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Utah couple goes Yee-Haw for pickles

Published June 27, 2013 10:19 am

Food • The brand, which uses local produce when it's in season, is available at a variety of local stores.
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Allison and Andrew Cesati have come a long way from pickling wax-covered cucumbers bought at the grocery store in a pot on their camp stove.

What started as an attempt to make pickles that weren't packed in chemical preservatives and colored with dye has turned into a full-time job for the couple, who will be bottling about 1,500 pounds of pickles a week to distribute throughout the intermountain west.

"We were just disappointed with the pickles you could find in mainstream grocery stores [made with] a lot of chemical preservatives, a lot of sugar, a lot of color," said Allison Cesati, whose leg injury a couple of winters ago kickstarted the company. She wanted to munch on something salty but didn't want to fill up on chips. Andrew brought her home pickles from their local store, which tasted like chemicals. "We thought we could do something better, take a healthier approach," she said.

Under the brand Yee-Haw Pickle Company, the Park City transplants make three dill pickles flavors. Hot Damn Dills are made with habanero and Red Fresno peppers.; Giddy Up Garlic Dills feature fresh cloves of garlic; and the plain No Frills Dills, which were a request by fans who wanted a child-friendly pickle. They were recently introduced into 130 Associated Food stores and a regional warehouse that distributes to natural stores.

All three varieties have been available at Harmons, Whole Foods and Liberty Heights Fresh. The 24-ounce jars sell for $6.99 to $7.99, though they are on sale at most retailers through July 4.

Those stores also carry the Yee-Haw sweet pickles: Honey Bee Stackers and Steezy Bee Stackers (made with habaneros). Instead of loading them with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, the couple uses local Miller wildflower raw honey, which makes the slices subtly sweet.

"We loved you could get these amazing pickles in so many different varieties," said Karilyn Frazier, spokeswoman for the Trolley Square Whole Foods, one of the first retailers to carry the pickles. "The opportunity to showcase the Yee-Haw pickles to their home market, that is such a privilege for us."

None of the pickles, or the Bronc Buster green beans, have artificial ingredients. Instead of fermenting, they are packed fresh in their brine recipes and then pasteurized.

The brine is good enough to drink. They've set up brine shots at bike races to help relieve muscle cramps.

The Cesatis use local produce when it's in season — three farms this year planted Boston pickling cucumbers just for Yee-Haw — or from surrounding states. They're bottled within days of being picked.

"Sometimes a fermented pickle will be really quite sour," Allison Cesati said. "Our hope is that the taste of the cucumber [in our pickles] still comes through."

The cucumbers are cut, bottled, topped with brine and labeled all by hand in the company's Summit County business park headquarters. In the building entrance, black and white images hang on the walls. Those pictures — a honey cart, old pickle factory, bronco buster — are also found on the labels.

Andrew Cesati said they drew from the west for the look and feel of the brand. The "Yee-Haw" name comes from their enthusiasm — something they may say on a powder day.

"We've been busting out 'yee-haws' for years," he said.

The Cesatis say they aren't content with bottling just pickles. This summer and fall they expect to collect extra produce from local farmers and can them under a "Limited Bounty" label. Think maple ginger carrots or chilies in apple cider vinegar. They did something similar last year when farmers were stuck with green tomatoes. The couple bottled them in white wine vinegar and sold them at a winter market.