When we first planted a garden 3 years ago, I knew I needed to grow cucumbers because I knew I wanted to make pickles. My grandma had always made homemade sweet pickles, and they were a highlight of family dinners. She moved to town and gave up her garden (and making pickles) several years ago, though.
With this in mind, the first year I planted three cucumber plants. They grew well and before I knew it, I had 8-10 cucumbers sitting on my counter – I needed to make pickles! I called my grandma for the recipe. Only problem, she didn’t have it! Turns out that all of those years my favorite pickles were made based on a recipe on a package. They still are today…
Those first cucumbers became refrigerator pickles as I struggled to find pickling lime, but after a little research, I finally found Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime at our local Tractor Supply Co, recipe and all!
Here is the recipe as it appears on the package with my comments and additions in italics:
- 7 lbs. cucumbers (sliced. I recommend pickling cucumbers, but I have used slicing cukes.)
- 1 cup MRS. WAGES Pickling Lime (lime is not citrus flavor, it’s white powder used in the pickling process.)
- 2 gallons water (I think I often use less water, but I use the correct amount of lime)
- 8 cups sugar
- 8 cups Mrs. Wages® Pickling & Canning Vinegar or other commercial white vinegar (5% acidity)
- 1 tablespoon salt (optional) (I opt to NOT use salt)
- 2 teaspoons MRS. WAGES Mixed Pickling Spices (Any pickling spice will work. I’ve used multiple brands)
- Green food coloring.
- Soak clean cucumbers in water and lime mixture in crockery or enamel ware for 12 hours or overnight. Do not use aluminum ware. (I now use two crocks each about half-full of slices and fill almost to the top with water. When I started, I used a plastic mixing bowl.)
- Remove sliced cucumbers from lime water. Discard lime water. Rinse 3 times in fresh cold water. Soak 3 hours in fresh ice water.(You can extend this step if your timing isn’t right, but the pickles seem to lose some crispiness, and it’s tough to keep the water cold. )
- Combine vinegar, sugar, salt and mixed pickling spices in a large pot. Bring to a low boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove syrup from heat and add sliced cucumbers. Soak 5-6 hours or overnight. (Again, it seems like the longer you wait between lime-soak and canning, the less crisp the pickles will have, but that’s not a deal-breaker for me. I also usually make 2 cups of extra liquid 1 part vinegar: 1 part sugar sometime before packing jars. If you don’t it’s a real panic when you don’t have enough to fill the jars.)
- Boil slices in the syrup 35 minutes. Here is where I add the food coloring. The pickles naturally get a little yellowish, and my grandma always used food coloring to make them a very bright green, so I do the same. Fill sterilized jars with hot slices. Pour hot syrup over the slices, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Cap each jar when filled. (To cap the jars, wipe the jar top clean and place an unused lid on the jar, then screw on a band finger-tight. It’s important that the band not be too tight so that air can escape during processing.)
- Process pints 10 minutes, quarts 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. (Remember to add one minute for every 1000 feet of elevation.)
- Test jars for airtight seals according to manufacturer’s instructions. Refrigerate unsealed jars. (Usually this just means making sure the button is down and doesn’t move when you press on the center. Listen for a “pop” when you take them out of the water. Generally, we keep them in the fridge for two weeks if they don’t seal or after they are opened.)
Although I usually can more than we can eat, my friends and family don’t seem to mind. There are currently 7 gallons in the cuboard (and we didn’t quite finish last years’). Merry Christmas, everyone!!