Food Culture of the South
Makes 3 pints
2½ pounds very fresh Kirby or pickling cucumbers
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2½ teaspoons alum*
1 quart apple cider vinegar
2½ cups granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon pickling spice, tied in a square of cheesecloth
*Alum, a crisping agent, is a naturally occurring mineral available in many grocery store spice aisles. A couple tablespoons of black tea also does the trick.
Both sweet and sour, this insanely crisp pickle is a perfect partner to summer’s easy lunches, from tuna salad to deviled eggs. Use pickling cucumbers (other cukes won’t achieve the same crispness) and cut thick chips with a crinkle cutter, if you have one.
- Day one: In a large bowl, soak cucumbers in ice water for 30 minutes. Drain. Trim ends, then slice cucumbers ¾-inch thick. Pack slices into a sterilized half-gallon jar or other glass container and cover with boiling water. Cover and let sit on counter overnight.
- Day two: Drain cucumbers and return to jar. Do not rinse cucumbers. Combine salt and 1 quart boiling water and pour over cucumbers. Cool, then cover and let sit on counter overnight.
- Day three: Drain cucumbers and return to jar. Do not rinse cucumbers. Combine alum and 1 quart boiling water and pour over cucumbers. Cool, then cover and let sit on counter overnight.
- Day four: Drain cucumbers and return to jar. Do not rinse cucumbers. Combine vinegar and 1¼ cups of the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and pour over cucumbers. Tuck pickling spice bundle into jar. Cool, then cover and let sit on counter for three days.
- Day seven: Drain pickles, reserving ½ cup of the vinegar syrup. Discard pickling spice bundle. Place pickles in a large bowl and pour 1 cup sugar over top. Stir well and let sit for 1 hour. Pack pickles into sterilized jars, dividing the sugary syrup left in the bowl between each. Heat reserved vinegar syrup with remaining ¼ cup sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture over jarred pickles, leaving ½-inch headspace. Top jars with lids and rings and set aside for one week to cure, turning jars upside down once or twice to continue to disperse and dissolve any sugar that gathers at the bottom. Chill well before eating. Pickles will be shelf stable for 1 year.
- Recipe originally printed in Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving (W.W. Norton, 2014).