My Auntie Nan is famous around my hometown for her homemade sweet pickles. She makes and bottles them every year, and delivers them at Christmas time to her friends. My family happily has been on the receiving end of Auntie Nan’s sweet pickles for 3 decades. They are delicious, and always make an appearance on our holiday relish plates. I had wicked cravings for them when I was pregnant–and that dear lady who isn’t really my Aunt at all–mailed me 3 quarts of them. Enough to see me through an entire pregnancy of cravings. Her recipe is closely guarded, and the procedure is tedious and time consuming to be sure. Each little pickle is just bottled right up with love and kindness, and I’m pretty sure lots of sugar and plenty of spice.
This recipe is not hers. Not even close. But it’s a pretty tasty one, nonetheless, and ridiculously easy. It takes only minutes to put together, and they are ready for serving up at lunch the next day, right alongside your potato salad and hot dogs, or with your favorite sandwich. The flavor is tangy and spicy and even a bit zesty, and a refreshing change of pace from your average store-bought pickle. So if you’ve got a few extra cucumbers in your garden, or have ever wondered what those small, short cukes at the market are for, this recipe is for you!
2 pounds of small pickling cucumbers, also called Kirby cucumbers
2 cups white wine vinegar
1 small white onion–I like sweet Walla Wallas best.
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons of sugar
3 Bay leaves
Several Sprigs of fresh dill
3 teaspoons pickling spice
2 teaspoons black pepper corns (reduce to 1/2 tsp if your pickling spice includes them)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups of hot water
Rinse cucumbers and pat dry, the slice into long halves, or quarters if yours are especially plump. Place them on end in clean, dry pint glass jars, but do not stuff them in tight.
Gently slide a few lovely sprigs of fresh dill into each jar, in between the slices and along the inside of the jar. You don’t have to use the yellow blooms, I just happen to think they add a bit of pizzaz to the appearance.
In a bowl combine all remaining ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved, and gently pour over each jar of cucumbers and cover completely. Add lids and close tightly, then refrigerate overnight before serving.
The flavor is pickly–but distinctive and fresh. Please note that we tend to prefer a sweet pickling spice blend, but you can use a more typical blend if you like–or simply replace the pickling spice blend with dill seed. I think they look rather pretty, all the bright green skins with the white onions and the herbs and spices rising up along the sides. Remember, these aren’t processed, so you’ll want to keep them in the fridge, tightly closed, and consume them within a week or two. Or share them with a neighbor. Make some this weekend!