“What do you do with 30 Lbs of Cucumbers?” Part 4: Award-Winning Sweet and Sour Pickles

You’re supposed to can these, but if you don’t feel like sterilizing and going through all the trouble just to make a small batch of sugary cucumber pickles, just skip the sterilizing and boiling jars steps and store the pickles in your fridge in a glass jar for maybe up to 3 weeks. You can also just plop them in a bowl right away and enjoy for dinner tonight. They’re perfect with BBQ’d burgers, sandwiches, cheese, and nuts, as you’ll see in my upcoming summer picnic post.

Below is a picture of all the pickles I made…actually, no, that’s a lie. These are the first batch of all the pickles (dill and sweet-and-sours) that I made. I had more syrup and more cucumbers and so I did a second batch of the sweet-and-sours two days later. I am officially a sweet-and-sour kind of woman.

Award-winning sweet and sour pickles recipe

Jo’s Award Winning Cucumber Pickle Recipe, from The Cottage Smallholder: Stumbling Self Sufficiency in a Small Place

Ingredients:
4 large cucumbers (I used 12 Lebanese cucumbers instead, and tripled the entire recipe…)
3 medium onions (optional – I skipped ‘em)
2 oz/50g of salt (NOT optional – the key to crisp pickles)

For the syrup:
1pt/570ml of white wine vinegar
1lb/454g of soft brown sugar
½ level tsp of ground turmeric
½ level tsp of ground cloves (grind whole cloves for a stronger flavour)
1 tbsp of mustard seed (“we used black”, the recipe said, so I did too)

Instructions:

You’re going to want a mandolin set to a very thin slicing size for this, or a very good knife and a lot of patience. Wash the cucumbers and slice very thinly (you can pick up a cheap mandolin in Chinatown).

If you’re using onions, peel them and slice them very finely.

This is the trick: In a large sieve (or bowl) place a layer of the sliced cucumbers and optional onions and then sprinkle with salt. Add another layer of cucumbers and onions and more salt. Repeat until all the vegetables are salted, then weigh down the cucumbers in the sieve or bowl with a plate. A sieve is better because the salt and weight draw the water out of the cucumbers, making them firmer for the pickle. So in a sieve the water can actually drain out but in a bowl the water accumulates at the bottom, making the bottom layer less firm.

Let stand for three hours. (I only waited about 1 hour…basically while I was preparing the syrup.)
Award-winning sweet and sour pickles recipe

I had three sieves on the go for draining these cucumbers. That’s the downside of doing a triple recipe…not enough sieves. Who has these kinds of problems? I think there’s something wrong with me. Shouldn’t I want a condo or a car or something? No, I want more sieves…and jam jars, and lids, and pickles. Something is seriously off…

Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Sterilize your jars, screw bands and lids by washing them in hot, soapy water. Then place the jars and screw top lids (not the replaceable wax-rimmed lids) in the oven preheated oven for 20 minutes. You can also place them in a giant canning pot of water, bring the water to a boil, and boil for 15 minutes. The downside of that method is you can only do 6 or 8 at a time, depending on the size of your pot. The oven has more space.After 20 minutes in the oven or 15 in the pot, turn off the heat and leave them until you need them. Don’t remove them from the oven or pot.

Either way, now bring a large pot of water to a boil, since you’ll need it to seal the jars once they’re filled later and it takes way too long to get that massive pot to a boil.

Back to the cucumber syrup: Put the vinegar, sugar and spices in a large saucepan and stir over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.

Now rinse the cucumbers under running water to remove the excess salt. Add the cucumbers to the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat and simmer the cucumbers for 3 minutes, until the colour changes (on both sides! So stir, please) and they soften slightly. You may need to do this in batches if you have a lot of cucumbers like I did, so remove the cucumbers to a bowl as they finish using a slotted spoon.

Once you’ve removed the last batch of cucumbers with your trusty slotted spoon, let the syrup keep simmering and reducing for 15-20 minutes (15 if you had to do batches and 20 if you didn’t).

After 10 minutes carefully (they’re still hot) remove the jars and lids from the oven or canning pot (jar-lifters or a slotted spoon and tongs are key here).

Place the wax-rimmed lids in a small pot of water and bring to just below a boil. Turn off the heat and leave the rims until you need them (they need to sit at least 5 minutes in the hot water).

Note 1: Don’t use your hands to touch the rims. Use chopsticks or canning tongs. Place on a kitchen towel and carefully fill with the cucumbers. Don’t press down.

Note 2: I fill the jars using plastic chopsticks since you’re not supposed to touch the jar lips with metal, I think?? If you’re less-than-dexterous with chopsticks, use a wooden spoon…or invest in actual canning equipment.

Pour the reduced syrup over the cucumbers until 1’2″ from the top of the jar. You want the cucumbers covered but you don’t want to overfill the jar. Use your chopsticks or a small spatula to remove the air bubbles from the jars by poking down into the pickles and circling around the insides of the jars. Top up with more syrup if needed.

Wipe down the tops of the jars with a clean, wet kitchen towel. Sticky, syrupy rims don’t help the seal.

Now use your chopsticks or jar-lifters to place a wax-rimmed lid on each jar and also to place a screw band ring on top. Tighten as much as you can using just your finger tips of your strong hand. You don’t want to over-tighten or under-tighten.

Place the jars in the huge pot of water you may or may not have used to sterilize the jars earlier, bring it back to a boil, and start the timer for 10 minutes only when the water comes back to a rolling boil.

After 10 minutes remove the pot from the heat, remove the jars from the pot, let cool overnight, and store in a cool, dark, dry place for at least 10 days before eating.

I cheated…I ate some right away. They were still delicious…

P.S. I liked 3 babies yesterday. Not ‘liked’ as in I wanted them for myself, but ‘liked’ as in they didn’t get on my nerves, and when they were crying I made stupid faces to try to make them stop crying. I wanted them to be happy. I WANTED THEM TO BE HAPPY!!!! It must have been an off-day for me…My point being that between my pickling and not NOT-liking babies, maybe I’m more motherly than I thought. Definitely grandmotherly. Well, that’s what I thought until I basically drowned my worms…so much for the mother in me. Best stay away from kids, I think…

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1 Response

  1. July 1, 2011

    [...] experiment where I make the old pickle recipe I like, the new untested fermented dills, and also this recipe for Sweet-and-Sour pickles that’s calling out to me.Incidentally, the best brand of pickles at ShopRite, IMHO, is Mt. [...]

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