The verdict is in (on the pickles I made back in August). These are delicious. Sweet and spicy. Nice tang and good crunch. One reason I like this recipe is you can use any size of cucumbers, not just pickling cukes. My garden isn’t big enough to produce enough pickling cukes at once (I hope to change that next year when I take out a tree to get more sunlight on my garden). The original recipe calls for alum. Alum is not added to pickles anymore, so I’ve left it out. I also up’ed the amount of syrup. The original recipe didn’t make enough to fill all the jars. I left the proportions the same.
(makes about 5 pints)
4 pounds unwaxed cucumbers
¼ cup kosher salt or 3 Tablespoons pickling salt
¼ teaspoon powdered alum (optional)
2 cups sugar
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 teaspoons pickling spice (see Note)
2 grape leaves for each jar (optional)
3-4 green table grapes or unripe grapes of any variety for each jar (optional)
1 small sprig fresh dill per jar
Scrub cucumbers in cold water to clean well. Cut into ¾” to 1″ chunks. Make sure to cut out any bruised spots. Place chunks in a large stainless mixing bowl. Add salt and cover with water. Weight down cucumber with a plate to keep them from floating. Let stand for 16-24 hours.
Drain brine in a wide large saucepan, (add alum if using) and heat to boiling, then pour back over cucumbers. Let them stand for 12 hours, again weighting them down with a plate to prevent floating.
When you’re reading to pack cucumbers, make a syrup by combining sugar, cider vinegar, and 2 cups of water, and spices in a 3 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, and keep hot until ready to fill jars. Sterilize 5 wide-mouth jars and get the tops and bands ready. Drain the chunks, and discard the brine. To pack pickles, place a grape leaf at the bottom of each jar, 3-4 green grapes, and a sprig of dill. Then pack the cucumbers snugly into the jars. Place each jar back in the sterilizing pot with a few inches of hot water in it after you pack them. Once you get all the jars in the sterilizer, add water until the water reaches nearly to the top of the jars. Don’t add so much that the water splashes into the jars. Cover the pot and heat until the chunks are hot to the touch; keep the water barely simmering. If it comes to a boil, it can splash into the jars. If water gets in the jars, pour it off before pouring in the syrup (next step).
Remove one jar at a time and fill to almost overflowing with the boiling syrup. Top with another grape leaf, clean the rim and threads, and seal. Repeat with remaining jars. As the jars cool, they will vacuum seal. Label and store for at least 2 months before using.
Adapted from Preserving in today’s kitchen by Jeanne Lesem, 1992.
Note: To make your own pickling spice, combine 1 Tablespoon coriander seed, 1 Tablespoon mustard seed, 2 teaspoons celery seed, 2 teaspoons black peppercorns, 2 whole cloves, and 4 crumbled bay leaves. Mix well and store in a sealed container in a cool dark place. There are many, many versions of pickling spice. This one is from Quick Pickles by Chris Schlesinger, John Willoughby, and Dan George.