Spicy Pickles: a band you should see and a recipe you should try

May 17, 2013 —

Spicy PicklesThe topic of today’s post represents two things I love: spicy pickles (well, just about any spicy food) and live music. I recently learned that Rod Philp, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and nutrition at DMU, is a member of Spicy Pickles, a central Iowa band led by Joe Smith, a vocalist and trumpet player who got the idea while, as a student at the University of Iowa, he helped manage a large swing dance event, the Hawkeye Swing Festival.

“I wanted to have the opportunity to play for dancers, as they are such an appreciative audience,” Joe says. “The goal was to make a band that was down to earth, we don’t wear suits and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Our goal is to have fun, make friends and play great music.”

That goal has attracted enthusiastic audiences. The band has been playing its “mix of traditional jazz, gutbucket blues, and swing tunes,” Joe says, around the Midwest, including for the Hawkeye Swing Festival, Kansas University’s Swing Society and at the Omaha Jitterbugs Night Out. They’ve also been playing at the Madhat Ballroom, 1751 28th Street in West Des Moines, gigs that include basic swing dance lessons.

And here’s great news for all live music fans looking to move their feet: Spicy Pickles will perform next Friday, May 24, in Des Moines’ Star Bar, 2811 Ingersoll Avenue, from 9 p.m. to midnight. The event is free and guaranteed to be a blast. Mark your calendar and get ready to dance!

Spicy pickles (adapted from Food & Wine)

  • 8-10 kirby cucumbers (unwaxed), quartered
  • 2 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups of distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of coriander seeds
  • 8 garlic cloves peeled and halved
  • 2-3 jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, with seeds mostly removed (leave some for extra spice)
  • 8 dill sprigs

PicklesPack the cucumber slices, jalapeno halves and dill springs into a clean, 2-quart glass jar. In a container with a tight-seal lid, combine the salt, sugar, vinegar, coriander and garlic halves. Seal the top and shake vigorously until the salt and sugar dissolve.

Add 2 cups of water to the mixture and pour the brine over the vegetables. Add more water to the jar to fully cover the vegetables and seal tightly. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.


Endlessly curious and easily entertained, Barb Dietrich Boose loves being a member of the friendly, fascinating DMU community and its creative communications team. The University's publications director and DMU Magazine editor, Barb is always on the hunt for story ideas, good books and new recipes to try out on her family, such as her surprisingly tasty pork-and-bean bars.

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