2011 was the year of Alabama music, and 2012 is the year of Alabama food. Several months ago I wrote about two phenomenal products unique to Alabama: Belle Chevre artisanal goat cheese and Sister Schubert rolls, so I thought I would kick off the year of Alabama food with a blog about my favorite pickles.
The best of college football is not all that south and the state of Alabama has to offer. Tucked away in the tiny town of Dadeville, Alabama, in Tallapoosa County in east central Alabama is a factory that makes the best sweet and spicy pickles you have ever put in your mouth. They are called Wickles Pickles, and if you have not tasted these scrumptious pickles, you have no idea what you are missing.
They are, as the label on the jar states, "wickedly delicious"---spicy, tangy, sweet, and fiery all at the same time. And Wickles does not just make pickles, they make seven other wickedly divine products: Wickles Pickle Relish, Wicked Okra (a favorite in the south and especially good in a Bloody Mary), W's Hoagie and Sub relish (this one is wickedly red), Wicked Pepper Rings, and Wicked Pepper Strips. I am addicted to them all.
A few weeks ago a friend invited me over to share some home smoked pork barbecue. I prepared for myself an artisan barbecue sandwich piled high with succulent pulled roast pork, vinegar based slaw, a touch of mustard, white barbecue sauce (a mayonnaise based sauce made famous by Bob Gibson's in Decatur, AL), a handful of arugula, and the wickedly spicy Wickles Pickles. It was literally finger licking good.
Southern Living has featured Wickles pickles in their Artisan Food Gifts section and also offers numerous ways to use Wickles in dishes from their Southern Living kitchens.
Shannon Sliter Satterwhite of Southern Living "Food" has this to say about Wickles Pickles: "Not too long ago, I introduced the Foods staff to my favorite peppery pickles and pickle relish: Wickles. Confident that my persnickety colleagues would find them as irresistible as I do, I passed around the pickled treats. As I had anticipated, the verdict was unanimous--the finicky Foods folks were crazy for Wickles! Recipe Development Director Mary Allen Perry loved them so much that she used Wickles in deviled eggs and ham sandwiches for taste testing the next day, and Assistant Foods Editor Kate Nicholson served the relish at her weekend cookout." Satterwhite adds, "Of course, I can't resist eating the 'wickedly delicious' pickles straight from the jar!" As for me, I love them as an appetizer, especially with kettle cooked potato chips."
Trey and Will Sims of Dadeville, Alabama, distribute Wickles--a 70-year-old secret family recipe--to specialty food stores and select retail chains across the country. The relish is wonderful in salads and sandwich spreads as well as deviled eggs, or you can use it as a topping to spice up any dish from vegetables to fish. I eat Wickles with almost everything. I really love the pickles on the side with a grilled cheese sandwich or quesadilla, and, of course, I use the okra as a garnish in a Bloody Mary. The pickles are also awesome with Belle Chevre cheese.
Emeril's in New Orleans piles Wickles Pickles on the signature sirloin burger along with short-rib jam and coleslaw. Paula Deen, queen of Savannah chefs, makes She Deviled Eggs using Wickles relish. Here is a truncated version of her recipe. Halve 6 eggs lengthwise.Remove yolks and place in a medium mixing bowl. Mash yolks with a fork and stir in Philadelphia Cream Cheese Whipped with Chives, mayonnaise, spicy mustard, Wickles Pickle Relish and hot sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.
Wickles Pickles are gluten free, use no high fructose corn syrup, and they are also kosher. You can find them in most groceries stores in the south or you can order them directly from the website. I even found them at Fred's. Wickles Pickles also make great gifts. You can order by the jar or by the case (12 jars to a case). Try them. I "gar--run--tee" (as Cajun chef Justin WIlson used to say) you'll like them.
----Penne J. Laubenthal
Further exploration on Swampland of Alabama Food
Belle Chevre Alabama's Artisanal Goat Cheese --"You Can Taste the Love"