I’m almost embarrassed to tell you that I was in my 30s before I ever made my own pickles. How can any self-respecting amateur chef admit to that kind of neglect???
It all started when I got a jar of pickles from a friend for Christmas, way back in the 70’s. When she told me she made them herself, I tried my best to hide my shock. Whaaaaaat???? You can make your own pickles? I thought I was SO educated. Hey! I was born in West Virginia! Gramma must have made her own pickles all the time. Unfortunately I never knew my Gramma’s. So there it was: a huge hole in my culinary expertise!
It is my personal opinion that there are laws against printing a church cookbook without at least one recipe for homemade pickles. So, I immediately got out an old church cookbook, and sure enough, there were lots of pickle recipes. Here is the first one I used (way back in 1973).
HOMEMADE PICKLES (SWEET)
3 large cucumbers (English are nice for this. They are the long, skinny ridged one. They also have a nice soft skin so they don’t need to be peeled.) Note on cucumbers: the little baby ones are so perfect for this. But they are sometimes difficult to find. I’m not sure if there is a season of the year or if it’s the type of grocery store. AJ’s? Sprouts? Whole Foods? probably the best place to find them. ALSO, remember to be aware of the finished product and how you want it to look. In this case, size does matter! (funny face emoji here…..)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup plain white vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 Tblsp. Pickling spices*
*yes, pickling spices come in expensive spice bottles. But I like those little cellophane bags in the spice section, because they are cheaper. Or, you can google pickling spices and make your own. Chances are, you have some of the ingredients on hand, such as Whole cloves, tumeric, mustard seed, whole peppercorns.
Bring sugar, vinegar, water and spices to a hard boil. While heating, slice the cucumbers and divide them into pint jars. (should be about 6). Use whatever amount fills up the jars within 1/2 inch of the top. Pour the very hot liquid over and put the lid on tightly. IF YOU ARE A “CANNER”, you can seal these now but when I made them I just let them cool overnight and kept them in the fridge.
I will give you one more recipe here that I use more now, 40 years later.
3 cups vinegar (Apple cider, or white, or take a chance on other light ones like white balsamic)
1/4 cup salt
5 sliced white onions
3 cups sugar
1 Tbs. each: celery seed, mustard seed, turmeric and whole cloves
1/4 cup water
12 sliced cucumbers
Bring all ingredients to a boil and add the cucumbers. Boil until soft. (you can skip this step if you want, if you like crisper pickles, just add them to the liquid and seal.)
PERSONAL NOTES ON PICKLING: I don’t make pickles too much anymore, but I do love to do pickled red onions and jalapeños to use on tacos. Just follow the above recipes minus the cucumbers. OR, make a very simple mix of equal parts vinegar and sugar, I use 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup apple cider or white vinegar, and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil and cover the onions and peppers. Seal and use on all kinds of Mexican dishes. Great! Ask me how I know!