This is the time of year when my mom would pull out my grandma’s recipe and make a big crock of mustard pickles from the abundance of cucumbers at our farmer’s market. Pickle-making was a pretty major undertaking, leaving the kitchen hot and steamy, and the ordeal scared me away from attempting pickling myself—until Theresa Loe introduced me to quick pickles.
Quick pickles don’t require submerging jars in a steam bath, so the house won’t turn into a sauna. To make them, simply soak cucumbers, green beans or whatever vegetables you have on hand in a saltwater solution for a few hours, drain and pack into canning jars. Pour a hot, spicy vinegar solution over them, seal the jars and let the flavors develop—the longer, the better. These pickles won’t last as long as my mom’s mustard pickles, which stewed in their spicy brine until only Dad could tolerate their heat.
My pickles will keep in my fridge for a couple of weeks—and, honestly, they’re so delicious that they probably wouldn’t last much longer than that anyway.
BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLES
Makes approximately 6 pint jars
5 pounds 4–5 inch pickling cucumbers
6 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
1/2 cup salt
Ice (crushed or cubed)
4 cups white distilled vinegar
4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
Wash cucumbers well. Remove 1/4 inch off the blossom end and discard. Slice cucumbers into 1/4 inch slices. In a large bowl, combine sliced cucumber, onions and salt. Toss gently and cover with a 2-inch layer of ice. Place in refrigerator for 4 hours, adding ice as needed.
In a large stock pot, combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, celery seed and turmeric. Heat until boiling and boil for 5 minutes. Drain cucumbers and onions and add them to the boiling vinegar. Bring mixture back up to a boil and turn off heat.
Fill clean pint jars with the cucumbers and onions, leaving a 1/2 inch space at the top of the jar. Carefully pour in hot vinegar mixture to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Run a knife along the sides to remove any air bubbles and wipe down the jar rims with a damp cloth. Top each jar with a canning lid and ring.
SWEET PICKLE SLICES
Makes 5 pint jars
3 pounds cucumbers
11/2 cups salt
5 cups white distilled vinegar
2 tablespoons pickling spice tied in cheesecloth
2 cups sugar
Wash cucumbers and remove 1/4 inch off the blossom end. Slice into 1/2 inch slices. In a large enamel, glass or stainless steel container, combine salt with 1 gallon water. Stir well, add cucumber slices. Use a plate to weigh down any floating cucumbers. Refrigerate 4 hours to overnight.
Drain and rinse cucumber slices. In a large stainless steel or enamel pot, bring 3 cups water and remaining ingredients to a boil. Add cucumber and return to a boil. Cover the pot and simmer the cucumbers in the vinegar mixture for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and continue.
Remove spice bag from hot vinegar mixture. Fill clean, wide-mouth pint jars with cucumber slices. Pour hot vinegar mixture over the cucumbers, leaving a 1/2-inch space at the top of the jar. Wipe down jar rim with a wet cloth and add lids. Allow the flavors to develop for at least 7 days before eating.
DILLED GREEN BEANS
Makes 4 pint jars
2 pounds green beans
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
8 sprigs fresh dill
4 teaspoons dill seed
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon mustard seed
21/2 cups water
21/2 cups white distilled vinegar
1/4 cup salt
Wash green beans and trim ends. Cut any long beans so they fit (standing upright) in jars. Into each of 4 clean pint jars add 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, 2 sprigs dill, 1 teaspoon dill seed, 1 clove garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed. Pack jars with beans in an upright position. In a large stainless steel or enamel pot, combine water, vinegar and salt. Bring to a boil. Pour boiling liquid over the beans, leaving 1/2 inch space at the top. Wipe jar rims with damp cloth and add canning lids. Store in the refrigerator and use within 3 weeks. Allow flavors to develop at least 5 days before eating.
7 Pickling Tips
- Select fresh, unwaxed, firm pickling cucumbers. The fresher the produce, the crisper the pickle.
- Wash cucumbers well in cool water to remove all dirt, which may contain a bacteria that softens pickles.
- To remove the “blossom,” which also contains pickle-softening enzymes, slice 1/4 inch off the cucumber’s stem end.
- For a clear pickling solution, use pure pickling salt without iodine or anti-caking agents. If you can’t find pickling salt, use Kosher salt.
- White distilled vinegar does not discolor the produce. Use commercial vinegar of 5 percent or greater acidity.
- Some old recipes call for firming agents such as lime or alum. These are unnecessary if you use quality ingredients and follow up-to-date canning methods.
- Heat pickling liquids in stainless steel, aluminum glass, or unchipped enamelware pans. Copper, brass, galvanized or iron utensils may react with the acid and discolor your pickles.