This morning as I had my coffee out on our back deck, I sat and just watched nature. I marvel at the simplicity and yet complexity of life. Everything we need to survive has been provided to us. Sometimes the answers are easy and sometimes we have to learn in order to solve our problems.
Here was a problem I had to solve this summer-what do you do when your garden blesses you with more cucumbers than you know what to do with? Well my friends, you learn really quick how to save them so they won’t rot (trust me-after all the weed pulling I was not going to lose them just because we could not eat them all)! Thanks to a fantastic teacher and a little science, we will be enjoying our harvest for months to come!
From the time I was little, I can remember my mother canning throughout the summer. From tomatoes, pickles, to beans, it always seemed weekends at the rivah (what we call our weekend place in Surry County, VA) were made for canning. Thankfully my mother answered the phone when I called to ask her to teach me to can. Of course I should have known I was going to love canning! How could I not love it when science is such a huge part of the process! Although her method of cucumber pickles takes a couple of days, the work is worth the outcome!
Here is what you need:
- 7 Pounds of cucumbers
- 2 Cups of pickling lime and 2 gallons of water
- 2 Quarts of vinegar
- 4 1/2 punds of sugar
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 1 Teaspoon Celery Seed
- 1 Teaspoon Whole Cloves
- 1 Teaspoon Mixed Pickling Spice
First thing to do is wash the cucumbers and then slice. Once you have them all sliced, put them into 2 gallons of water that has 2 cups of lime. For the next 24 hours, allow them to sit in this mixture. Be sure to stir occasionally as the lime will sink to the bottom.
Of course as we were doing this step I had to ask-why lime? What is the purpose? Lime helps to “crisp” the pickles by improving the firmness. It actually introduces calcium that reinforces the plants natural pectin.
In researching different ways to make pickles, many of the articles discussed not using lime. The reason why this recipe takes so long is this- you have to make sure you rinse all the lime away! If there is any lime left on the pickles when they go into the “brine” part of the process, it can actually reduce the pH of the overall pickling solution. This can allow bacteria to grow and we know what happens then!
So wash, wash, wash. After sitting in the lime/water mixture for 24 hours, you must wash them several times. I washed 3 different times (be sure to pour the water outside as lime down the sink is not a good thing). Then put them in another pan of fresh water for three hours!
After the three hour tour through fresh water, you then put the cucumbers in the mixture of vinegar, sugar, and spices and let it sit overnight.
The last step involves simmering and boiling the mixture for 40 minutes. Let them cool a little bit and begin the packing process. Grab a strainer with the tiniest mesh ever and a jar funnel. It was great and of course nostalgic to use the same strainer, jar opener, and pans my mother used! The strainer will collect the cloves and other large spices while allowing the wonderful juice to cover your pickles. Then pack, pack, pack those tiny morsels into the jars and seal!
What you end up with is a sweet, crisp pickle that reminds you of long summer days filled with sunshine and lots of love from family members!