Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Uncle Al's Sweet Pickles

This summer, I decided to grow a garden.  For the past four summers I have attempted unsuccessfully to grow a container garden.  But this year, I put it in the ground.  And miraculously, it grew.  One of the things I had to have was pickling cucumbers.  I love love love pickles.  It was my goal to learn how to can this summer and I could think of nothing better than to make pickles.

These sweet pickles have been a favorite of my family for several generations.  When I was a kid, I used to eat these straight out of the jar.  They are super easy to make, however, a bit time consuming.  They are almost like candied cucumbers.  They make a nice snack and are also a great contrast to a big burger with a nice salty cheese.

To start with, wash 10-12 small (2"-6") pickling cucumbers and place in a crock.  Some of the pickles in the photo above are a little large to be ideal pickle cucumbers.  If they grow too large, they become very seedy and then when the seeds fall out, there are holes in your pickles.  However, I didn't watch my garden very well and consequently got big cucumbers and thusly holey pickles.  Holey pickles are alright though, they taste good. 

About the crock, my mother said that it's crucial for the flavor of the pickles.  Honestly, I don't know, I haven't made them any other way.  I would imagine that a non reactive bowl would work just fine.  But don't quote me on that, because my mother did tell me that a crock is the only way to go.  Whatever you decide, make it a large bowl.  It has to hold a lot of liquid for a significant amount of time.

The next step is to pour boiling water over the cucumbers.  You need enough water to cover all of the cucumbers.  If they feel like floating, put a plate on top of them to hold them under the water.  Leave them there overnight.  Drain and do it again the next day.


On the third day, drain the cucumbers and slice them up into pieces.  On the third day, the brine is made.

Brine
1 quart vinegar
8 cups sugar
2 tablespoons table salt
2 tablespoons whole pickle spice (for real it is called pickling spice, my husband thought it must have another name)

Bring all of the brine ingredients to a boil.  Pour over the sliced cucumbers.  Allow to sit for 24 hours.  The next day, drain and keep the brine.  Bring the brine to a boil again and pour over the sliced cucumbers.  Do the for 7 days.  Then, your pickles are ready.  You can can them or simply pour the pickles and brine into sterilized jars and into the refrigerator.  However, this recipe makes several jars of pickles, so I would recommend canning them.  I use my mom's copy of the Ball Canning Guide for times and canning technique. 

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