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Hot & Sweet Pickles

I decided to make another crock of Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles and picked up a peck of cukes when the family went to the Belleville Farmer’s Market. I would love to take so many photos of that great market but don’t ever want to accidentally take a photo of any Amish folks. I usually snap some of the horses but then I feel bad for them when I see them acting out behaviors and habits that show how bored they are.

This batch of pickles I decided to tweak the spicing just a bit by adding crushed red pepper to the spice bags. It did color the syrup a bit orange as they released their oils over the last few boils but it never really picked up much heat. Thanks to Mom & Dad – I added some cayenne peppers right when I canned them. My hope is that they will pick up a little heat that way.

Inspired by a little hot pepper Arron drew earlier this week, I am making some labels or the jars with a couple of veggie characters. They make me smile and I hope that they come out a little hot.

Prepared Horseradish

Prepared Horseradish

I needed a couple of tablespoons of horseradish for a second batch of Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles I am making. I was left with a lot of horseradish and wanted to make it into the kind to use in other recipes.

Grating it by hand was just going to take too long so I peeled it, cut it into cubes and used my handy Ninja kitchen gadget.


1 Cup peeled and cubed horseradish root
3/4 Cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt


In an electric food processor or blender like my Ninja, process horseradish root, vinegar, sugar and salt. Be careful when you remove the cover of the processor or blender, and keep your face away from the container. Cover and store the horseradish in the refrigerator.

Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles (day 14)

Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles (day 14)

This was the big day after 2 weeks of different treatments. They are finally pickles today and I did some canning for the first time in a long time.

If anyone noticed I left out Day 13 it’s not for superstitious reasons. It was the same as Day 12 except I took some samples out for my family to share with me. We all thought they tasted pretty good and they reminded me of exactly what my Mom, Aunt Esther and Grammy would make.

Maybe Day 13 was really the key, family and memories. We spent the day visiting before Amy and Arron have to get back to work in the city. It’s memories and good times that make things like home-made pickles taste so good. If the joy we have shared over the past 2 weeks is even partially infused into these pickles, they will turn out great.

Grammy Lukens was kind and sweet and tough enough to stand up to many hardships. I never met my grandfather, he died when my Dad was just 11 and Grammy was left to raise him with the help of her 2 older daughters, Esther and Hannah. I think these pickles are a good reflection of how I remember her. They too have sweetness, a pleasant personality and are steadfast.

All of my jars sealed and I didn’t make too much of a mess. I tried to keep things clean and not slop the hot syrup as I topped off the jars over the pickles. In all it made about 15 pints of pickles but my syrup didn’t hold out long enough to cover the last pint. Pity, we will have to eat those straight away.

It was nice to see the finished product sitting in row and having the morning sun reflect through them. It was like crossing the line of a half-marathon; it gave me a sense of satisfaction to see the process through from beginning to end even if I made a mistake or two along the way.

Mom had scanned the recipe and emailed it to me. It’s in my Aunt Esther’s handwriting and that makes it special to me. I suppose I could have made this a single blog entry, just posted the scan and let anyone interested have at it, but I wanted to share my experiences from Day 1 until today. For the first time ever, I finally made my Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles.

Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles (day 12)

Ok, today wasn’t as bad as I had imagined but I had been dreading it since I first read the recipe. As I mentioned yesterday on Day 11, I no longer discard the liquid. Today I had to pour the syrup into my pot and bring it to a boil along with its spice bag.

Pickles in steaming hot syrup - day 12.

My main fear was making a mess by dribbling syrup everywhere. That would draw in ants and yellow jackets and bears – oh my! I was very careful and poured it into the pot without splashing or dripping. I had a damp towel to clean off the lip of the container and the transfer went really well.

I brought it slowly to a boil and poured it back over the pickle chunks. I hope I have good luck tomorrow, Day 13 is exactly the same process and the last day before canning!

Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles (day 11)

The pickle chunks absorbed just a bit of the gallon of water overnight from Day 10. I measured the liquid after I poured it off and discarded it. This is my last day for discarding liquid.

Today they got covered with a vinegar and sugar syrup. Grammy’s recipe called for a syrup that for ever 2 Quarts of Vinegar you add in 6 Lbs. of Sugar. POUNDS!? I had to wonder if my Aunt Esther wrote that down wrong and meant cups. Because of this, I started with just 2 Quarts (8 Cups) of white vinegar and added in 6 cups of the sugar to see if maybe that looked right. Nope, it took the whole 6 Lbs. (which actually measured 14 1/2 Cups.)

Thick with sugar, before it boiled.

To the solution of vinegar and sugar I added a spice bag with 3-4 broken cinnamon sticks, “some” cloves (I used about 7) and a Tablespoon of Celery Seed. I used the same old t-shirt technique to make my spice bag as I did in my Red Pickled Onyums and slowly brought it all to a boil.

According to Jim, house smelled like Salt & Vinegar Chips when he woke up and I had just poured the hot solution over the pickle chunks. The 2 Quarts Vinegar + 6 Lbs. of Sugar had made a gallon of boiling solution and was just right. My Grammy knew what she was doing.

Spices for Grammy's Pickles

Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles (day 10)

Coming down the home stretch now on Day 10 wasn’t nearly as complex as the chopping and grating of Day 9.

As I drained off all of the liquid, I measured and it was about the same as I added yesterday. Because they didn’t seem to have changed much in size I felt safe in boiling up a gallon of plain water today. The pickle chunks got covered with plain boiling water and that’s all for today folks

I looked ahead to Day 11 and it’s a pretty exciting day with new and varied ingredients. I am hoping that I will still be able to store them outside without drawing in undesirable critters.

Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles (day 9)

They absorbed a 1/2 gallon of the water!

This was an exciting day! I opened the container to find that the gallon of water I covered the pickles with yesterday on Day 8 was not fully covering them anymore! I measured how much those moisture depleted, wrinkled massed had reabsorbed. A whole 1/2 gallon!

I poured off (while measuring) and discarded the water that had become very salty from the brine soaked pickles. Today was the day to chop them and cover them this more boiling water. You might think that if a gallon of water didn’t cover them whole that you would need more to re=cover them but a gallon was plenty since they were chopped.

To the boiling gallon of water I added 2 Tablespoons of Horseradish and 2 Tablespoons of Alum. I was so bored on days 2 – 7 that I thought of just grinding up one of those big old deodorant crystals since I didn’t have any Alum. I knew it would probably be less expensive but I wasn’t sure how much to grind up until knowing how much water it would take to cover the chunks of pickle. We just bought Alum at the grocery store.

A note on the horseradish. My Grammy’s recipe didn’t say more than “2 Tbs. horseradish per gallon of water.” I am assuming that didn’t mean prepared horseradish so we got a whole hulking root and I grated up the 2 Tbs. I needed. I am glad I bought the alum because it saved my energy for grating up this tough root after I peeled off the rough exterior. They say fresh horseradish can make you cry when you grate it, I guess mine wasn’t that fresh.

Jim and I both chopped the pickles into roughly 1″ chunks. That looked like a pickle chunk to us and I had to smile that they are looking more and more like Grammy’s Pickles! So exciting!

We poured the boiling mixture of water, horseradish and alum to cover the chunks and now they sit for another day. They aren’t floating so I didn’t need the plate to hold them down this time. I can’t wait until Day 10 to to see if they absorb some of the solution now that they are cut!

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