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In a Pickle Over Missing Item in Supermarkets

March 19, 1987|JOAN DRAKE | Times Staff Writer

Question: I can't find old-fashioned sour pickles in the markets. Do you have a recipe?

Answer: "Ball Blue Book--the Home Guide to Home Canning and Freezing" (Edition 31, Ball Corp.: 1986) says: "Sour cucumber pickles may be made by following directions for Sweet Cucumber Pickles, except omit all or part of sugar.

"Pickle-making begins with the brine, and to make carelessly or to maintain carelessly a brine is the reason for most of the soft and unfit pickles. Remember these key points: Use clean stone or glass jars, use only a recommended pickling variety of cucumbers, use only pure granulated salt, do not use hard water. Pickles must be placed in a brine and fermented for approximately six weeks before the addition of the final and last brine."

The whole process of making pickles takes three steps. First, cucumbers must be brined, then they need to be desalted before being made into sweet or sour pickles.

BRINED CUCUMBERS

Cucumbers

Salt

Paraffin

Wash cucumbers carefully. Use only freshly harvested, slightly immature pickling variety.

Weigh cucumbers. Place in clean crock or glass jar and cover with 10% brine solution--made by dissolving 1 cup salt in 2 quarts water. (Cucumbers may be added during first day or two of curing process if enough brine is added to cover them and if salt is added in definite amounts to maintain 10% brine.)

Weight cucumbers down under brine with clean plate or something similar. Glass jar filled with water makes excellent weight. Store in cool, dark place.

Next day, add salt at rate of 1 cup for each 5 pounds of cucumbers. This is necessary to maintain 10% brine solution. Salt should be added on top of plate or clean cloth (and not directly on cucumbers) to prevent its going to bottom and forming too strong brine there.

Remove scum when it forms on top of brine. This, if left on, will destroy acidity of brine and result in spoilage of product.

At end of week and for 4 or 5 succeeding weeks, add 1/4 cup salt for each 5 pounds cucumbers. Add in same manner as already discussed.

Fermentation resulting in bubble formation should continue about 4 weeks. Test for bubbles by tapping container on side with hand. As second test, cut cucumber in half. If it is same color throughout and has no noticeable rings or white spots, fermentation is complete.

Cucumbers may be kept in 10% brine solution--no more salt added after they are cured--until made into pickles. Best temperature for brining cucumbers is about 80 degrees to 85 degrees.

Pour layer paraffin (1/4 inch thick) on top of brine. Cover with lid and store in dark, dry, cool place.

To use Brined Cucumbers in recipes, soak in water to remove salt.

DESALTED CUCUMBERS

Brined Cucumbers

Cider vinegar

Cover Brined Cucumbers with hot water (180 degrees) using at least 3 times as much water as cucumbers. Let stand about 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

Lift cucumbers out of water. Pour out water, then rinse container.

Again cover cucumbers with hot water (180 degrees). Let stand about 4 hours. Stir occasionally.

Lift cucumbers out of water. Pour out water, then rinse container.

Pierce cucumbers in several places to prevent shriveling, using silver or stainless steel fork.

Let pickles stand in weak vinegar solution (1 part water to 3 parts cider vinegar) 12 hours.

Taste to see if sufficient salt has been removed. If not, let stand 12 hours longer.

SWEET CUCUMBER PICKLES

1 1/2 pounds sugar

4 cups vinegar

2 sticks cinnamon

1 tablespoon ginger root

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 tablespoon mace

3 pounds Desalted Cucumbers

Dissolve sugar in vinegar. Add cinnamon, ginger, cloves and mace tied loosely in cheesecloth. Bring to boil, add drained Desalted Cucumbers and boil 3 minutes. Pour into container and allow to stand 3 days. Each morning drain off liquid, bring to boil and pour back over cucumbers.

Pack cucumbers in hot pints jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Heat vinegar solution to boiling and pour over cucumbers, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Discard spice bag. Remove air bubbles. Adjust caps.

Process 15 minutes in boiling water bath. Cool and check seals. Makes about 5 pints.

Note: Sour cucumber pickles may be made by omitting all or part sugar.

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