Old-fashioned Sweet Cucumber Pickle Strips

pint canning jar filled with sweet cucumber pickle strips

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.

Recipe for Sweet Cucumber Pickles
Source: Old Reliable Farm and Home Cookbook

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

  • Servings: approximately 5 pints
  • Difficulty: difficult
  • Print

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

Brine

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.Ā  (Make brine by stirring salt into the water.)Ā  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

    1. 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.

    1. 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.”

  1. 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. šŸ™ƒ

    1. 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.

  2. 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..

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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. šŸ˜€

    1. 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).

  6. 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.

  7. 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:)

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