Story by Aaron Lynch and Amber Sky
Photos by Amber Sky

The Whole Ox: Independent butchers since 2011. Local since 1769.

The Whole Ox, located in Marshall, partners with local farms to provide the freshest foods. In addition to being a full-service butcher shop, they are a delicious lunch destination.

The Whole Ox’s hybrid pickles, where bread and butter meet traditional dill, reflects the yin-yang pairing of owners. This dynamic duo’s passionate and opposite forces complement each in a natural way to create the profound, yet primitive, Whole Ox experience.

The Whole Ox’s pickles are a cornerstone and a staple throughout their business adventures. In 1990, Chef Derek Luhowiak, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts, began his career in the kitchen. While working on an organic farm, he became fascinated with ethical farming standards. “We believe in the importance of humane farming, without the use of antibiotics and added hormones. We exclusively work with farms that raise and slaughter their animals humanely and utilize sustainable farming practices. All of our meats are cut in-house with care and are presented to you without chemical dyes and additives,” says the chef. “Most of the meats in our case are not certified organic but do meet our ethical and clean farming standards.”

At an early age, Fauquier native Amanda Wyne Luhowiak learned how to properly prepare meat after her hunting excursions with her dad and family. Years ago, her great uncle was a butcher in Marshall. Amanda praises Derek and her dad, “Everything I know in this kitchen has been taught to me by Derek, and my dad taught me some, too.” With Amanda’s family roots in hunting and butchering and Derek’s knack to determine the science behind every culinary aspect, this unique pair has had some pretty unique adventures. They started working on a farm together in New Hampshire; then journeyed north into Canada. While living out of their car in Canada, they developed their dream plan.

In 2009, that dream matured and came to fruition in Virginia. It rolled out by the pair running a food cart at farmers markets. In their first business, Local 647, the pair specialized in preparing delicious meals from the fare obtained at the farmers market. The recipe for the pickles was mastered in the tiny Local 647 kitchen.

One day a Washington Post writer stopped by their cart and ordered one of everything on the menu and wrote a compelling story that drew a cult following for Local 647. Then, their famous burger was featured on Good Morning America! This skyrocketed business! In 2010, the couple’s vision to plant roots became reality when they were offered space and the use of a commercial kitchen at IGA in Marshall. After one year, they opened their first storefront in The Plains, later moving to Marshall. Local 647 became The Whole Ox.

Starting The Whole Ox took them to a whole new level, through the process of butchering, curing, and aging all of their own meats the culinary experience exploded. Many people in the culinary industry have a passion and ask themselves all the time, “Can I make this in-house?” and Derek and Amanda are no different. From meats to sauces, to duck egg mayonnaise, to pickles, they are uber creative culinary geniuses.

“The aim of The Whole Ox is not simply to aid in the pursuit of hedonistic pleasure, but rather to encourage appreciation of a slower, more meditative lifestyle based on respect for the soul, the seasons, and deeply rooted cultures capable of producing not only great food and wine, but also a saner and more tolerant worldview and way of life,” she shared.

Tasting the hybrid pickles offers an explosion of crispness and flavor. By mixing the dill style pickle with the traditional bread and butter style, this recipe is impressively savory and not at all overwhelming. It is dynamically appetizing! Go visit and relish this amazing pickle that embodies history and chemistry.

Whole Ox Pickles
2 cucumbers
1 cup of water
½ cup of rice vinegar
⅓ cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of salt
1 whole clove
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorn
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of dill

Slice cucumbers to desired thickness.
Bring vinegar, water, and salt to a low boil.
Add cloves, mustard seeds, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves to water.
Simmer for 20 minutes.
Put cucumber slices in a container large enough to cover with the pickling liquid.
Pour the water mixture over the cucumbers.
Top with fresh thyme and dill.
Cover and let sit for 24-48 hours.
Amanda loves getting creative and experimental with the pickling juices and has created many fun variations. One favorite blend is adding turmeric and beet juice. Try cutting the cucumbers on the diagonal and add your favorite spices. Make it your own!

For any occasion and especially for the Spring Races, The Whole Ox offers call ahead platters. Everything is customizable and they specialize in creating the perfect platter for your occasion. Customize and order sandwich platters, charcuterie boards, or picnic baskets. Visit them at 8357 West Main Street in Marshall or call 540-724-1650 to order.

This article first appeared in the March 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.