It’s Summer…officially this week! Summertime makes me think of visits with my grandmother in Missouri. It was where our family vacations inevitably took us! My father met my mother while stationed at the Marine Base in south GA. They married there and he ended up staying. So Summer vacations were the only time of the year
he was able to visit his very large family in Missouri. And growing up it was the highlight of my year…even eclipsing Christmas! Yes, it did!
I don’t know if my grandmother had any idea what an influence she had on me growing up. I wanted to grow up and live on a farm, raise chickens, cook fresh eggs every morning, bake fresh bread for my family and can and pickle and preserve all sorts of goodies from my garden.
Well, it didn’t work out for me to live on a farm, but I have been very blessed throughout my adult life to live in small rural communities surrounded by people who were living my dream and I vicariously lived it, too!
It was in one such community that I met Sylvia, whose husband was the county extension agent and they had a garden from heaven! She introduced me to pickling when I was a mere child, 22 years old, and I have pickled ever since…
My babies grew up on my sweet pickles. They’ve been eating them since they were in their high chairs. It is a food group, right? I have to say, country living is the best place to get children to eat good food…because they are surrounded by it! Even tho my children are grown and married, if they get wind that I’m cooking Sweet pickles…they will all show up one by one for their jar. In fact, my two children who live in town, have already stopped by for theirs and I just made them this morning! And my older son got his today too even tho he lives over an hour away….wow…
So Summer is finally here and that means it’s time to make Sweet Crisp Pickles. You cannot buy sweet pickles in the grocery store. At least not around here. You can buy bread and butter pickles….not to be confuse with sweet pickles..they aren’t the same. You can buy sweet salad cubes…but no sweet pickles. Not like these.
If you’ve never made pickles before, these instructions should make it easy peasy. There’s nothing to be afraid of. I have made them for decades now, so I will give you tips along the way to make it simplier….
Begin by gathering your cucumbers. You want cucumbers to be about the size of two of your fingers together, or smaller. If they are too big you will empty a jar over night! You’ll need 7 lbs. of cucumbers. I have found that if I fill my large mixing bowl, fully rounded that equals about 7lbs. It helps to have scales. Remember to minus the weight of the bowl.
Wash, Slice, Soak in Lime
The first step is to wash and slice your cucumbers and place them into a large pot or tub. Slice them about 1/8 inch thick. If they are too thin they will break, so keep that in mind. Better too thick than too thin. Once you have prepared your cucumbers, the need to soak 24 hours in Lime. Buy pickling Lime. It’s in the canning section of the supermarket. Sprinkle lime over cucumbers. Pour 2 gallons of water over and stir gently to dissolve lime. Cover them with a dish towel and set them aside until tomorrow…See that wasn’t hard… Now you can go enjoy the day.
The next day: The lime has caused them to “crisp,” so….Very Gently….Rinse them well. I normally run them thru 4 rinses, transferring them from one clean pan of water to another back and forth making sure to gently remove all lime residue.
Soak in Ice Water
Cover them with ice water for about 4 hours. Add more ice along, if the kitchen is hot.
Make Brine, Soak
Drain the cucumbers and place back in large pot. Make brine: Mix sugar, vinegar and spices and allow to sit over night, again.
Getting Ready to Cook
Gather utensils: You will need~ washed and tempered canning jars, a large telfon or wooden spoon, a large funnel, bands and lids. NOTE! you may reuse bands BUT YOU MUST USE BRAND NEW LIDS! ALWAYS! NO EXCEPTIONS! a table knife, clean damp dish cloth, large bowl, and tongs..I think that’s it. Make life easy on your self and make sure you have gathered all of this before you being cooking the pickles.
Wash all canning jars, being careful to check all rims for cracks, chips or blemishes that might prevent a tight seal. Don’t use jar that have imperfections on rim. Boil some water and pour about 1/2 cup into each jar to sterilize. Leave the hot water in to keep the jars tempered…that is warm, so it does not break the jar when you add the hot brine. (You will empty this water into the bowl before you add the cucumbers.) Bring the lids to a boil in a shallow pan of water. Turn off and leave them on the stove in hot water.
Bring Cucumbers in brine to a boil and cook for 30 minutes.
Pour hot water out of jar into bowl (or sink). Very carefully pack HOT pickles into jar using a teflon or wooden spoon, being careful not to break pickles….ease them into the jar.
I gently shake the jar to arrange them, running a knife to help move them around and press them in. You don’t want to pack them too tightly, just full.
Next…VERY carefully, I dip a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup into the HOT brine and pour , using funnel, filling the jar with brine. Use a knife to run along the sides to be sure there are no air pockets. Please be careful!
NEXT! Before you place the lid on the jar, wipe the rim of the jar with the clean damp cloth! You will want a good seal and this must be clean. Using tongs, place a flat lid on the clean rim and put the band on securely…and straight! At this point, I normally invert the jar, UPSIDE DOWN, on a clean dish towel until I finish the whole process and all the jars are filled
And there you have it…Sweet Crisp Cucumber Pickles
Edited to add: Although, for over 40 years I have never used a boiling water bath to seal my jars of sweet pickles and have never had a problem, the question was asked last night and I believe it is best to add this step at the end to ensure that they seal properly and to kill any micro-organisms that may cause spoilage.
How to do a Boiling Water Bath: To process in a boiling water bath, bring canner half-filled with water to a boil. Load your canning rack with filled jars and gently lower rack into boiling water.
If you don’t have the rack that comes with your canner, simply place extra jar rings on the bottom to set your jars of pickles on. One for each jar.
Make sure the jars of pickles are still hot/warm when you add them to the boiling water. And use your tongs to lower individual jars!
Process (boil) pints for 10 minutes and quarts for 15 minutes. Allow to cool.
Enjoy your hard work!
I doubt my grandmother knew how much I wanted to be like her. She canned enough vegetables for the whole family to last a whole year. She and my Grandfather had 7 children. 365 days they depended on her canning to feed the whole family….at least 4 quarts or more of vegetables a day. Not to mention the pickles and apple butter, strawberry preserves…I can’t hold a candle to my grandmother… I don’t even try. But when I make my pickles…I feel close to her, my kindred spirit.
- 7lbs Cucumbers
- 2 cups Pickling Lime
- 2 quarts Vinegar. I have used white or apple cider
- 4 lbs Sugar ( 5lb bag minus 1 cup)
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 Tbls Celery Seed
- 1 Tbls whole Cloves
- 1 Tbls Pickling Spice
- Slice and soak cucumbers in lime with 2 gallons of water for 24 hours. Rinse well.
- Cover cucumbers with ice water for 4 hours, drain
- Make brine of vinegar, sugar and spices; pour over cucumbers and soak overnight
- Bring to boil and boil 30 minutes
- Pack in hot sterilized jars, seal.
- Makes 5-6 Quarts