Cindy Dennis’ latest pickle customer is making her want to dance the “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”
For more than a decade, Dennis has been selling her locally famous hot dill pickles and other pickled food items out of her home in Granbury to other residents and friends.
But now, the “Pickle Lady” has found a "Brand New Man” who enjoys her pickles and pickled okra — Ronnie Dunn, of American country music duo, Brooks & Dunn.
Dunn — who is a family friend of Dennis’ daughter Carrie Grider-Thompson and son-in-law Paul Thompson — received a couple of Dennis’ jars and felt compelled to call and thank her personally for the gift.
“I had made a jar of okra and a jar of pickles, and told my daughter, ‘If you don't take these to him, I'm gonna kill ya,’” Dennis said, chuckling. “I was just here one night, and I get this phone call, and Ronnie Dunn and his wife were on the phone. They said they loved the okra and (Dunn’s wife Janine) said, ‘You should sell these,’ and my son-in-law said, ‘She does!”
Dennis said Dunn kept talking about how much he loved her okra and pickles, and it surprised her when Dunn said he wanted to purchase a case of them.
"It was just really, really neat,” she said. “But after we hung up, I texted my daughter, and I said, ‘Are you kidding me? Is this a joke?’ But that's when they took the picture (of them holding the jar) and sent it to me. I thought ‘Oh my god, this is really real.’”
But that’s not all of Dennis’ recent surprises.
TEXAS STATE FAIR
In August, Dennis also received eight ribbons from the Texas State Fair for her pickles, okra, cauliflower, green beans, onions, peppers, and squash.
Dennis was awarded first place for her green beans, hamburger dills, and okra; second place for her peppers and squash; and third place for her cauliflower, dill cucumbers, and onions.
Since 2009, she has placed at the Texas State Fair every year (except in 2016 when she didn’t enter due to surgeries), accumulating a total of 58 ribbons.
Dennis said she’s received so many ribbons over the years that she actually ran out of room to hang them on her walls.
"I'm hanging them on the ceiling now,” she said, chuckling. “And every time I tell people (I’ve won another ribbon), I think they're gonna be shocked, but they're not because they know me. But every year, I’m still just totally blown away.”
What started as a recipe from her mom in the 1970s has now grown to a huge following — not only in Texas, but also in other parts of the United States.
"My mother had a garden, and she got this recipe from a lady she worked with, so my mother started making them out of her garden,” she explained. “She had enough cucumbers to make eight jars, and so everybody, all my friends started having a fit about it, like ‘I love your pickles,' so I had a pickle party.”
Consisting of six couples, Dennis and her friends started making pickles using her mom’s recipe — even washing the pickles in a baby swimming pool.
“Things were crazy back then,” she said, chuckling.
Dennis said there are four ingredients that go in the bottom of each jar — garlic, onions, jalapeno peppers, and fresh dill.
“After I put the whole pickles in there, I just start cutting up pickles and I put little bitty chunks of the pickles on top,” she said, in a previous interview with The Hood County News.
Dennis currently has her pickles in four stores locally: Willow Lane, Bridge Street Market, and Bee Healthy Nutrition Center in Granbury, and Your Personal Chef in Aledo.
“I have gotten very, very popular,” she said. “I've also had two people call me — both with Stage IV cancer. This man from Aledo called me and he said that he has opened so many jars of pickles because people that have had cancer and chemo, it depletes all of their salt, so he craves pickle juice. The man said, ‘I finally found the right pickles, and it's yours.’”
Dennis’ pickles have gained so much traction that she was even featured on the TV show, “Texas Country Reporter,” with host Bob Phillips in 2018.
“I get people that hide them from their kids,” she said. “I mean, I hear so many stories about people and how they hoard away my pickles.”
She said the growing demand has also led to other stores contacting her with an interest in selling her products.
"I can be in 50 stores if I wanted to — I just can't handle it,” she said.
NEVER GIVING UP
With a recent back surgery on Aug. 8, it has become increasingly difficult for Dennis to continue to make the number of pickles that she always did in the past.
“I've been having problems with making them, because of what's going on with me. But I'm still trying,” she said. “It's just been really, really hard.”
Although she continues to struggle with making enough pickles to curb the local — and now national — demand, Dennis doesn’t give up, because she aims to satisfy her customers.
“I was going to the Texas Country Reporter Show every year, and I was selling 400 jars," she said. “I'm personable with my customers. I'm not professional with them. I try to get to know something about people, so it's not just business.”
Time will tell — but for now, Dennis’ pickles will continue to remain a big “dill” in Hood County for many more years to come.
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