SISTERSVILLE - A Tyler County pickle maker is offering one of the country's five best pickles, according to a national magazine.
Uncle Bunk's was recently chosen by Country Living magazine as offering one of the country's five best pickles with its Uncle Bunk's 14-Day Sweet Pickles. The winners are featured in the July/August edition of the publication.
The pickles were chosen from many entries sent into the magazine.
“Uncle Bunk” Larry Young demonstrates some of the hands-on processing in making his product.
The food editor for Country Living magazine called Uncle Bunk's in February to request samples of its products for consideration.
"We were thrilled when they called us in June to say we had been chosen a top 5 winner and would be in their upcoming issue," said Larry Young, the original "Uncle Bunk" and co-owner of the business along with his wife, Rose Marie, and daughter Stacey Young Kasun.
"Bunk" was Young's nickname.
''His whole family and everyone who ever knew him called him Bunk until he met my Mom she calls him Larry,'' Kasun said. ''It was Larry's nieces and nephews on his side of the family who encouraged him to sell his products.''
After winning a number of awards and told by people in the industry they had products that were marketable, the company was born and they named it "Uncle Bunk's."
The business has been in operation for six years and have been featured at a number of fairs and festivals throughout the state as well as venues specializing in West Virginia-made products, Kasun said. The representative of the magazine who contacted them had come across the pickles at Tamarack and remembered them when the opportunity came up to do a piece on the best pickles.
The company sent in samples of their 14-Day Sweet Pickles and their 14-Day Hot/Sweet Pickles with the 14-Day Sweet Pickles picked.
However, the 14-Day Hot/Sweet Pickles did not go unnoticed.
A fact checker for the magazine who called them to check a few things said they already had dibs on the jar of the 14-Day Hot/Sweet Pickles when all the sampling was complete, Kasun said.
The 14-Day Sweet Pickles are called such because they take 14 days to make from the beginning of the pickling process to being placed in the jar.
The pickles have been known by many as 14-Day Experts and Old-Time Crock Pickles from old recipes that have been around the region for years, Young said. Many older customers, who still remember those old recipes, will tell him they taste just like the ones they or their parents or grandparents use to make.
"They taste like they have been hand canned by Grandma, and they really do take 14 days to make," Young said.
He learned everything about how to make pickles while living on a farm outside Wileyville, W.Va., in Wetzel County from his grandmother, Susanna Florence Young, and his mother, Sarah Bernita Young.
The magazine did not hit stands until the end of June and the family did not see it until early July when they were at the Mountain State Arts and Crafts Fair and were in a local store.
Rose Marie first saw the magazine and showed it to Larry.
"I told him his mother would be so proud of him," she said adding tears started coming to his eyes and he was overcome with emotion.
Young's mother passed away in the early 2000's and did not see the start of the business or the recognition their product had received.
The company works very hard to stay true to the old Appalachian recipes, Kasun said adding they have tried to speed up the process, but the results were not the same. There is a process to it and care given so each batch comes out the way it is suppose to keep the quality up and maintain the taste.
''You have to do something to them everyday,'' Kasun said. ''We use 16 pounds of cucumbers in each batch.
''We run 20-40 batches (in different stages) at any point in time. We start 6-18 batches per week and they go through the whole 14-day process. The next week we start 6-18 more and we also are canning the 6-18 batches from two weeks prior.''
Young said they are also very particular about the quality of the ingredients they use, buying from local farmers in West Virginia and Ohio, to doing the canning process like it has always been done with the vegetables hand washed, hand cut and hand packed into every jar.
Since being featured in the magazine, the company has seen an increase in business from more stores wanting to carry their product, wholesalers wanting to put them in stores throughout the region and more business through the company's website.
''We sold five times more this July than we did in July of last year,'' Kasun said.
They know many of the new inquiries came from being featured in the magazine.
''They are all ordering the pickles,'' Kasun said with a laugh.
They have shipped pickles to Maryland, Kentucky, Florida, Washington and other locations around the country.
Uncle Bunk's have already been a three-time winners of the Scovie Award, the food industry's top award for recognizing hot and spicy foods. Other awards include the Worldwide Mustard Sauce Competition, the Fiery Food Challenge and Chile Pepper magazine's pick of 21 must-have mustards for their Mustard Relish.
Their products are available locally at Mulberry Lane Country Store, the Cook's Shop, HoneyBaked Ham, Blennerhassett Museum Gift Shop and other locations throughout the area.
Young works hard to make sure the quality and taste of his product is consistent.
''Customers tell me they like it because it is the same every time,'' he said.