This is a recipe that my mom made when I was a kid, so as I recently bought some canning supplies, I decided I'd give it a try.
It sounds daunting given that it takes 14 days of preparation, but most of that time is spent with the pickles just sitting in one solution or another. And the results are worth the effort.
Step 1: Ingredients
This is the original recipe:
75 3 to 3 1/2 inch cucumbers
2 cups coarse pickling salt
4 gallons water
3 Tbsp powdered alum
10 cups sugar
5 cups vinegar
18 drops oil of cinnamon
18 drops oil of cloves
2 Tbsp celery seeds
I cut this down to roughly 1/3, since there were about 20 small cucumbers in the 2 pints I bought at the farmer's market.
So here is the cut down version I'm using:
20 small cucumbers
2/3 cup coarse pickling salt
1 1/3 gallons water (divided into 1/3 gallons)
1 Tbsp powdered alum (divided into 1/3 Tbsps)
3 1/3 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups vinegar
6 drops cinnamon oil
6 drops clove oil
2 tsp celery seeds
Step 2: Hardware
You'll need the following equipment:
1 large pot capable of boiling as much water as you need for each step (1 gallon for the full recipe, about 1/3 gallon for the amount I made)
1 stone, glass, or enamel container (I used a medium sized removable enameled crock pot container)
1 stoneware, glass, or ceramic plate or bowl that fits roughly within the previous container
1 glass jar or similar to weight the plate down
1 large boiling water canning pot
canning rack (or something to keep the jars off the bottom of the canning pot)
pint jars, rings, and lids
tongs for lifting hot jars out of canning pot
funnel (not absolutely necessary if your pouring hand is steady, but helpful in case)
plastic knife or bubble removal tool from a canning kit
knife for cutting cucumbers into chunks or skewer if leaving whole
Step 3: Day 1
Thoroughly wash all your cucumbers.
Place them in your enameled container.
Combine your salt with 1/3 gallon water and bring to a boil.
Pour the boiling brine solution over the cucumbers. Cover with your plate and weight down. It's important that the brine completely covers the cucumbers.
Step 4: Days 2 Through 7
Each day you'll want to remove the weight and plate. Stir the cucumbers to help prevent formation of a film, rinse the plate and weight, and return them to the container.
That's all you'll be doing each day for the first week.
Step 5: Days 8 Through 10
On day 8, you'll empty the cucumbers into another bowl or container and wash them thoroughly with cold water.
If you're going to cut your cucumbers, now is when you would do that. You can cut them lengthwise or into chunks. If you intend to leave them whole, prick them all over with a skewer or fork to allow the subsequent solutions to absorb more easily. Look to the next step for some thoughts if you intend to leave the pickles whole.
Add 1/3 Tbsp powdered alum to 1/3 gallon fresh water, and bring it to a boil while you're prepping your cucumbers.
Wash and rinse the enameled container, plate, and weight.
Return the cucumbers to the enameled container, and pour the boiling water/alum solution over them. Replace the plate and weight it down.
On the 9th day you'll pour off the alum solution and drain the cucumbers. Bring another 1/3 gallon water + 1/3 Tbsp alum to a boil. Wash and rinse the enameled container, plate, and weight. Return the cucumbers to the enameled container and pour the fresh boiling solution over them and weight down.
Repeat this procedure on day 10.
Step 6: Days 11 Through 13
On day 11, pour off the alum solution. Drain the cucumbers thoroughly.
While they're draining, wash and rinse your enameled container, plate, and weight. Put the cucumbers back into the container.
Combine your sugar, vinegar, cinnamon and clove oils, and celery seeds. Bring this mixture to a boil.
Pour the boiling solution over the cucumbers, and weight down.
On my first attempt at this recipe I had left the pickles whole, with just a single skewer hole lengthwise from the end. At this point, when I inspected the pickles on day 12, they had shriveled a lot and were much smaller than they had been -- probably about 1/2 the size or less. This was what my mom had warned me happened when she tried to make this recipe with whole pickles so the lesson is listen to your elders. I still finished the rest of this batch, but I also started a second batch which I cut into chunks on day 8 instead of leaving whole, and these shriveled a lot less than the whole pickles. If you want to leave them whole, I'd recommend pricking them all over rather than just using a single puncture.
On day 12, drain the syrup from the cucumbers back into your pot. Bring it back to a boil on the stove. Pour it back over the cucumbers and weight down.
On day 13, repeat this procedure.
Step 7: Day 14
You'll be doing the most work on day 14.
You'll want to first wash your jars with soap and hot water, then rinse them and sterilize in simmering water.
For the lids, bring some water to a boil, and then pour it over the lids in another container and let them sit while you're working.
Drain the syrup from the cucumbers back into your pot. Pack the cucumbers into your hot sterilized jars.
The original recipe claims it makes 12-14 pints. I actually ended up with only 1.5 pints from my first batch (~35 cucumbers) with the shriveled whole pickles, but had 2 jars from the second smaller batch (~20 cucumbers) that shrank less. It's important to note that in both cases, my pickles were somewhat smaller than the 3-3.5 inches the recipe calls for -- they were more like 2.5-3 -- so that likely makes up for the difference from the hypothetical 4-5 pints I should have gotten with a 1/3 recipe.
Bring the syrup solution back to a boil on the stove. When it's boiling, pour over the cucumbers in the jars. This is where I'd recommend using a funnel to prevent spilling boiling sugar syrup all over. Leave about 1/4 inch space from the top of the jars to the liquid.
Slide a plastic knife (or official bubble remover, which is essentially just a plastic knife) down the sides of the jars and around to release any air bubbles. Wipe around the top edges of the jar to make sure there is no syrup left (anything on the rim of the jar could prevent the lids from sealing properly).
Place the lids on the jars, and tighten the rings just until you feel some resistance -- don't overtighten the rings.
Process the jars in your boiling water canning pot for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, carefully lift the jars out of the water one at a time using the tongs. Make sure you don't tilt the jars when lifting them out. If they're tilted, the syrup solution can get in between the lid and jar rim and interfere with the seal before it's completed.
Leave the jars out at room temperature for at least 12 hours. After 12 hours, you'll want to test the seal. Remove the metal ring, and look at the lid. It should be depressed in the middle (you may have heard a pop as the lid depressed shortly after removing the jars from the water, but this is not sufficient to know they're well-sealed). The lid shouldn't move up or down at all when you press on the middle, it should just stay down. Now lightly try to lift the lid with a fingertip. It shouldn't budge, but don't try to pry it too hard as you don't want to accidentally open the jar if it is sealed properly. If all is well, you can slowly tip the jar to the side to make sure there's no liquid leaking around the lid.
Label the jar with what's in it, the month and year. Place it in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
Step 8: My Jars Didn't Seal, Now What?
When testing your seal in the previous step, it's possible that you'll find the lid not sealed tightly on 1 or more jars. Don't despair just yet. If that happens, you have two options.
1. Put the jar into the refrigerator and use within the next week.
2. Reprocess the contents. To do that you'll want to go back and perform the previous step on any of the jars that didn't seal. This means pour the syrup from the jars back into a pot and bring back to a boil. Fill the jars again with the syrup, clean the rims well, and place NEW lids (that you've poured boiling water over and left sitting while you prepared the syrup) and tighten the rings. Process these jars in your boiling water canner again for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and let them sit for 12 hours again before testing the seal.