First, when making pickles, you must have the perfect pickle recipe. Along with David Bednar, I too happen to have one- it’s my great-grandmother’s recipe, from many a hot Iowa summer, written in my grandfather’s own hand, which somehow makes it cooler than cool, and guaranteed to make magic pickles. It’s also helpful to have a wooden-yellow-handled vintage pickle cutter. Helpful, but not necessary. Cooler, but everyone will live if your poor pickles have straight sides. They’ll feel sorry for you, but they’ll still like your pickles.
Like many old recipes (and patterns too) it’s short on details, long on flavor and success. It assumes a certain familiarity with the kitchen. It assumes you know what kind of cukes, how to prep them, and what a quart of cukes looks like. I love this about old recipes- it feels like the writer is talking to me over a painted wooden table while we share tall glasses of sweet tea, with ice tinkling and melting in the late afternoon sun. “Put the cookies in a medium hot oven…”, “Pack in hot jars…”, “Process your jam…” All of these assume a certain shared intimacy. You KNOW how to pack jars, dear. You KNOW that a med-hot oven lets you hold your hand inside for only so many seconds. It’s… intimate.
- 4 quarts sliced pickling cukes (the small ones, not the big eatin’ ones)
- 4 onions, sliced thin
- 2 diced green peppers
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup salt
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Turmeric powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
- 2 Tbsp whole mustard seeds
- 3 cups vinegar
Mix sliced cucumbers, onions and peppers in a big bowl, add salt, mix thoroughly, and cover with ice chips, and let stand 3 hours then drain. Combine the sugar, vinegar and spices in a big stock pot, heat to boiling, add the drained vegetables, pack in hot jars.
My pickles, onions, garlic and pepper are chilling in the salty ice, while I suds and bleach my canning tops. If you’re going to pack, and don’t want broken glass all over the kitchen, jar and food must be the same temperature or thermal shock will make jars pop into a million pieces. Icy pickles never go in hot jars. Never.
You need all of this stuff. And after you follow the directions, you get the best sweet pickles on Earth. (and I hate sweet pickles. Really, I do- but not these. Maybe it’s because they’re so wrapped up in gossamer memory, or maybe it’s because they really are that good. Does it matter why?) Make them. I have given you a gift. Make them.
This is what you get. Blessed, delightful, little briney, sour, sweet gems from the garden. You can hot process them, and make them shelf-stable. I do that sometimes. This batch I cold-processed, and they will have to be refrigerated, but cold processed pickles stay much crunchier. If you’ve got the cold space, I prefer them- but the shelf-stable ones are almost as good- AND you can ship them to all your favorite pickle people. We’ve already busted into our second jar.
This is a recipe the kids can totally help with- especially if you have a nifty vintage slicer- it’s not sharp enough to de-finger anyone, but cuts the cukes into great shapes. Now go make some pickles. Don’t tell anyone I gave you the recipe. You’re welcome.