Making pickles is just not my thing. The closest I’ve come is Canning Jalapeno Peppers because we eat them in and on so many things and I grow them every year. So I have to preserve them somehow and those are so easy to do! But pickles? Nah, not my thing.
This year I grew some of those long long cucumbers that I believe were called the English cucumber. I can’t find the tag that came with the pack, but they are big. Well, I left my garden unattended for a bit and ended up with these 20 inch monster size yellow cucumbers that are not ideal to eat and I was going to throw them away. There were at least ten pounds of these giants! My Mom mentioned to me that my Nephew, Michael, had given her a basket of overgrown cucumbers from his garden and she wanted to make my grandmother’s lime pickles. Oh, my mouth started watering. I have not had those lime pickles in many years, probably not since before she passed away in 2010 at the young age of 98. She use to make these lime pickles, and growing up I loved them. To this day, they are bar none my favorite pickle in the whole world. So, here I go deciding to make them last week. I got the recipe from my sister, Teresa, and more detailed instructions from my Mom on how my grandmother use to make them.
These are not your traditional sliced pickles. For MawMaw’s lime pickles, she always peeled off the yellow skin and removed the seeds and placenta. What’s left is what’s called the mesocarp which is the “meaty” of the cucumber. That’s what she made these pickles from.
These pickles are crispy, crunchy, sweet, tart, tangy and infused with a fabulous combination of cloves, mustard seeds, celery seeds, cinnamon sticks and several other ingredients that make them delicious! So, what makes them crispy and crunchy? It’s the lime. Now, don’t go running to the feed and seed store and get the kind for your yard. You’ll find pickling lime in the canning section of your grocery stores. Soaking the cut up cucumbers in a lime and water bath is what makes them crispy and crunchy. I’m telling you, they’re the best!
So, this is my attempt to pay homage to my MawMaw and her Lime Pickles. Thank you for the memories!
Here’s how she made them.
I do enjoy my little garden. Truly little garden. I grow a few tomato plants, a couple of cucumbers, and lots of peppers, both hot and sweet. Well, there are my herbs too, but that’s pretty much it in terms of gardens that we can eat. Last weekend I went out to check on my garden, I picked these big yellow overgrown cucumbers. The other vegi’s kinda give you a perspective of how long they were. Well, with the help from one of my jalapenos, I couldn’t help but add a little tape measure to the one on the right…
Before we get started, let’s talk about what time to get started. Yep, it’s super important to have your schedule laid out BEFORE you begin. While this seems like a long time to make pickles, notice that most of the time is spend soaking, not working. Here’s an example or guideline to go by, but by all means adjust to your own schedule.
6:00pm Thursday: Soak peeled and cut cucumbers in lime/water for 24 hours. 6:00pm Friday: Drain and rinse the lime off cucumbers. Soak in ice water for 3 hours. 9:00pm Friday: Drain off ice water and pour in the spice solution. Soak for 12 hours. 9:00am Saturday: Cook pickles, fill jars and seal.
You’re going to need 7 pounds of peeled, seeded and cut up cucumbers for these lime pickles. Just the meaty part called mesocarp. I started with about 12 pounds before peeling, to give you an idea.
I tend to cut them about 2-3 inches in length. If they’re too long, it’s more difficult to pack them into the pint jars. In fact I cut them in both lengths because when you are filling those jars and get to the top and need a couple of short ones, they’re perfect.
Let’s talk a little about what containers to use. Since we are using pickling lime to make these pickles nice and crisp, do not use any type of aluminum pot or container because it will react to the lime. Not a good thing. You can safely use all-stainless stock pots, but make sure there are no aluminum rivets on the inside for the handles.
If you’re fortunate enough to have one of those large plastic food grade brine containers with a lid, that’s perfect. If you’re me and you don’t have one of those, put them in a food grade plastic, glass or ceramic containers. I used two of my largest slow cooker ceramic inserts with lids. The only thing you have to be careful of when splitting the recipe into two containers is remembering to split the ingredients equally for both.
Tip: If you have a large plastic cake carrier, turn the top upside down and use it for making lime pickles!
After tossing the cucumbers with the pickling lime powder, pour in the water.
Stir well and cover. Let sit at room temperature for 24 hours, stirring a few times in-between. Be sure to not use aluminum utensils/spoons to stir. Also, as it nears the 24 hour mark, the cucumbers may become a bit brittle, so just stir gently.
After soaking the cucumbers in the lime and water mixture, drain and rinse very well. I found it to be easiest to have my sinks clean and just dump the cucumbers in and rinse. Then I like to plug the sink and run a lot of cold water to make sure they’re good and clean of the lime.
Wash your container and put the cleaned and crisp cucumbers back in.
Add a bunch of ice and cover with water. Place the lid back on and let them soak for 3 hours.
About 30 minutes before the cucumbers are due to come out of the ice bath, go ahead and make the spice solution. That way the sugar can have a chance to dissolve.
At the 3 hour mark, drain off the ice water. Pour in the spice solution, cover and let stand for 12 hours. Stir a few times just to keep it interesting…
At the end of the 12 hours, pour the cucumbers along with all of the spice solution into a large stock pot, bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to a low setting so that it’s boiling softly. Cook for 40 minutes. Meanwhile get 10-12 clean pint jars hot in a water bath. Boil the jars for 10 or so minutes. This will sterilize them and help them seal.
This is my basic set up when I’m canning anything. I have a plate to set the hot jar on to fill, in case I spill and make a little mess, it will be contained. Not that it ever happens, mind you… On the left I have two tongs; one for getting the pickles out of the pot to put in the jars, and the other for getting the hot lid out of the water to put on the jar to seal. You can see that I always have my lids stacked there too. Then I have some kind of easy pouring measuring cup. That’s for when I am pouring the liquid into the jars. The other thing you don’t see here is towels. Clean dry towels and a damp cloth. I’ll explain how I use those later.
After the pickles have been cooking for 40 minutes you’re ready to fill the jars and seal. I leave the burner on it’s lowest setting to keep them hot.
Carefully get one of the hot pint jars with a dry towel and place on your plate. Throw in one of the lids with the rubber gasket ring on it into the hot water where the jars are boiling low.
With your tongs or weapon of choice, place the hot pickles in the jar leaving about 1/2 inch clearance at the top. It’s ok to use a spoon or something to pack them down in there. Depending on how much you pack into the jars will determine how many you’ll get. I got 10 pints out of my run.
After you pack the pickles into the jars, pour in the hot spice solution to the bottom of the neck. You want to have a 1/2 inch space in the top of the jar. You can decide if you want any of the spices to go into the jars. My grandmother did it both ways and I did allow a few to fall into mine, but do discard the cinnamon sticks. Then use your damp cloth to wipe the top of the jar to clean it of any sticky syrup. This will ensure a better seal.
With your other tongs, fish out the hot lid and place on the jar. Place the ring on the jar and start securing it. With your dry towel, grab a hold of the jar and finish hand tightening the ring. Place the jar on the counter and allow it to seal. Do not handle them for 24 hours. Be prepared to hear a ‘pop’ every time a jar seals. I just love hearing that, it means it was a successful run.
Note about sealing. These pickles have so much vinegar in them that as long as your pickles, jars and lids are hot, they will seal without a hot water bath. However, if you prefer, you can certainly use a hot water bath method of sealing. For instructions on how to do a hot water bath, check out my post on Canning Jalapeno Peppers.
After they have sealed you can store these for a few years. I always mark on the lids the content of the jar along with the year in which they were made.
Once opened, store them in the refrigerator for about 3 months, if you can make them last that long! Not in my house! While they will be crispy at room temperature, they will become even more crispy after they’ve been in the refrigerator.
I’m telling you, my husband who does not like traditional sweet pickles likes them! He couldn’t stop eating them. Makes my heart happy.
What are your favorite pickles?
Here’s the printer friendly recipe.