In Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry (W.W. Norton & Company, 2014), food preserving expert Cathy Barrow presents a beautiful collection of essential preserving techniques for turning the fleeting abundance of the farmers’ market into a well-stocked pantry full of canned fruits and vegetables, jams, stocks, soups and more. This Seven-Day Sweet Pickle Chips recipe is from the section “Quickles, Refrigerator Pickles, and Shelf-Stable Pickles”
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Seven-Day Sweet Pickle Chips
This traditional sweet pickle is a recipe that’s been around forever in the Mennonite community. This version has been my go-to sweet pickle for many years and friends love them so much, they steal them from the pantry. Most of the recipes in this book call for three pounds of produce, but here I’m encouraging you to make ten pounds of pickles. Yes, ten pounds. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and make half a recipe. Mark my words, you’ll make this pickle again before the summer is over.
Alum, a crisping agent, is available in many grocery store spice aisles. It is a perfectly natural mineral, but if it worries you, opt for black tea, such as Lipton’s, to ensure a crispy pickle chip. Use only nonchlorinated water. Chill the pickles thoroughly before serving.
• 10 pounds (4.5 kg) very fresh Kirby cucumbers
• 1/4 cup (1.2 oz., 35 g) kosher or pickling salt
• 3 tablespoons alum or 5 tablespoons loose black tea from 8 tea bags
• 4 quarts (128 oz., 3.8 l) cider vinegar
• 10 cups (70 oz., 2 kg) granulated sugar, plus 1 cup (7 oz., 198 g) if needed
• 1/4 cup (2 oz., 75 g) pickling spice, homemade or store-bought
1. Day One: In a very large bowl or a clean cooler, soak the cucumbers in ice water for 30 minutes. Drain.
2. Trim off the ends of the cucumbers, then slice into 3/4-inch chunks; a waffle or ripple cutter produces good-looking pickles. Pack them into a 5-gallon or larger jar or food-safe container with a lid. Cover the cucumber chunks with boiling water. Let cool, then cover the container and let sit overnight.
3. Day Two: There may be some fluffy white foam on the top of the cucumbers. Don’t worry, that’s normal. It’s called lactobacillus and it’s a healthy, naturally occurring bacteria. Drain the pickles, rinse the jar, and put the pickles back in the jar. (Do not rinse the pickles.)
4. In a 5-quart nonreactive pot, bring the salt and 4 quarts of brine to a boil. Pour the brine over the cucumber slices; you may have more than you need; dispose of the extra. Cool, then cover and let sit overnight.
5. Day Three: Again, do not be dismayed by the sight of any foam or white fluff on the top of the pickles. Drain the cucumbers. Do not rinse them, but do rinse the jar, and pack the soon-to-be-pickles back into the jar.
6. In a 5-quart nonreactive pot, bring the alum (or tea bags) and 4 quarts water to a boil. Pour the boiling water over the cucumber slices; discard any excess. Cool, then cover and let it sit overnight.
7. Day Four: Drain the pickles and rinse the jar. The texture will have changed with the addition of the alum (or tea) and they will be crisp. The pickles are also very delicate at this stage, so place them back in the jar gently.
8. In a 5-quart nonreactive pot, bring the cider vinegar and 5 cups of the sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Put the pickling spice into a cheesecloth bundle (or a tea ball) and add to the jar of pickles. Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumber slices. Cool, then cover and let sit for 3 days.
9. Days Five and Six: Dream of what you will do with these pickles.
10. Day Seven: Drain the pickles, reserving 2 cups of the syrup; dispose of the pickling spices. Put the pickles into a giant bowl and scatter 4 cups sugar over them. Stir well and let sit for about an hour.
11. Pack the pickles tightly into the warm jars. The sugar will have drawn liquid out of the pickles. Scrape/pour this liquidy syrup over the pickles, dividing it evenly.
12. Heat 1 cup of the reserved spiced vinegar and the remaining cup of sugar in a nonreactive saucepan, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Fill the jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. If the jars require additional liquid, it is possible you haven’t packed the jars tightly enough. Remove air bubbles and repack. If they are well packed and still short of liquid, make another batch of syrup by boiling the remaining cup of reserved vinegar with another cup of sugar and pour it over the pickles, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with a bubbler, chopstick, or flat plastic knife. Carefully clean the jar rims and the threads; this is a sticky business. Place the lids and rings on the jars and finger--tighten the rings.
13. Process in a boiling-water bath for 5 minutes.
14. Let the pickles cure for a week or so, turning the jars over for the first few days to disperse and dissolve any sugar on the bottoms of the jars. Chill well before enjoying.
The pickles are shelf stable for 1 year.
More Recipes from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry:
Reprinted with permission from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, by Cathy Barrow, and published by W.W. Norton & Company. Buy this book from our store: Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry.