This year is one of the first years I did not have a garden. Usually it is big but this year I wanted to focus on my jam making. But this spring brought 3 late freezes and my pear, peach, plum, sour cherry and some of the wild apricots, choke cherries and the other places I glean did not produce. But I had a wonderful opportunity to share this recipe with a 4-H who after making the jam with me for the fair, called me up asking me to show her how to make the cinnamon pickles. She and her mother brought over a box of oversized cucumbers to make this recipe.
I know those who have gone out to the garden and behold, found an oversized cucumber(s). They seem to be the right size and then you go out a day or two later and find they have grown too big for use for pickles or slicing for a salad. This recipe is from my church cookbook back in the 1970’s when I lived in Lincoln, Nebraska. Not to boast but it is where the ground is like the garden of Eden. You plant a few plants and they take over the yard. Several friends and family members asked for the recipe and I decided to record my process for others to enjoy. This can be used for Christmas gifts, for opening at the holidays in a beautiful white or clear dish. My grandparents couldn’t wait to be the recipients of these for Christmas gifts. This is my one memory since all four of my grandparents have passed on and are in heaven.
Before you say ewwwww, they taste like cinnamon apples. Crisp, cinnamon and hint of apple cider. It will be a yearly tradition when you make these and people will come clamouring for more.
Spiced Cucumber Rings Recipe:
Items You Will Need:
- Oversized Cucumbers (Large enough to be able to core the center out) Firm without soft spots or rot.
- Sugar (can be raw or white sugar)
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Brach’s Imperials or Red Hots (make sure they are they are the original the imitation are sugar coated with cinnamon: these are red all the way through)
- Whole Cinnamon Sticks
- Pickling Lime or Powder Lime
- Red Food Colouring (Small bottle of red food colouring; if you can get a large bottle of food colouring for larger batch (no taste red food colouring works well, bought at a cake store)
Non Food Items
- Measuring Spoons
- Measuring Cups
- Measuring Pitcher
- Canning jar funnel (optional: the mouth of the jars are wide enough a funnel is not always necessary until you choose to)
- Crock (if you have one)/ a 5 gallon clean plastic bucket will work as well
- Wide mouth pint jars (10-12 wide mouth lids and bands)
- Paper Towels
- Stainless Steel 10 or 12 quart pot. ( Do not use a metal pot, as it will react with the vinegar. Instead use an enamel, glass, or Teflon-coated pot. Pots made from metals like aluminum and untreated cast iron react with the acid in the preserves and will bring a metallic taste into your labor of love product) Non-reactive pans are ones made of either stainless steel or enamel-lined cast iron Dutch ovens or all clad stockpots)
- Cooking pot for heating or reheating liquid or syrup
- Jar Grabber
- Lid lifter (optional- but they are worth the small amount of investment, otherwise the tongs will do)
2 gallons cucumber rings, peeled and seeded. Cut into 1/2 inch thick slices, core then out with a knife and use knife to clean edge the inside of the ring. (Use the great big cucumbers too big to use for slicing) 1 cup lime and 1 gallon water. Please try not to breathe in the lime powder. It can irritate the lungs. Measure the lime into the water and dissolve well before adding to the rest of the water. Add cucumbers. Let soak 24 hours. The Kitchen Dictionary has a good indication why we use lime for pickling “For use in pickling recipes. Pickling Lime helps to improve the firmness of pickles by introducing calcium that reinforces the pectin in the vegetable being pickled. In using it, a vegetable such as cucumber is soaked first in water mixed with the pickling Lime, for up to a day, then rinsed thoroughly — at least 3 times — before the actual pickling process begins. Be sure to use pickling lime as a soak solution only and to rinse product in several changes of water before proceeding with the recipe. Do not use lime purchased from lumber supply stores as it may contain lead. Pickling lime is found in most grocery stores with the pickling supplies. Because the Lime is alkaline, you have to get rid of it all, or it would neutralize the acidity that you are going to use to preserve the pickles with. People haven’t always rinsed it thoroughly, though, leaving some alkalinity and lowering the pH of the pickling batch by neutralizing the acidity.” http://www.food.com/library/pickling-lime-730
The plate is put upside down so it can with certainty push the cucumbers down to have the lime start the pickling process. If you need more water to cover the cucumbers, add slight more lime to the container. You can easily double this recipe if you have enough time and cucumbers.
Drain and wash them in fresh water. Soak three (3) hours in cold water in a plugged sink and drain. After the three hours I rinse them three times to clear the lime from the cucumbers. Drain well. Bring to a boil, turned down to a gentle boil, and cover. Simmer two (2) hours in 1 cup of vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar), 1 small bottle red food coloring, 1 tsp (teaspoon) of alum and enough water to cover. 2 hours is the average, but cook the cucumbers until they are almost clear or translucent. If you cook them too long they will be soggy, and you want them crisp. They are white in colour when you start, as they cook they become clearer. Drain.
While the cucumbers are cooking. Make a syrup of 4 cups vinegar, 16 sticks of cinnamon, 2 packages of red hots (6 ounces), 20 cups of sugar (raw or white sugar) and 4 cups of water. If the amount seems to be a lot. It has to over the pickles and also have enough to use in the jars. The first time I made the batch, I did not have enough and I had originally doubled the syrup recipe. This amount I gave you is double recipe. I would rather have syrup left over than to be shorted with the original recipe I had. The extra syrup can be saved if you are doing another batch soon and you can refrigerate. Place the cucumbers in your crock or non-reactive 10-12 quart Dutch oven and pour the hot mixture over the rings and let stand overnight. Put a lid on it.
If I have left over I usually put it in a bucket, and when the bucket is full, send it to my friend who has pigs. They go crazy over the sweet and vinegar taste and the left over cucumber peelings. Wash the syrup pan out for use for the next day.
Drain the syrup off into the container you cooked it in and reheat the syrup. Be careful with the rings coming out in a rush into your pan. You can hold the lid of the pan or use your hand to strain the pickles. Pour back over rings and let stand overnight. That was easy for today! Some people will do this for Day 4 and can on day 5, but it is entirely up to you. It will not hurt to do this one more day.
Drain the syrup, and I take the cinnamon sticks out and place them in a bowl for later use. Reheat syrup, add the rings. Bring to boil, then pack into hot jars and seal. But before you do, read the instructions below to prepare the jars and processing.
Assemble your canning equipment together. For your benefit I have put the website for the USDA guidelines for canning. It will be very beneficial to read it to familiarize yourself with canning. http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html This recipe takes about anywhere between 9-12 wide mouth pints (depending on how you pack them), as well as the lids and metal screw bands. Wash the jars, lids and bands. Do not put the lids in the water for sterilizing with the lids as they will rust after several uses. They do not come into direct contact with the food so you can lay them on a towel to drain until they are to be used. I use the boiling water canning. Most are designed to hold eight to nine pints. A small pressure cooker can hold 4 to 6 pints. Something as to be on the bottom of the pan so that the jars do not rattle on the bottom and thus break.
Using the dishwasher is fine for the jars, especially if you have a hot water button or a “sanitize” or dry heat cycle. I start that first thing while I am finishing up the last step of the pickles so they are ready by the time I am ready to fill the jars. If you don’t have a dishwasher, then wash the jars in warm soap and water, rinse and after filling your pot or canner with water, submerge them and bring it to a boil. Make sure you allow the rinse cycle to completely finish to get rid of the soap. If you aren’t ready to fill up the jars, you can put it through the dry cycle again until it is time. Be careful as you handle them since they will be hot. You can use a jar lifter or use your hands quickly. If you choose to use the dishwasher they will be considered hot jars, not sterilized jars. These washing and preheating methods do not sterilize jars. This can only be done by boiling them for 10 minutes prior to filling them to be considered sterilized. Some used jars may have a white film on the exterior surface caused by mineral deposits. This scale or hard-water film on jars is easily removed by soaking jars several hours in a solution containing 1 cup of vinegar (5 percent acidity) per gallon of water prior to washing and preheating the jars. In many recipes, there is a time difference in the boiling water for processing them. Here we will process the pints for 10 minutes after filling them with the pickles.
Get the canner heating up
Fill the canner about 1/2 full of water and start it heating (with the lid on).
Start the water for the lids
Put the lids into the small pot of boiling water and boil for at least 3-5 minutes. Simmer until you are ready to use them. Have the band ready next to the canner to screw on the jars.
Pack the slices in using the tongs, or I use a chopstick to play snatch the rings and put them in the jars. Use a ladle to fill them with the hot syrup to 1/2-1/4 inch from the top of the jar. Use a knife or rubber spatula around the edge to remove the air bubbles. Take the cinnamon sticks and if you have the rings lined up, push the cinnamon stick into the middle of the rings or into the jar, making sure the stick and rings are below the line of the syrup. Take a paper towel and cut or tear it into several large pieces, folding the and taking the tongs to hold them. Dip in the boiling water of the lids and wipe the top and the side of the jars with the hot water to remove any syrup or juice. After a couple of jars are wiped throw the paper towel piece away for a clean one until all are clean. Seal it with the lid and place the ring on the jar and hand tighten, but do not over tighten but snug. Do not fill more jars than will fit in the canner at one time.
With the jar grabber place them in the canner evenly spaced and cover the jars with at least 1-2 inches of water. Bring the water back to a boil. Let your timer for 10 minutes allowing for moderate boil. Remember to adjust for the altitudes, sea level and times!
Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually overnight) You can cover then with a dry towel to absorb the extra water and protect the from any temperature changed or drafts. You should hear the ping of the jars sealing, sometimes even as you pull them out of the canner. After cooling jars for 12 to 24 hours, remove the screw bands and test seals with one of the following options:
Option 1. Press the middle of the lid with a finger or thumb. If the lid springs up when you release your finger, the lid is unsealed.
Option 2. Tap the lid with the bottom of a teaspoon. If it makes a dull sound, the lid is not sealed. If food is in contact with the underside of the lid, it will also cause a dull sound. If the jar is sealed correctly, it will make a ringing, high-pitched sound.
Option 3. Hold the jar at eye level and look across the lid. The lid should be concave (curved down slightly in the center). If center of the lid is either flat or bulging, it is not sealed. You can place the jar in the refrigerator right away and still use it. Some will reheat the and process again without changing the lids. I choose to use a different lid and process fresh again unless they get eaten instead!
So…..the question is how long will you have to wait until you get to eat this delicious lovely sweet pickles? The best time is to wait two weeks, but if you have to nibble, you can eat the snitzels you didn’t get packed into the jars. They are ready to eat immediately, but the longer the wait, if you can wait that long, the better. You don’t have to tell people they are pickles, most people think they are cinnamon apples. Let them enjoy them and at the end of the meal tell them they ate cucumber/pickles. Watch their faces in disbelief. It will become a family tradition and favorite!
Several website I have used to gather some information and used in the blog which can be useful. I want to give credit where credit is due: