Belinda "The Pickle Lady" Powell Buys Her Pickles at Costco

belindaspickles.jpg
Kelly Green

Belinda Powell has been around pickles for almost as long as she can remember; she learned a special family recipe from her mother and grandmother at a very young age.

In fact, when her grandmother died, she left about 30 family pickling recipes, which Powell gladly snatched up.

But oddly, Powell -- the self-proclaimed Pickle Lady of Phoenix -- has actually never pickled anything (successfully) in her life. After two slimy, mushy attempts, Powell tells us she decided that it just wasn't for her.

So how does Powell produce her pickles, a Phoenix farmers' market staple, and maintain her title?

With a little help from Costco, she admits.

What kind of a pickle is this? Find out after the jump.

As she explains, to gear up for a market, Powell purchases gallons of Vlasic Kosher Dill Pickles at Costco, dumps the juice, adds sugar, vinegar and seeds, then shakes until the sugar dissolves. Seven days later they're ready to sell. This is actually more of a marinating process than pickling, Powell points out, since the pickles are already, well, pickled.

Vlasic, which is owned by New Jersey-based Pinnacle Foods, has a 500,000-square foot pickle plant located in Michigan -- hardly invoking that home-grown feeling you expect from a farmers' market. But Powell maintains that she's more than happy to share the method to her briny madness with customers.

"I tell everybody up front how I do it," she says. "I say it 50 times a day and tell anybody that wants to hear it, that's how I make them. I've never told anybody otherwise."

"People ask, 'Do you grow your own cucumbers?' Absolutely not. If you do it right, dilling pickles take a huge amount of time," she says.

Time and an inclination that Powell, who has been churning out her pickles for more than 30 years, simply doesn't have.

"I have no desire [to pickle] because this has turned out to be one of those silly things that grew and grew," she says. "And I don't really like dill pickles, and it's hard for me to make something I don't like."

She sells her jars at the Phoenix Public Market where, although it's not a strict requirement, vendors are strongly encouraged to have a majority of their product grown or produced locally, says Cindy Gentry, who heads Community Food Connections, the non-profit that organizes the market.

Gentry, who is well aware of the process Powell uses to make her pickles, says that although it would be ideal if vendors could maintain a product that contains a majority of local ingredients, sometimes that just isn't the most feasible way to run a small business.

"We encourage an engagement with local growers," Gentry says. "But we don't want to discourage the growth of their business for lack of that. And such is the case with many vendors."

But locavores be damned, it is hard to not like any one of the three varieties of Powell's pickles: regular, sweet, or a surprisingly delicious spicy version of the latter, where each jar is packed with jalapenos and a Fresno pepper.

And when you look at the number of jars she sells between her stint at the markets and sales from her home, it is evident that she is doing something right.

"I'm selling 65 to 70 jars every week at the farmers' market and another couple of cases out of my house," Powell says. "I've done this forever, it works, I make good money -- and every day I think, thank you grandma."

You can find Belinda's Pickles on the shelves at the Downtown Phoenix Public Market, or meet The Pickle Lady herself at the open-air market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in downtown Phoenix.



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16 comments
skow1az2
skow1az2

I love mustard pickles that I was introduced to in the state of Maine.  I like to make them using 20 lbs of pickling cucumbers in 3 glass containers.

I have not been able to find the cucumbers in that quantity lately.

If anyone knows of where I can find them I would appreciate a reply.

Thanks, Dave.

E Mcgarry
E Mcgarry

I received a jar of pickles as a gift over the holidays .Itought they were outstanding delighted in Boston

Justingaudet
Justingaudet

I've met the pickle lady a few times(keep in mind I'm from Boston and used to the extremely rude vendors at Haymarket so I'm not just being sensitive). On top of being extremely short and rude to myself and my girlfriend when asking her questions, now I find out her radically priced pickles are just Costco bought Vlasics. There is another pickle guy at Phoenix Public Market (Ican't recall his company name but I think it's Pickled Perfection) who ACTUALLY pickles things and they taste superior in my book anyways.

T.
T.

This is B.S. If you want a real pickle. Something that isnt an imitation, I suggest you try the other pickle guys at the Downtown Phoenix market. Those guys are doing it all on their own and make it weekly. She is a fraud! Pickled Perfection is way better and a legitamate operation. Glad this article was written so we all know the truth. I wonder what Vlasic would have to say about this!

Krista Barnes
Krista Barnes

She is full of it - she has told me several times it is an old family recipe, the market should not allow this. Try the other pickle guys at the market, pickle perfection, they make their own for sure and there is no comparison!! She's a fraud.

artemus
artemus

EFFIN Disgraceful!! Making pickles is no huge process, especially if granny had her shit together. Blatant ripoff of any self respecting scratch cook. This woman should be ashamed.

Nickelsalsa
Nickelsalsa

I buy her pickles, and then use the juice for other, cheap pickles to 'marinade' in...even told her so & she laughed and said that was the smart thing to do. So she doesn't do the dilling, doesn't make her marinade any less of a family recipe. Also you can't be mad she didn't tell you if you didn't ask; if you tasted her awesome pickle and immediately purchased some, that's on you for not asking all the 'right' questions.

I j
I j

I am very sorry, but the pickle lady is in a pickle with me. In the past, I have purchased her pickles. She never, ever once told me where or how she truly gets them. What she did say is, it was a recipe that has been in her family for years and that's how she makes them.

derrick cavey
derrick cavey

Great idea, i should have thought of it. Hats off to her.

globalparadox
globalparadox

Her sweet pickles are a staple in my frig. Good stuff. Consistent. I'm glad they are available.

Joe
Joe

Seems unfair to the many local growers and artisan food vendors who work their butts off to sell at Farmers Markets with a genuine product. Seems wrong.

Shane Kennedy
Shane Kennedy

Thank you Grandma? I highly doubt her Grandmas recipe involved Vlasic...and a week isn't much time to counteract the pickling that Vlasic does.....but, whatever...It's like sampling, right?

sarabear
sarabear

didn't tell me.... she blatantly lied when she told me that it was a secret family recipe.

Steve
Steve

She ain't no Arnold, aka Arnolds Pickles and Olives, the pickle seller in old PHX on Van Buren, whose olive fields are now city parkland and neighborhoods near 28th St and Indian School.

"I like Arnolds Pickles, you'll like Arnolds too, the only thing that's better than, an Arnold Pickle is TWO, yes, the only thing that's better than an Arnolds Pickle is TWO!"

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