BEAUMONT – Southeast Texas always has a unique blend of Texas and Louisiana culture, and you can clearly see it in the food. Here I’ve had burgers with bountiful toppings, sandwiches filled with crawfish etouffee, fried up crabs, and even Cajun grilled cheese sandwiches.
With the blend of cultures on our eastern border, you’ll also find snowballs, which are like snow cones but just a little bit different. “People ask me all the time, ‘what’s the difference between a snowball and a snow cone?’ Because we have both people. Well, I said, ‘Well, New Orleans calls it snowball. Texas calls it snow cone.’ And the difference is in the ice. It’s a shaved, not the crunchy, crunchy, but a shaved smooth ice,” explains Donna Harris, the owner of Quenchies in Beaumont.
Back when she was a child, her parents had a small snowball shack and it’s where Donna became fond of frozen snacks. “My parents had one of the first machines like we use in Texas, and it was just little mom and pop place, little bitty building you might could get two people in there,” Donna said. “When I first started, I was 11. I didn’t work there by myself, but I would help my other brothers and mom there, and then as I got older, 13 and 14, I started working by myself there.
Donna has a desire to get back to providing folks with simple sweet treats that always got people to smile, so in 2017 she opened Quinches with her husband Ed. “I always dreamed of a place like this where you could come in, sit down. So, after me and my husband got married, and we had been married several years, I got a little mom and pop place like my parents had,” Donna said. “This is definitely a fun place. Everybody that comes here is happy.”
Quenchies signature is gummy bears. On top of all the sweet snowballs you’ll find gelatinous grizzlies greeting you to this sugary, cold, and crunchy desert. “If you forget their gummy bear, it’s like, ‘where’s my gummy bear?’ I mean, the adults are like, “Where’s my gummy?” Donna said.
But there’s another snowball that doesn’t come with a gummy, oh no. It comes with a pickle—an Eskimo pickle to be exact. “A lot of people say, ‘what is the Eskimo Pickle?’ And I tell them, I say, ‘it’s a lot of pickle,’” Donna explained. “It is a pickle snow cone with straight pickle juice, that’s the juice instead of a flavor. We do straight pickle juice over our pickle snow cones and this is an actual pickle inside the snow cone.”
Now I didn’t want to end things on a sour note, but Donna was adamant about putting me in pickle, so she put together one of her signature Eskimo Kisses. “It (The ice shaver) hums because it shaves that block as you push it through here, and that’s why your ice has to be tempered and at a good temperature because that’s what’s going to make it,” Donna explained. “[My husband] makes sure our ice is tempered the way it’s supposed to be. But snow consistency, it can’t be too wet, it can’t be too dry. If it’s too dry, you can’t form it. But if it’s too wet then its water locked.”
Then, we built the snow cone. Donna starts with filling the cup of shaved ice half way with pickle juice, then put a pickle in the middle, and topping it off with more pickle juice.
I took a bite, and my mouth was puckering. It’s weird because you get that consistency of snow cone and your mouth’s like ‘yeah, something sweet!’ Then it goes, ‘oh no it’s not.” But this interesting treat was very good and tasted like a frozen pickle.
“Eskimo Pickle’s a big thing,” Donna explained. “We sell tons of it, tons of the pickle juice. It’s hard to keep it.”
The pickle compliments it great, imagine that! “Once you take a bite of that perfect snow cone, then there’s nothing like it,” Donna said.
If you’re super into sour, the Eskimo Pickle is the perfect item for your igloo but if you prefer a sweet snowball, they’re plenty of those options as well and they’re all well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List.