I grew up eating my Mom’s sweet pickles and have always wanted to make my own. This summer I planted 7 cucumber plants in our garden, hoping I would get a big enough batch of cucumbers to make pickles at some point. The truth is, I’ve had a few big cucumber harvests that would have worked well for a round of pickles, but I was so excited about eating the cucumbers that I never really got the chance. However, now that it’s mid-September, I think I’ve eaten about as many cucumber salads as I can stomach and I was delighted when I finally got another big cucumber harvest from the garden that I could make pickles out of.
I called my mom up last weekend to ask for her “secret” pickle recipe, only to learn that it was the recipe printed on the back of the Mrs. Wages pickle lime package. As it turns out, they sell the very same pickling lime here in Davis, so I was in luck.
I suppose this post isn’t so much about sharing a recipe as it is about sharing the wonderful feeling I get from growing and preserving my own food. In a world and economy that seems so unpredictable, it is comforting to know that I can at least grow the vegetables I would need to sustain myself and maybe a family one day. I like to think that maybe my parents had the same thoughts when they planted their first garden as a young couple.
I still have pretty vivid memories of my dad coming home for lunch during the summer when my mom, sister, and I were all out of school. We would gather around the messy kitchen table, moving aside art supplies, dishes, and other things that had accumulated since breakfast, make sandwiches, and eat as a family. My dad always had a jar of these pickles out and after putting them on his sandwich, he would stack a few extras on his plate to eat between bites of sandwich. These memories are what really made me want to make these.
As far as I’m concerned, the pickles themselves are really delicious. They are the perfect crisp and tangy accompaniment to any sandwich and my dad would give you a big list of what else they belong on. I guess I’m just happy to be carrying on a few of the family food traditions I grew up with. It makes the distance between California and home seem just a little smaller even if the 5 hour plane ride inevitably reminds me otherwise.
“Old South Cucumber Lime Pickles”
from my mom, slightly modified from the Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime package
7 lbs slicing cucumbers, sliced to about 3/16-inch thickness (if you plant your own, Burpless cucumbers work well)
1 cup pickling lime
2 gallons water
8 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
8 cups sugar
1 Tbsp salt
2 tsp pickling spice
Prepare and process home canning jars and lids to sterilize jars.
Wash cucumbers; drain. Mix water and pickling lime in a large non-reactive pot. Do not use aluminum (you can use enameled pots). Let cucumbers soak in mixture for 2 hours or overnight. Remove pickles and discard lime water. Rinse 3 times in fresh cold water. Soak 3 hours in fresh ice water.
Wrap pickling spice in cheese cloth and tie with cotton string or thread. Combine vinegar, sugar, salt, and pickling spice packet in a large non-reactive pot (again–no aluminum). Bring mixture to a low boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove syrup from heat and add cucumbers. Soak 5-6 hours or over night. Boil in the syrup for 35 minutes.
Pack hot cucmbers into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles and cap each jar as it is filled.
Process pints 10* minutes, quarts 15* minutes, in a boiling water bath canner. Test jars for airtight seals according to manufacturer’s directions. If jars do not completely seal, refrigerate and consumer within two weeks.
Ready to eat in 24 hours. Chill before serving to enhance flavor and crispness.