Pickle making has been a part of my life since about the time I learned to walk. I remember chasing after little toys under the kitchen table, and seeing Mom, tall and young, wearing a flowered apron and with her hair in bobby pins and a bandanna, pouring a big pot of pickle water out into the sink. It happened every year at about the same time we picked peaches from the tree growing outside the kitchen window. I also remember the kitchen filling up with the sweet-sharp smell of sugar, vinegar and spices boiling on the stove, and I most distictly remember the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts when we could help ourselves to as many of the crunchy, sweet and spicy pickles as we ever could want. The recipe comes to me from my mother, Barbara White. She learned to make them from her mother, Blanche Burridge, who was born in 1882 in San Francisco, and who in turn learned how to make them in the last years of the 1800’s. The original recipe in Blanche’s handwriting calls for using a “lump of alum the size of a walnut”.
Pickles as reviewed by Emma Johnson, age 8: “I don’t like pickles but I LOVE these!” (she said as she helped herself to more).
about 20 cucumbers (medium sized)
1 quart vinegar
1/2 cup pickling spice
4 lbs. sugar
3 tsp. pickling salt
1 Tbs. alum
Use fresh-picked cucumbers if possible. Wash and put in large pan. Be sure to scrub off all traces of the blossom. Pour boiling water over them to cover. Weight down cucumbers with a plate if needed to keep them submerged. Cover with a lid, keep at room temperature. Repeat for three more days, draining off the old water and heating up fresh water each day. Be sure to do this at the same time each day so the intervals are as close as possible to 24 hours.
On the 5th day slice the cucumbers. I like to slice them thick. Put pickling spice in a cheesecloth bag, tie up with string. Make a syrup of vinegar, sugar, salt and the bagged pickling spice. Boil syrup and pour over pickles each day for 4 days (use the same syrup, reheating each day). On the last day, pack pickles into sterilized jars. Add alum to syrup, boil, pouring boiling syrup into jars and seal. Makes about 7 pints.