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When I was a kid my mother and grandmother always made sweet pickles that they called 14 day pickles. Yes it really does take 14 days to make them, but none of it is difficult to do, and except for the first and last day, it takes less than 30 minutes a day of your time.
I could eat those things by the bowl full when I was growing up, and I still love them today. They're sweet, crisp, and refreshing. I made it a point to get Grandma's recipe when my wife and I started our garden, and we have been making them ever since.
Making sweet pickles involves both a chemical and biological transformation that changes cucumbers into pickles. If you have ever wanted to try your hand at homemade pickles, here's how its done...
-About 3 gallons of fresh cucumbers of varying sizes the smaller the better...
-Canning & Pickling Salt or un-iodized table salt
-Alum - 1.9 oz container
-Apple Cider Vinegar
-Food grade 5 gallon bucket or 5 gallon ceramic pickle crock
-Quart Jar full of water or a large (softball sized) clean granite rock
-2 gallon cooking pot
-Canning jars, lids and rings
Day one is all about the preparation work. But the rest of the week requires no work at all - just waiting...
Wash and clean the cucumbers. Be sure to remove the white or black spurs on the cucumbers when you clean them. Then slice them up and put them into the bucket or pickle crock.
The smallest cucumbers (about 1 1/2" long or less) can be left whole - these make the best sweet pickles as far as I'm concerned.
Small to medium sized (1 1/2" - 2" long) cucumbers should be sliced in half lengthwise.
Medium sized (2" - 3" long) cucumbers should be sliced into quarters lengthwise.
Cucumbers an inch in diameter up to about 1 1/2" diameter can be sliced into discs about 1/4' thick.
I don't recommend using cucumbers larger than that for sweet pickles.
When you are done slicing, your bucket or crock should be about 3/5 full (a little over the half way mark)
In the 2 gallon pot, bring one gallon of water to a boil. Add 1 pound of canning and Pickling Salt. Stir until dissolved.
Pour the salt water (brine) over the cucumbers, put the dinner plate on top upside down, and use the water filled quart jar or granite rock to weigh down the dinner plate. The brine should cover the cucumbers and the plate.
Cover the bucket with a dish towel or some similar cloth to keep dust and insects out.
Leave the whole thing sit for 7 days.
The brine solution does three things:
- It draws excess moisture out of the cucumbers. You will notice that
the volume of cucumbers will have decreased a bit after you pour off the
2 - It will help remove the bitter flavor that is in some varieties of cucumbers - especially in the skin.
3 - It kills off unwanted micro-organisms, and encourages the activity of lactic acid bacteria, which ferments natural sugars into lactic acid. This adds part of the flavor of finished pickles.
On the eighth day you will need to pour off the brine solution. It's best to do this outdoors. Remove the dish cloth and the quart jar/rock. While holding the plate in place with one hand, tip the bucket with the other hand to pour off the brine solution.
Rinse with plain water two times, pouring off the water each time. Take your bucket of drained pickles back inside.
NOTE: Sometimes, large colonies of blue green and gray mold will form on top of the brine solution - even covering the entire surface. This looks ugly (or really cool depending on your perspective...), but doesn't do any harm. Just remove and discard it before you pour off the brine.
Measure a gallon of water into the 2 gallon pot, and bring it to a boil.
When it is boiling, pour in a 1.9 oz container of alum. Alum can usually be found with spices in most grocery stores.
Pour the hot solution over the pickles
Replace the dinner plate, quart jar, and dish towel and let the whole thing sit for 24 hours.
Alum will cause the pickles to firm up, and is what makes them crisp instead of mushy.
On day nine, you have to pour off the alum solution and replace it with the final pickling syrup solution.
Pour off the alum solution just like you did the brine solution the day before. Rinse the pickles one time and drain.
In the 2 gallon pot pour 5 pints of apple cider vinegar (not white vinegar) and 8 pints of sugar.
Bring this solution to a boil. Stir regularly to help dissolve the sugar.
When this syrup comes to a boil, pour in 1.5 ounces of mixed pickling spices, remove it from the heat, and stir them in.
Pour the syrup over the pickles, replace plate, quart jar and dish towel. While pouring the syrup, try not to get your face into the steam cloud, because the vinegar steam can cause you to jerk back involuntarily, or start sneezing or coughing. It won't hurt you, but it's not very pleasant either.
On each of these days, pour the syrup off of the pickles into the 2 gallon pot. Bring it to a boil and pour it back onto the pickles. Heating this syrup reactivates the spices, and allows more of the spicy flavor to work it's way into the pickles themselves and not just in the juice.
On any of these days, you can sample the pickles to get an idea of what they are going to taste like when they are done. They just get better each day!!
First thing you have to do is wash and dry your canning jars lids and
rings. This recipe usually makes right at 9 quarts or 18 pints, so to
be safe wash at least one or two extra jars.Fill water bath canner with
water and begin to heat it up. By the time your pickles are in the jars
and ready, the canner should be ready to use.
Pour off the pickling syrup, reheat it and pour it back on the pickles, just like you did on days 10 - 13.
While it's still hot, pour off the pickling syrup a second time, and reheat it to a rolling boil.
While the syrup is coming to a boil, pack the pickles in the canning jars. You will have to shake them down, and pack a few pickles into the empty spaces in the jars to REALLY get them filled.
When the syrup comes to a boil, ladle it into the canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
Make sure to wipe the jar rims clean, and apply the dome lids and rings to hand tightness.
Process both pints and quarts for 15 minutes. Remove and let stand until they seal (this could take a couple of hours - so be patient).
And here's the finished product - Home made fourteen day pickles. One batch actually makes around 9 quarts of sweet pickles.
OPTIONAL When I was a kid, I remember that when my grandmother was making pickles, she added 2-3 drops of green food coloring to each jar at canning time. The idea was to make the pickles look greener and fresher. The actual result was unnaturally bright green pickles. It didn't affect the taste of them at all. If you want to try it, give it a shot. I did this with one jar from the batch that I made for this web page. You can see the difference in the center jar in the photo below.
Fourteen day pickles are a home made taste treat. They don't taste like anything that you can buy in any grocery store that I can find. I was nearly grown up before I realized that you could actually buy pickles in the store! I thought everybody made their own.
made some and tried them yourself, you'll wonder why more people don't
make their own. Learning to make your own pickles is yet another step
along the path to self sufficiency, and one less thing that you have to
buy from the grocery store.