Henri Truh, the “Pickle Lady” holds jars of her pickles next to her vehicle. She has also published a cookbook, “Tried ‘n Truh.” PHOTO CONTRIBUTED
With a population of 141, rustic country-style buildings, and a website that says it offers “a glimpse of life as it used to be, and an opportunity at life as it should be,” it should not be surprising that Carthage is the home of the “Pickle Lady,” Henri Truh.
The 92-year-old Truh, who runs her own home-canning and home-baking business, does seem to offer a glimpse of “life as it used to be” to all of her customers.
“I learned early how to do some of the now obsolete cooking arts,” she wrote in her recent cookbook, “Tried ‘n Truh.” She first started canning with her mother at the young age of five, when her family lived on a farm in Wisconsin.
“Within two years I was doing it all, under her guidance, because there was another baby scheduled to arrive that fall,” she wrote.
Growing up, Truh strove for excellence in every area of her life.
“I recognize a certain amount of precision or perfectionism as a family trait,” she wrote.
In high school, she was the editor of her school paper at Mora High School in Minnesota. She received national recognition when she interviewed the vice president of the United States. “That was top banner on the paper when I published that one,” she said.
Today, Henri puts that same devotion into her business, which she started 10 years ago.
“You make anything homemade and it will sell,” she said. “‘Course, having a good reputation probably helps, too.”
Truh, who said she has received orders from “all corners of the United States” and five provinces in Canada, orders her produce from Pearl Creek Colony and follows a strict regiment for her canning. She said cucumber/pickle season is her busiest time of year.
“There are three things that are important for canning pickles,” she said, “very good water, very good vinegar and salt.” Truh said that she believes good water is a “must” for making good pickles, “I only use reverse-osmosis water, and vinegar with a five percent acidity,” she said. Before she started using reverse-osmosis water, she used store-bought water.
However, “Years and years ago, when I was a little girl,” she said, “we used to put the cucumbers in the jar, and so much vinegar in the jar, then took them out to the pump and pumped nice cold water on them. Apparently, back then, we had good water.”
One piece of advice Truh gives to others is to use the full dill plant when canning pickles.
“Even the stems of the dill will add flavor and be useful,” she said. “Dill is good from the top, all the way down to the root. Many people don’t know that.”
But Truh’s canning experience is not limited to pickles.
She has a wide and colorful array of Mason jars filled with everything from corned beef, honey and apricots, to jelly, horseradish, pumpkin, relish, peppers and more.
“I make a darn-good zucchini relish,” she said, “ I have pickled it; cut it into quarters and pickled it like dill pickles. But it’s harder to keep crisp.”
Henri also makes home-made cookies, pies and other baked goods. She renders her own lard for the pie crusts. When making pies, she bakes 15 to 16 pies per week, and sells her baked goods at local farmer’s markets.
In the meantime, she stores her canned and baked goods at her home in Carthage. “I have no real cellar. I have a crawl-space, and it’s just a little higher than my head,“ she said. “So I had that built with shelves when I first started to do this.”
Throughout her career, she has continually tried new ideas. She recounted the story of the first time she made pepper-stuffed pickles.
“I stood over there with rubber gloves on, stuffing them with every kind of pepper we had, whether it was a Sienna, Jalapeno, or … what was that really hot one? Habanero,” Truh said. She had them tasted. “ Within 10 minutes their faces were absolutely blood red. Blood red, not just red.”
However, the pepper-stuffed pickles became a hit.
“They disappeared in a hurry,” Henri said, “I don’t have a single one of them left.”
Likewise, Truh’s other goods continue to be in high demand as well.
“I make something that people like, and that sells itself,” she said. “It’s wise to remember, if you are going to do something like this, a good reputation goes a long way. People can trust you. If you say it’s good, it’s good. That’s essential when you’re working with people.”
For the complete article see the 05-19-2013 issue.
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