Every summer, I look forward to making seven-day pickles. Although the name implies a long, arduous process, the steps are quite simple and require just a few minutes most days. The reward is a sweet pickle that is unlike any other I have tried. Growing up, I only liked dill pickles…until I tried these.
The main trick is to find a week when you will be home every day. The last day is when the actual canning takes place although, to eliminate that step, the pickles can simply be packed in jars and stored in the refrigerator. Vinegar is an excellent preservative and, believe it or not, these pickles taste just as great after a year as they do right away. They even keep their crunch.
I have always kept the bowl of pickles on the counter throughout the weeklong process. Recent food safety guidelines are stricter, however, and do recommend placing most food items in the refrigerator after two hours to avoid food-born illness. After day seven, I refrigerate the finished jars, where the pickles will keep indefinitely. If you choose to process the finished jars in a hot water bath, the pickles may then be stored at room temperature.
- 4 pounds of small cucumbers
- Water to cover
- 1 quart white vinegar
- 8 cups sugar (don’t worry, this is just for the brining liquid; you don’t eat it all!)
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons mixed pickle spices (I buy a pickling blend available in the spice aisle; wrap in cheese cloth for easy removal)
- Wash the cucumbers, drain well, and place them in a large, non-reactive bowl (this means ceramic, enamel or glass as opposed to metal). Pour boiling water over the cucumbers to cover. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. (Placing a dinner plate on top will help keep the cucumbers fully submerged.) The next day, drain and rinse the cucumbers. Place the cucumbers back in the bowl, and repeat this step each day for the first 4 days.
- On the fifth day, drain and rinse the cucumbers, and then cut into approximately 1/4-inch coins. (I prefer my pickles on the thicker side; adjust thickness according to your preference; see notes.) Put them back into the bowl.
- In a large pot (still on the fifth day), combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and the wrapped spices. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then carefully pour over the cut cucumbers.
- Let stand for 24 more hours. On the sixth day, drain the syrup and bring it to a boil. Pour over the cucumbers.
- On the last day, drain the syrup again and bring to a boil. Add the cucumber slices and bring to the boiling point.
- Pack into clean canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Discard the bundle of spices. Process the jars for 10 minutes or store in the refrigerator.
When slicing the cucumbers into coins, make sure to cut off and discard approximately 1/8-inch of the blossom end. It contains and enzyme that can cause the pickles to soften over time if not removed.
The original recipe calls for seven pounds of cucumbers. I have found, however, that using a lesser amount of cucumbers ensures there is sufficient brine to cover the pickles in the jars and still yields plenty to save and to share. If you prefer a larger batch, I recommend using 1 1/2 times the brine recipe for amounts greater than four pounds and up to six or seven pounds of cucumbers. After that, I would double the brine…and make sure your bowl is really big!