In a Pickle
Story and Photos by Meda Kessler
After winning national recognition, a Grapevine family is working harder than ever to keep up with demand for their product
If you don’t enter, you can’t win. A cliché? Not for the owners of Fox and Otter pickles.
Every year, Garden & Gun, the glossy magazine that extols all things Southern, invites makers to submit entries in its Made in the South contest, which features style, food, home, outdoors, drinks and crafts categories. Rick Daussat, who started Fox and Otter with wife Patsy, is a fan of the magazine and decided to send in samples of the sweet-spicy pickles the Daussats have been selling since 2014.
“I was shocked when an editor called and told us we were semifinalists,” says Rick. He and Patsy, who have lived in Grapevine for 28 years, met us at one of their favorite Mexican restaurants in Southlake before Christmas to talk about the flush of popularity that comes with being featured in a national magazine. (They also brought us a jar of the sold-out pickles.) Rick has a full-time job as a clinical educator at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and Patsy works part time at the front desk of a local dentist. They’ve seen their weekend free time shrink due to the increase in orders of pickles, despite the fact that a peach jam from Georgia beat them out for the top spot.
When we read about their G&G selection, we weren’t surprised they were among the top finishers. We first tasted their wares three years ago at Roots Coffeehouse in North Richland Hills. Roots owners Matt and Janice Townsend have always supported other small local businesses, be it bakeries or coffee roasters. The Fox and Otter pickles were part of a cheese board, and we loved the crisp texture and the sweet-spicy flavor balance. We purchased a couple of jars to take home; the leftover brine was perfect for pickling our cucumbers and as a base for a salad dressing, too.
But the pickles have long been part of the Daussat family. “The recipe goes back to 1970, and came from one of my in-laws,” says Rick, who’s tweaked the formula over the years. “We handed them out as Christmas gifts and attended a few local food festivals. People always told us we should be in local stores.”
The business name comes from made-up characters. “Red the Fox and Ollie the Otter were part of bedtime stories we told our sons when they were little,” says Patsy, who’s a published writer. “We were brainstorming names one night, and Fox and Otter came up. It was perfect.”
Today, the business is a family affair, with sons Ryan and Tony and their wives helping with everything from the website to the label design to the pickle making. Even the grandkids get in on the action by helping and, yes, they get paid 50 cents, says Patsy. While the recipe remains a secret, Rick does share that the pickles soak for six weeks in a liquid with special spices and garlic. The family then packs them in glass jars and attaches the labels, which requires a bit of precision, says Patsy. Occasionally, they cook up an even more limited batch of a spicier pickle with its own special label.
The perils of shipping created a downside to the upswing in mail orders. “It’s expensive, and there can be breakage,” says Patsy. “Plus, jars are in short demand.”
But they’ve made new fans across the country. “Fox and Otter has converted a lot of pickle haters,” says Rick. “We’ve put our heart and soul into this, so it’s been fun to get such positive feedback.”
While we like them straight from the jar, Rick suggested we chop them up to make a tuna fish sandwich extra special. His favorite way to eat them: adding a smear of cream cheese to a Ritz cracker and topping it with a pickle slice or two. “It’s the perfect meal.”