Monday, August 24, 2020

Pickles! (an old family recipe!)


I'm inaugurating our "Cookery" series with an old family recipe. Yes, it's true! And I'm not going to leave out any ingredients, either! (Don't ya hate it when someone protects their recipe that way!!!!) 

It's like they have (glancing around to see if anyone is listening) Intellectual Property or maybe (shhhhhhh!) State Secrets!

Nope, no secrets here - I'm sharing a bodacious recipe with you, and some tips to make it turn out just right! Fair warning -- picture-heavy post ahead, so grab a cuppa and a cookie and settle in to read!

Confidentially, I love to can and preserve things, especially when my garden runneth over with fresh veggies. And small batch, home-preserved items are WAYYYYYY better than the store-bought!

Am I right? Are you in the same boat?

So, let's learn how to make sweet cucumber pickles!

I'm assuming that you know about how to prepare your jars and lids, and have a water bath canning system ready? (If you need some refresher tips on that, holler at me in the comments, and I will post some help.)  I use old faithful Ball jars and lids; they have stood the test of time with me. The water bath canning? A huge stockpot with a flat canning rack in the bottom. No canning rack in your inventory? Fear not -- use some jar lids arranged in a circle and tied together with twisty ties or with cable ties. It works! (It's just to keep the jars from sitting right on the bottom of the pot during the processing.)

Here is our recipe (I'm posting it just as it is written out; it reads as if someone took it down, word for word!) and don't giggle about the name, OK? No, I won't tell you the story. 
Oh, OK, you bullied me into it. It seems that before I came along, the ladies in my family had a thing for NOT being called grandma. . . . me? I'm perfectly thrilled to hear a little one holler for me: "Grandmaaaaaaaa!" Tickles me pink! 
But these ladies, my ancestors, would rather be called by other names. It worked for them. Who am I to judge. (Grin) This lady who dictated the recipe was named Ruth. One grandchild apparently tried to say "Ru Ru," and it came out "Boo Boo," and the name stuck. Now stop giggling, and let's get back to our cookery!
(Aunt Charlotte's or) Booboo's Pickles

Start at 6pm.
Wash and cut in 1/4 inch thick slices. 7 pounds cucumbers.
2 gallons of water, mixed with 2 cups of slacked (sic) lime. This will not dissolve so mix with wooden spoon real well.
Add cucumber slices and soak 24 hours. (6pm one night until 6pm the next)
Then wash cucumbers good, 3 or 4 waters, then soak 3 hours in cold water.
Then drain. While draining, mix 2 quarts vinegar, 5 pounds sugar, 1 tbsp salt, 1 teaspoon pickling spices, 1 teaspoon whole cloves, 1 teaspoon celery seeds. Note: I tie mine in a muslin square so the spices don't discolor the pickles. They can easily be removed.) 
Add the cucumber slices and soak overnight.
Cook for 45 minutes the next am. Sometimes I cook mine longer, until they look clear. 
You really need a large jelly pot or soup pot. Makes six pints.
Now. . . . .  
Some tips that will clarify (and make some things easier!). Whether from the store or from your garden, you will want a mix of cucumber sizes; sometimes you want large slices to go on your hamburger, and other times you want a garnish, or to chop into salad, etc.  Usually, I have some pretty big ones and some medium -- if they are all large, about seven or eight cukes are what you need.

The cutting: I use my fav knife and block -- my Ulu! So comfortable and easy on hands with arthritis. (That's me!)  My son in law loved it so much he ordered one the very night he used mine to prep a meal with me! The rocking motion is easy and precise.

She meant "slaked" lime. It may be difficult to find this time of year, especially THIS year. (Grin) So many people have gardened and are now trying their hands at preserving and pickling! This is my go-to for the slaked lime, but you can find others and they will work just as well.

I have two buckets that I put the lime, water, and slices in. I repurposed (after super-good cleaning them) two buckets that I begged for at the bakery section of the local grocery. 

They work super! They have a gasket that enables me to seal the lids down firmly, and then come by a couple of times during their soak and move them around in circles on the counter (stirring up the lime into the water again) without making a mess on the countertop! See?

Half of the slices go in one bucket, and half in the other. 

Then each bucket gets a gallon of water and a cup of slaked lime. I don't use a wooden spoon, but instead I agitate the buckets and swirl the slices. (I found that the wooden spoon broke some of the slices, and I wanted them to stay whole.)  Do that about twice more during the soak, and it should be fine.

After the first soak in the lime water, I follow the recipe and rinse the slices really well. It usually does take three or four rinses (running the buckets full of water and then draining again) to get all of the lime from the almost-pickles. The three hour stasis in water is next, and then the overnight soak in the vinegar, with the spices nestled into the vinegar and sugar solution. I usually use pickling spice mix and whole cloves, plus white distilled vinegar. (I go overboard on both of them, and use about a tablespoon of each of the spices. I just like the flavor better than the formula listed up there. Just sayin.) I tie them into a centuries-old bandana and secure it with a rubber band. I also have learned to add about a pint extra vinegar - if I pack the pickles loosely, I find it takes a bit more vinegar to fill the jars. Usually, I'm ok because I pack them in pretty well, like people into a Volkswagen beetle. Oops, I'm showing my age there!


Now, don't tell anybody, but I have gone off and left these before and heated/packed jars the next night, because something important needed my attention in the morning. And all was well. No one was ever the wiser. So I think we can say that pickles are a pretty forgiving lot. (grin)

I usually do let mine cook for about an hour - I just feel like the finished product looks prettier, packed into the jars. I fill the jars and leave about one half inch headspace before applying hot lids and rings.  I water bath process the jars for twenty minutes, and then arrange them on a dish towel on the countertop with plenty of air circulation around them. Love to hear those "pings" as the lids seal down!
I usually end up with ten or eleven jars. Aren't they pretty?

So, tell me -- do you make pickles? What kind? Do you can or preserve at all? (If you'd like to try the recipe, let me know how it turns out!



  1. Your pickles look great! I’m going to save that recipe. The next time we plant a garden I’m going to plant some pickling cukes. Your comments don’t come to me via email. I’m guessing you’re on yahoo, and that’s why. That’s okay, because I catch you with comment moderation. (A good reason to have it turned on.) Anyway...yes, the pressure canning went well. No problems. I’ve had problems with siphoning when I make pie filling, but I left my last batch in the canner for 20 minutes after turning off the heat, and that seemed to take care of it.

  2. wow!! I am so impressed. I haven't done pickles, mostly just jelly. Thanks, I loved your post.


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