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.