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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!

Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles (day 5, 6, 7, 8)

Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles (day 5, 6, 7, 8)

You might have guessed that nothing really went on for the rest of the week, including being inspired to write more pickle prose and poetry to help the time pass. As we left off on day 4, the pickles were just chillin’ in their brine all week. The instructions said to skim off any scum that formed on top but that never happened so I can’t show you what it might look like.

Today was the 8th day and the day to drain them and cover them in boiling water. I could tell it was going to take a lot less water to cover them since their sap had been drawn out. I estimated that it would take about 1 gallon of boiling water to cover them and I was correct.

Just to review from day 1, I had covered them in 2 gallons of brine. Today I poured off a total of 3 gallons of liquid. The cucumbers gave off a gallon of their own juices into the brine in exchange for becoming pickles. Check out Day 9 to see what they did over night!

Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles (day 4)

Scent of a Pickle to Be (day 4)

I still can’t do anything other that give the pickles a quick check every day but have noticed the brine is taking on a defined scent. It’s the scent of a vined plant, sappy and fresh turning into something more dense. It makes me realize why cucumber – melon is such a popular scent. Today it smells less like a pile of grated cucumber and more like a home made pickle. If they end up tasting and smelling like the pickles I remember as a kid, I will be much pleased. Scoot on to see the real action on day 8!

Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles (day 3)

Ode to a Wrinkly Pickle

Swimming there beneath the brine.
A submerged cuke, you look so fine.
I stop and dip my hand down in,
To touch your cool and verdant skin.

I lift your dripping form aloft.
How is it that you got so soft,
And bumpy as a a warted toad?
You’re shriveled at your stem end node!

I wonder at your transformation,
During your water logged hibernation.
What enlightens me is the salty trickle.
You are slowly becoming a wrinkly pickle!

You can review Day 2 here!

Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles (day 2)

Grammy's 14 Day Pickles (Day 2)

The whole process of starting the pickles (Day 1 is here!!) was so crazy that I have a hard time just leaving the cukes alone. They are submerged by their plate and bowl but no heavy weight anymore.

They keep trying to peek up and around the plate and remind me of underwater creatures. I can see them peering up through their saline bath; their wrinkled little faces are just at the edge of the plate as we look at each other through the hazy water. I wonder what they are doing down there that makes them into pickles. I hope it’s a good time for them because right now it’s a little boring for me.

Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles (day 1)

Food Grade Container

I haven’t canned anything in 20 years but the theme of this blog, Exploring Vegetarianism in PA Dutch Country, got me to thinking about the great foods I loved as an omnivorous kid and can still love as a vegetarian.

As a little kid I can remember the joy of my Grammy Lukens’ home made pickles. They were thick hunks of cucumber dripping with a spiced sweetness that no other pickle could match. She, my Aunt Esther and my Mom all had success in making them. I think someone even added a little green or blue food coloring to them. The one thing that hasn’t allowed them to touch my palette in years isn’t just that Grammy and Aunt Esther have passed away but, as Mom pointed out before I started this project, they are a real pain to make. It’s time to have a try at making Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles so join me on this Odyssey!

Washing and Measuring the Water

The first difficult part was finding pickling cukes. I found out the drought we had a while back has made an impact on the smaller pickling cukes but not so much on the big ones we like to slice. I had my Dad checking the prices at the local farmers markets that he frequents and a few of the Amish farms. The price bounced around for a few weeks, 5 – 6 / $1.00 and over here they were more like 3 – 4 / $1.00. Last week Dad got the word at one farm that this would probably be the week that they would be most plentiful. Farmers Market prices seemed to be staying the same but I finally was able to find a vender who had them for sale by the peck. They looked good too!

Covered with Boiling Salt Solution

I didn’t know how much water it was going to take to cover them in the food grade container my parents graciously lent me. I put them in and covered them and washed them at the same time. After removing the cukes, I measured the water because I had to know how much salt to add. My Aunt Esther had taken time to write down the recipe and it said to cover the cukes with boiling water (2 Cups of Salt for every 2 Quarts of Water). It ended up being 2 gallons of water to cover them so we needed 8 Cups of Salt.

A Plate to Keep them Submerged

Boiling that much water all at once took every pot I had. I mixed the salt into the boiling water. The next part was tricky since the pots were filled and heavy. Jim held Miles, our cat who really wanted to help in this part of the project, as I poured the boiling solution over the cukes.

A Weight (it was NOT this heavy) to keep the Plate down

Next, we want to keep those cukes under the solution and we found a plate that was a good size for to help keep them submerged. Mom and Dad use this technique in making their saurkraut and I was on the phone with her just as the water started to boil and Jim came back from the grocery store with the salt. She suggested using a small weight in a baggy to keep the plate from rising too much.

We found a weight that was similar to the 3 – 5 lb hand weight they were using for their saurkraut and bagged it up to keep that plate down. I checked on them later and realized that cukes have a LOT more water content that cabbage. With the salt, heat and pressure of the added weight they were being flattened into little shriveled things in a huge vat of a solution of salty water and their own excreted juices.

The Bagged Weight on the Submerged Plate


The added volume of liquid made it a lot easier to keep the cukes submerged so we took the bagged weight off and let them sit over night.

Have I ruined them by pressing their goodness out? No one will know for a couple of weeks but I will keep sharing what I find along the way. Check out Day 2!

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