickles.
It hasn’t been the easiest journey. I’ve encountered some disappointments along the way—particularly the lack of support Sheena’s Pickles has received thus far from organizations focused on supporting women entrepreneurs. But Austin and other businesses have also afforded me some truly unique opportunities. In fact, Ball® jar company included Sheena’s Pickles in their “Made from Here” series last year after learning about me through social media. I have also worked with organizations like Austin Learnshop and Dabble Austin, which allow teachers to share their skills with others in the community. These platforms are so fun because I’m allowed to meet new people and teach in some of the most unique venues in Austin. I also just completed my first chef demos at the local Texas Farmers’ Market, which was a great opportunity, presented to me by fellow pickle maker who lives in the city.
The opportunities that this city continues to provide me, reminds me of why I live in this city. As I begin to start business school at the University of Texas at Austin, I hope the information I gain will help to use Sheena’s Pickles as a platform to discuss food education and the importance of local and seasonal produce. The result will be that others become part of a community that believes in and supports the hard work, dedication, and innovation of the grower and maker of foods.
DIY Pickled Dill Carrots
Prep time: 10 minutes. Processing Time: 10 minutes. Brine yields about 5-6 pints.
4 cups of water
4 cups of white vinegar
¼ cup of pickling salt
1 tablespoon of pickling salt
1 tablespoon pickling spice Dill
1. Wash carrots and cut into rounds or sticks.
2. Start your water bath by placing jars in a pot and cover jars with water. Bring to a boil for 10
minutes. After 10 minutes turn temperate down to a simmer.
3. In a separate pot, heat vinegar, pickling salt, and pickling spice over medium heat. Brine is ready
once pickling salt has dissolved.
4. Fill jars with carrots and place one spring of dill on top. Pour brine over carrots leaving ¼ inch
5. Remove air bubbles from the jars. Do not use any metal knives to remove the air bubbles.
6. Heat lids in hot water to warm up the seal. Do not boil the lids. Simmer lids for 10 minutes
7. Wipe lid of jars and place lids on top and tighten with ring.
8. Place jars in boiling water with at least 2 inches of water covering the lids and process for 10
9. Remove jars from water and cool on countertop under a clean tea towel
10. Label jar with date. Leave jar to cool at room temperature.
11. Place jars in refrigerator or store at room temperature for up to a year.