Carolyn Glenn got hooked on pickles early.
"I have fond memories growing up, and my mom would put pickles in big 5-gallon jars down in the basement," she says. "We used to love to get pickles down there out of the brine. Mom always wondered why her pickle jar wasn't full."
Today, Glenn is the one filling the pickle jars. Her sweet pickle recipe won grand champion at last year's Douglas County Fair.
"The kids all like them, and if I take them somewhere, most people say they're really good," Glenn says. "It's a real crisp pickle."
Glenn, who lives near Lecompton, has been pickling for nearly 40 years, and she's pickled beets, okra and green tomatoes in addition to cucumbers.
But the 15 to 20 pints of cucumbers she picks from her garden and pickles each summer are the staple of her briny operation.
Her pickle process starts with finding a small, round cucumber. Sometimes she slices larger ones.
Glenn's Grand Champion sweet pickle recipe takes seven days to make. She scrubs the cucumbers, then puts them in saltwater for three days. After that, she takes them out of the water and puts alum water and hot vinegar on them.
Then, it's three days in the brine solution before being packed into sterile canning jars.
Glenn's dill pickles follow a similar process but include dill and garlic in the packing process.
She's hoping this year's cucumber crop gets some good rain. Otherwise, her pickling operation might be in a pickle.
In a pickle? Try these instructive titles:
¢ "Pickled," by Lucy Norris and Elizabeth Watt (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, $22.50) ¢ "Pickles and Preserves," by Marion Brown and Damon Lee Fowler (University of North Carolina Press, $18.95) ¢ "Pickles and Relishes," by Andrea Chesman (Storey Publishing, $9.95) ¢ "The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest," by Carol Costenbader (Storey Publishing, $18.95) ¢ "Quick Pickles," by Chronicle Books LLC Staff, Dan George, Susie Cushner (Chronicle Books, $18.95)
"There's nothing you couldn't learn," Glenn says about pickling. "It just takes some time, that's the main thing about it."
Wanting to try pickling cucumbers? Here are some suggested recipes from K-State Research & Extension.
Fermented dill pickles
Use the following quantities for each gallon capacity of your container:
4 pounds of 4-inch pickling cucumbers
2 tablespoons dill seed or 4 to 5 heads fresh or dry dill weed
1/2 cup canning salt
1/4 cup vinegar (5%)
8 cups water
2 cloves garlic (optional)
2 dried red peppers (optional)
2 teaspoons whole mixed pickling spices (optional)
Wash the cucumbers. Cut a 1/16-inch slice off the blossom end and discard. Leave 1/4 inch of the stem attached. Place half of the dill and spices on the bottom of a clean, suitable container.
Add the cucumbers, remaining dill, and spices. Dissolve the salt in vinegar and water and pour over the cucumbers. Add a suitable cover. Store where the temperature is between 70 degrees and 75 degrees for about three to four weeks while fermenting. Temperatures of 55 degrees to 65 degrees are acceptable, but the fermentation will take five to six weeks. Avoid temperatures above 80 degrees, or the pickles will become too soft during fermentation.
Fermenting pickles cure slowly. Check the container several times a week, and promptly remove the surface scum or mold. Caution: If the pickles become soft and slimy or develop a disagreeable odor, discard them.
Fully fermented pickles may be stored in the original container for about four to six months provided they are refrigerated and the surface scum and molds are removed regularly.
Canning fully fermented pickles is a better way to store them. To can them, pour the brine into a pan, heat it slowly to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes. Filter the brine through paper coffee filters to reduce the cloudiness, if desired. Fill the jars with pickles and hot brine, leaving 1/2-inch head space.
Quick fresh-packed dill pickles
8 pounds 3- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
2 gallons water
1 1/4 cups canning or pickling salt (divided)
1-1/2 quarts vinegar (5%)
1/4 cup sugar
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons whole mixed pickling spice
About 3 tablespoons whole mustard seed (1 teaspoon per pint jar)
About 14 heads fresh dill (1 1/2 heads per pint jar), or 5 tablespoons dill seed
Wash the cucumbers. Cut a 1/16-inch slice off the blossom end and discard, but leave a 1/4 inch of the stem attached. Dissolve 3/4 cup of salt in 2 gallons of water. Pour over the cucumbers and let stand twelve hours. Drain.
Combine the vinegar, 1/2 cup of salt, sugar, and 2 quarts of water. Add the mixed pickling spices tied in a clean white cloth. Heat to boiling. Fill the jars with the cucumbers. Add 1 teaspoon of mustard seed and 1 1/2 heads of fresh dill per pint.
Cover with the boiling pickling solution, leaving 1/2-inch head space.
Quick sweet pickles
8 pounds 3- to 4-inch pickling cucumbers
1/3 cup canning or pickling salt
4 1/2 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups vinegar (5%)
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 tablespoon whole allspice
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 cup pickling lime (optional for use in the variation below for making firmer pickles)
Wash the cucumbers. Cut a 1/16-inch slice off the blossom end and discard, but leave 1/4 inch of the stem attached. Slice or cut in strips, if desired. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of salt. Cover with 2 inches of crushed or cubed ice. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours. Add more ice as needed. Drain well.
Combine the sugar, vinegar, celery seed, allspice, and mustard seed in a 6-quart kettle. Heat to boiling.
Hot pack: Add the cucumbers and heat slowly until the vinegar solution returns to a boil. Stir occasionally to make sure the mixture heats evenly. Fill sterile jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space.
Raw pack: Fill the jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Add hot pickling syrup, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Variation for firmer pickles: Wash the cucumbers. Cut a 1/16-inch slice off the blossom end and discard, but leave a 1/4 inch of the stem attached. Slice or strip the cucumbers.
Mix 1 cup of pickling lime and 1/2 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water in a 2- to 3-gallon crock or enamelware container. Caution: Avoid inhaling lime dust while mixing the lime-water solution.
Soak the cucumber slices or strips in the lime water solution for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove from the lime solution, and rinse and resoak one hour in fresh cold water. Repeat the rinsing and resoaking two more times. Handle carefully because the slices or strips will be brittle. Drain well.
Bread and butter pickles
6 pounds 4- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 3 pounds)
1/2 cup canning or pickling salt
4 cups vinegar (5%)
4-1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1-1/2 tablespoons celery seed
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 cup pickling lime (optional for use in variation below for making firmer pickles)
Wash the cucumbers. Cut 1/16-inch off the blossom end and discard. Cut into 3/16-inch slices.
Combine the cucumbers and onions in a large bowl. Add salt. Cover with 2 inches of crushed or cubed ice. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours, adding more ice as needed. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large pot. Boil 10 minutes.
Drain, add the cucumbers and onions, and slowly reheat to boiling. Fill the pint jars with the slices and cooking syrup, leaving 1/2-inch head space.
Variation for firmer pickles: Wash the cucumbers. Cut 1/16 inch off the blossom end and discard. Cut into 3/16-inch slices. Mix 1 cup of pickling lime and 1/2 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water in a 2- to 3-gallon crock or enamelware container. Caution: Avoid inhaling lime dust while mixing the lime-water solution.
Soak the cucumber slices in lime water for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the lime solution, rinse , and resoak 1 hour in fresh cold water. Repeat the rinsing and soaking steps two more times. Handle carefully, as the slices will be brittle. Drain well.
Storage: After processing and cooling, the jars should be stored four to five weeks to develop the ideal flavor.
Variation for squash bread-and-butter pickles: Substitute slender (1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter) zucchini or yellow summer squash for the cucumbers.
Reduced-sodium sliced dill pickles
4 pounds (3- to 5-inch) pickling cucumbers
6 cups vinegar (5%)
6 cups sugar
2 tablespoons canning or pickling salt
1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
2 large onions, thinly sliced
8 heads fresh dill
Wash the cucumbers. Cut 1/16-inch slice off the blossom end and discard. Cut the cucumbers in 1/4-inch slices. Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, celery, and mustard seeds in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Place two slices of onion and 1/2 of a dill head on the bottom of each pint jar. Fill the jars with cucumber slices, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Add one slice of onion and 1/2 of a dill head on top. Pour hot pickling solution over the cucumbers, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Adjust the lids and process as described in the table on page 2.
Reduced-sodium slice sweet pickles
4 pounds (3- to 4-inch) pickling cucumbers
1 quart distilled white vinegar (5%)
1 tablespoon canning or pickling salt
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1/2 cup sugar
1 2/3 cups distilled white vinegar (5%)
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon whole allspice
2 1/4 teaspoons celery seed
Wash the cucumbers. Cut 1/16 inch off the blossom end and discard. Cut the cucumbers into 1/4-inch slices. Combine all the ingredients for the canning syrup in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Keep the syrup hot until used. In a large kettle, mix the ingredients for the brining solution.
Add the cut cucumbers, cover and simmer until the cucumbers change color from bright to dull green (about 5 to 7 min.). Drain the cucumber slices. Fill the jars and cover with the hot canning syrup, leaving 1/2-inch head space.
3 quarts chopped pickling cucumbers
3 cups each chopped sweet green and red peppers
1 cup chopped onions
3/4 cup canning or pickling salt
4 cups ice
8 cups water
2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons each mustard seed, turmeric, whole allspice, and whole cloves
6 cups white vinegar (5%)
Add the cucumbers, peppers, onions, salt, and ice to the water and let stand 4 hours. Drain and re-cover the vegetables with fresh ice water for another hour. Drain again. Combine the spices in a spice or cheesecloth bag. Add the spices to the sugar and vinegar. Heat to boiling and pour the mixture over the vegetables. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours. Heat the mixture to boiling and pour the hot mixture into clean jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space.