There were lots of cucumbers in the refrigerator, and my husband said, “Make sweet pickles,” so I started digging through my 1919 cookbooks for a hundred-year-old sweet pickle recipe. I found one that looked somewhat promising, but it ended up being frustrated because it lacked key information.
When I read this recipe, I had more questions than answers: How many cucumbers do I need to make this recipe? How do I make a “weak brine”? What would be a good spice combination that would result in tasty pickles?
Not to be deterred, I forged ahead – and googled “weak brine.” I then pulled out some of my other cookbooks and looked at their pickle recipes to get a sense of how many cucumbers might be needed based upon the amount of sugar and vinegar listed in the recipe. I also considered various spice combinations listed in other recipes.
Here’s my stab at fleshing out and modernizing this recipe:
Sweet Cucumber Pickle Strips
15 pounds large firm cucumbers
3 quarts boiling water
4 cups vinegar
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 cup salt
8 cups water
Peel cucumbers, then quarter cucumbers by cutting in half lengthwise and then cutting each half in half. Scrape the seeds out of the quarters to create strips.
Put the strips in a crock, or large glass bowl or jar. Cover with the brine. (Make brine by stirring salt into the water.) Make sure the strips are submerged in the brine by weighting them down with a plate or other weight. Leave in brine overnight (at least 8 hours), then drain using a colander. Place colander with cucumber strips in sink (if not already in the sink). Scald the cucumber strips by pouring boiling water over them.
In the meantime, make the pickling syrup. Combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, and mustard seed in a large kettle. Using medium heat bring to a boil. Add the cucumber strips, and bring back to a boil. Cook until the strips are translucent (about 3-5 minutes).
Pack the strips and syrup into hot pint jars; fill to 1/4 inch of top. Wipe jar rim and put lid on.
Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
The verdict: The pickle strips turned out okay. They were sweet and tangy, and had a texture similar to thinly-sliced bread and butter pickles. They were not as crisp as some other pickles. That said, the next time I make pickles, I’ll probably use a different recipe that provides more detailed instructions.
40 thoughts on “Old-fashioned Sweet Cucumber Pickle Strips”
The recipe looks great, but I go for the dills instead.
I like both sweet and dill pickles. Each has its own unique taste.
My mother and my MIL make pickles. I am usually one of the beneficiaries, and not a helper, but I might have to give it a try. I followed and look forward to reading through some of your earlier posts. Take care.
You should give pickle-making a try. I have enjoyed making pickles over the years – though you should go with a modern recipe rather than this one for your first attempt.
The hardest part is waiting for the cuks to grow big. They are one of my favorites .
Fresh cucumbers right out of the garden are wonderful.
I have some old family recipes that that say things like “for awhile”. I think we are used to very detailed instructions.
The lack of detail in many old recipes makes me realize that the typical cook back then must have been very knowledgeable of cooking procedures and processes – and been able to readily draw upon that body of knowledge to interpret directions that said things like “for awhile.”
That’s what I was thinking…they just knew.
Haha. “For awhile” – and think how much shorter “a while” is these days….
Great guesses Sheryl!
Thank you! I did my best to try to interpret this old recipe. I wish that the original recipe had contained more detailed instructions.
So often they don’t! They assume that everyone’s made the dishes before and they are just offering a slightly different proportion or ingredient!
Yes, I think that you my be right.
If it is marked “difficult” and there are more than one or two steps, then it is too much for me. Kudos to you and the cook 100 years ago who made this recipe work. 🙃
I think that you are making a wise decision to pass on making this recipe. It turned out okay – but I think that there are other pickle recipes would probably taste as good or better, and that contain sufficient information for a cook to more confidently proceed.
Well done for your persistence!
I had a lot of fun trying to figure out this recipe.
I think you did a great job of redoing the recipe! For crispier pickles throw in some grapes leaves, or some say cherry leaves but never used those in your brine.. a nice handful..
I’m going to have to give grape leaves a try. I wasn’t familiar with this technique, but when I was looking at other old pickle recipes to try to interpret this one, I noticed that several called for adding a few grape leaves. And, now your comment confirms that this is a good way to improve the quality of pickles.
Turmeric sounds good!
Turmeric adds to nice flavor to pickles.
I like Turmeric from its anti-inflammatory impact.
Another good reason for using turmeric.
nothing like a homemade pickle, so fresh and flavorful!
I agree – there are some wonderful homemade pickles.
🙂 thank you for sharing.
Lots of times skills and interests skip a generation. In our family, pickle-making will skip at least two generations. My mom made pickles because Dad always grew too many cucumbers. I would rather walk five miles to the supermarket and back rather than make pickles. My children are not gifted in the kitchen, though grandson Nathaniel might be interested. I don’t think he likes pickles, though. You are an adventuresome cook, and I love to read of your exploits in the culinary field.
It’s nice to hear that you enjoy these posts. I have a lot of fun finding the recipes, and then making them.
I belong to a couple of canning groups on line and there is a renewed interest in canning by younger generations.
Reading the recipe I wondered what your preferred spices would be. I’ve never made pickles, although I like them. Your experience suggests there’s more to making them than I might have thought.
Making pickles is a more time-consuming process than you might think. Many recipes are a multi-day process.
I admire the way that recipes were so simple back then for pickling stuff. When I read the recipe, I was thinking they might be like a bread and butter pickle. I’m glad you tried out the recipe. It’s fun to hear of the old timers taste for these tangy sweet pickles. 😀
They also reminded me of bread and butter pickles – though there obviously are differences. (Bread and butter pickles aren’t peeled and the seeds are not removed).
Fun to read and see how you guessed on the recipe. I love reading my grandmother’s recipes. The only reason I know how to measure from it is because I used the recipe many times with MY mom, who had followed the recipe while baking/cooking with HER mom.
One of the things I love about making old family recipes is how they connect one generation to the next.
Oh yum! I love sweet and dill pickles.
I also love pickles (and other sweet and sour foods).
Hi Sheryl, You remind me how I use Google sites all the time for tweaking recipes. It sounds like the pickle strips turned out fine. Every time I make anything I always have thoughts on what I would do differently next time:)