Curious questions about pickles: A Virginia Beach family thanks great-grandma for their home-grown business.

VA Pilot -


Four generations are caught in a pickle.

They’re not in a difficult situation, but rather the pickle business.

Using an old family recipe, Virginia Beach resident Dena Sawyer and her mom Francine Stanley formed The Prissy Pickle Company in 2015. Sawyer’s grandmother, dad, daughter and husband also participate in the pickle-making process.

Stanley’s grandmother, Carrie Elder, lived on a farm in Charlotte County, Virginia; and she would can or pickle anything. Sweet pickles were a staple at family gatherings, served at lunch and dinner.

“I vividly remember her serving them in china bowls at each end of the table,” said Stanley, recollecting her childhood in the 1950s. “My cousins and I couldn’t wait to empty the bowls. It was such a treat.”

Over the years, the family would get together and bring the old family pickle recipe to life, sharing it with friends and neighbors.

Jim Anderson, Sawyer’s neighbor in Shadowlawn, was treated to a couple of pickle jars every time they would make a batch.

“From the first bite, I thought they had something special,” said Anderson. “I had never tasted pickles as good as these. They are fresh, crisp and just the right texture.”

Anderson is the one that encouraged the family to actually take the leap into the pickle business. After forming the company, the family went through a nine-week process to obtain a food process letter from Virginia Tech, which deems the product safe. They found a commercial kitchen for production.

The family started selling the pickles this spring at Old Beach Farmers Market, King’s Grant Farmers Market and at Shockley’s Farm Market on First Colonial Road. In addition to the original Southern sweet pickle recipe, other varieties include Southern sweet with habanero, bread and butter, and bread and butter with habanero.

The pickle business has been fun, and everyone in the entire family knows each step, Stanley said.

“Everyone can cover all positions,” she said. “The family togetherness is the best part of the business.

The family answered several questions about their pickling enterprise.

Where did the name Prissy Pickle come from? It was named after Dena Sawyer. She was always called “prissy” because she was always primping and changed her clothes three times a day.

How long does it take to make the pickles? It takes one day to make the bread and butter pickles, but it takes nine days to make the sweet pickles.

How many jars of pickles do you get with one bushel (about 48 pounds of cucumbers)? 60 jars

Where do you get the cucumbers from? We keep it local. They have come from Henley Farm, Cullipher and farms on the Eastern Shore.

Something interesting you learned about the cucumber? After hand-washing over 300 pounds of cucumbers, your skin is snow white. The cucumber naturally exfoliates the dead skin, and your hands are baby soft.

What are some recipe ideas for the pickles? Potato salad, deviled eggs, tuna salad, etc. The pickle juice can be used to baste a ham or pork loin.

Most interesting recipe with the sweet pickle: To make ham spread, the ingredients are 4 oz. cream cheese, 3 oz. country ham, 4 slices Prissy Pickle Southern sweet pickle. Let cream cheese become room temperature and mash with fork. Chop ham into small pieces and place in bowl with cream cheese. Chop pickle slices into small pieces, add two teaspoons of the pickle syrup, and mix.

How many spices are in the Southern sweet pickle recipe? 12