The Real Dill is a well-known name in Colorado if you’re a pickle or Bloody Mary fan, but we are intrigued to find out what sets these delectable and mature cucumbers apart from the rest of the crop. We catch up with Lindsey Hornstein, community engagement and marketing manager at The Rill Dill, to better understand their pickling process and why doing it “just like grandma would do it in her kitchen” gives their unfermented pickles that extra pop.
The concept for The Real Dill aptly began around the dinner table when Justin Park, co-owner of The Real Dill, found himself sharing a meal with co-owner, Tyler DuBois, formerly of the sleek Denver restaurant, Colt & Gray. They discover that they both share the same ancient turned hipster hobby of pickling and almost seven years later, their flavorful pickles can be found in over 650 accounts in Colorado. Mainly in small, specialty food stores, as well as Whole Foods Market, every liquor store in the Rocky Mountain region and in 34 additional states.
Park chose to test their product by giving out jars of pickles at his wedding reception to a hugely positive response which led him to begin sales at local farmers markets. Unable to keep up with the high demand, Park and Bubois chose to quit their jobs and transition their side gig into an official business, launching The Real Dill in 2012.
“We pride ourselves in not reinventing the wheel,” says Hornstein. “We just take something good and make it better.”
And better, is a fair statement. The Real Dill produces their pickles in a Denver-based facility with a pickling process that dates back to the 1800’s. Using only “natural, whole, singular ingredients” and spices sourced from Savory Spice Shop, each and every cucumber is hand-cut and placed into a their unique, elongated vessels with a “very intentional” approach that purposefully faces the garnish outward in the jar.
“From start to finish, everything is made right here in Denver,” says Hornstein. “There’s no outsourcing. We’re 11 employees and seven guys that make the pickles. It’s a traditional family run company.”
The Real Dill says that their time-tested methods are also why their pickles can sit in the jar without spoiling. The pickles receive a water bath which preserves the cucumbers’ crisp texture, and although there are no preservatives, it’s not necessary to refrigerate them. The shelf life after opening the jar is an entire year but if the pickles are left unopened “they only get stronger sitting in the brine.”
“I’ve never encountered a pickle like it,” says Hornstein. “Our pickles are much crunchier than most and the presentation is different than other companies. We make everything by hand and hand-pack every single jar.”
The Real Dill currently carries six flavors with: Caraway Garlic Dills, Jalapeño Honey Dills, Habanero Horseradish Dills, Thai Chile Ginger, Spicy Caribbeans and Sweet Molasses Chips. The variation in their lineup is inspired by their travels abroad and a commitment to “a traditional take on classics but from a culinary approach.”
We sample their Caraway Garlic Dills which transitions a “regular dill pickle” into something more with it’s savory aromatics from both the intoxicating garlic and citrus-forward caraway components. The Habanero Horseradish Dills find the perfect balance with a cool crunch from the pickles (which we did refrigerate for temperature control, our preference) followed by a slow yet approachable burn.
They also manufacture limited quantities of Green Chile Hot Sauce and Creole Spiced Okra as well as their wildly popular Bloody Mary Mix, a brunch staple derived from the salt water brine used to make their pickles.
As we happily sip on their Bloody Mary mix, a product that we’re already very familiar with, we find that it delivers the same spice as the Habanero Horseradish Dills it’s inspired by, a bright, vegetal quality and an ideal consistency.
“Sustainability is really important to us so we decided to make a Bloody Mary mix with the cucumber water,” says Hornstein. “It was a trial thing that we never expected to take off and now it’s our best selling product.”
The Real Dill stands by their statement as a zero food waste company and composts all of their scraps from the production process. They have a strong relationship with Re:Vision, an organization dedicated to community development programs, who picks up their compost to aid home grown gardens for those who don’t have access to fresh foods. They also work with numerous local non-profits who provide services for families living in food deserts, which the USDA defines as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” Organizations such as The Growhaus, located in the largest food desert in North America, and Denver Food Rescue, who delivers produce by bicycle to people living in food desert communities, are both an integral part of their charitable partnership program.
“These are the people who suffer the most from health issues based on economic barriers,” says Hornstein.
Providing their customers, employees and philanthropic partners with the upmost support seems to be the bottom line for The Real Dill who takes great care in every angle of their business model. Their considerate and thoughtful execution shines through each and every jar of their flavorful, vibrant and hand-crafted cukes and in their commitment to the surrounding community.
“What we do is super unique and we have never compromised that facet of the business and we never will,” says Hornstein.”This is the integrity and the quality that we’re looking for.”
*Header image courtesy of The Real Dill