Once again, Barb Crawford’s baby dill pickles took first place at the Brown County Fair last week.
She’s won that honor so many times, she said she’s lost count.
With late July and early August being peak pickling season, Crawford’s home north of Aberdeen is littered with stacks of pickle jars. Her granddaughters, Kylie and Hadley Herman, help make labels, signifying the contents of the mason jars are Crawford Dill Pickles.
You can find Crawford’s dills at the Bumpy Road Ranch tent at the Aberdeen Farmers Market every Thursday, until the supply for the year is gone. Crawford has been selling them there for about three years.
But she’s been making the pickles for many, many more years, at least since her oldest daughter, Amy, was in 4-H Club.
Pickling was something her grandma did, but not her mom, Crawford said.
“My mom’s mom that lived in Mott (N.D.) canned everything,” Crawford said. “Meat and all the garden produce.”
Crawford got the canning jars and equipment, and still uses her grandma’s jars — those are the pickles the Crawfords keep for themselves.
Her work schedule also helps — a full-time nurse, she works 12-hour shifts three days each week, leaving four days to schedule pickling.
Modern appliances make the process easier, Crawford said. She sanitizes the jars in the dishwasher.
Once the jars are sanitized, a clove of garlic and a sprig of dill makes their way in. Her granddaughters help peel the garlic, sitting in the dining room around a round oak table.
“When I was a kid growing up in Rapid City, my grandparents after they retired, on my dad’s side, made potato salad in their house and sold it to grocery stores,” Crawford said. “My grandfather used to put newspapers out and peel eggs and potatoes, and I used to always go over there and help him peel and make potato salad.”
The cucumbers, dill and garlic all come from other growers — Bumpy Road Ranch raises chickens, turkeys and pigs.
After the garlic and dill come the cukes, followed by the brine, a lid and a ring. And into a water bath on stove go seven quart jars.
She packs as many little cucumbers as she can into each jar. She said she doesn’t want anyone to feel flimflammed.
“I’m a people pleaser, so I like that so many people like it,” Crawford said.
The end result is a crisp, bright pickle. There’s no added coloring, so there’s no neon green, they’re just slightly darker than they were in their cucumber days.
Once the jars come out of the water bath, they no longer contain cucumbers, the transformation to pickle is complete.
The longer they’re left in the brine, the more flavor develops, which is especially true when a jalapeño is added to the mix — creating spicy pickles.
Each year, Crawford cans a few hundred quart jars — last year it was nearly 500. Not only are they a delicious snack, the pickles make a great addition to other dishes.
“We put them in potato salad, we use the brine in potato salad,” Crawford said.
If you have a great recipe or story idea, contact columnist Katherine Grandstrand at 605-622-2310, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @kgrandstrandAAN on Twitter.