Intro: Use Your Overgrown Cucumbers! (Candied Cinnamon Pickles)
A few years ago I was "shooting the breeze" with my neighbor about our gardening adventures that year. She mentioned that while away on vacation her cucumbers became overgrown and she had to sadly throw them to the birds. Upon hearing this I cried inside...o.k. not really... but I don't like hearing about perfectly good food going to waste, especially if it can be used to make something fantastically delicious! I then shared this family recipe with her to make good use of those monster cucumbers. I've decided to also share it here on instructables in hopes to save countless cucumbers from a bird pecked death!
Candied Cinnamon Pickles involve a several day process, but they are worth the wait. They are a sweet & sour taste combination, with a little bit of heat. They taste very similar to a candied apple, and as a child I ate these like candy. I've also heard them be called Christmas Pickles because they are a lovely red color & make perfect Christmas gifts. So don't throw those whoppers out, gift them away!
Step 1: Gather Supplies
This was a recipe I was "playing close to the vest" because it's been handed down for many generations in our family but through recent research I see there are others who make the same or similar thing so I don't feel as guilty sharing it.(The cat is already out of the bag) To make these pickles you will need:
*2 gallons of overgrown cucumbers (about 8-10 large ones)
1 cup pickling lime (NOT PICKLING SALT)
1 tsp. Alum
2 cups vinegar NOTE:It has since been discovered that mixing the lime & vinegar can be a food safety issue. Like I said, this is an OLD recipe. So you can just replace the vinegar with water if you wish. In generations of making these we have never had any problems with it of course, but just thought I'd give the disclosure.
Candy Syrup :
2 cups vinegar
2 cups water
10 cups sugar
16 oz. red hots (I've used anywhere from 14 oz - 20 oz)
8 sticks of cinnamon
OPTIONAL: Red food coloring
5 gallon food storage bucket for pickling them in (If you are concerned about using the plastic use glass containers. Again, this is just our OLD SCHOOL method)
Jars, lids, & bands for canning (about a 8 pints)
Water bath canner
Step 2: Preparing the Pickles (DAY 1)
*Peel & slice cucumbers in half length wise, then using a spoon scrape the seeds out of the center. Slice the hollowed cucumber “boats” into 1/2 in slices. Creating crescent shaped pickles.
SIZE DOES MATTER! You can see the importance of using the overgrown cucumbers for this recipe. The overgrown cucumbers have a nice thick boarder of flesh. A regular sized cucumber has a thinner boarder & is much smaller in size. It's important to have those thick large slices so they don't break apart easily during the process & so they are a good finger food size for eating later. The bigger the better!
Now put your 2 gallons worth of cucumber slices in your 5 gallon bucket. Mix together your crisping solution & pour it over your slices. Add enough water to the mix until your slices are completely covered. Put your lid on the bucket & let it sit for 24 hours.
Step 3: Candying the Pickles (DAY 2-5)
The next day you will drain & rinse the pickles THOROUGHLY. It is important to remove all the excess pickling lime. You will also need to rinse out your bucket thoroughly too! Then pour the pickles back into the bucket cover them again with fresh, clean, cold water. Now let it sit for 2 hrs.
Repeat this drain, rinse, fill, & sit for 2 hrs process a total of 3 times. This insures that all the excess lime is washed away.
Now drain & rinse your pickles then put them in a large stockpot. Once again covering them with water. Bring the water to a boil & then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer them for 2 hrs. (add more water as needed to keep the pickles covered)
Next, drain & rinse them again & dump them back into your bucket. This time you will prepare your candy syrup to cover them with.
To prepare the candy syrup, combine your syrup ingredients in a pot. Bring it to a boil & continue to boil it until all your red hot candies are melted. (You can also add extra red food color if you would like but I don't feel it's necessary) Once the candies are all dissolved into the syrup, pour the boiling syrup onto your pickles. Close up your bucket & let it sit for 24 hours. The syrup will settle over time, so you will strain off the syrup, reboil it, add it back to the pickles, and let it sit again. This process is repeated a total of 3 times (you do the candy syrup for 3 total days)
Step 4: Preserving Your Pickles
After the candying process is complete your pickles are finished and ready to be preserved. To do this you will need to prep & set out your jars (about a 8 pints) bands & lids.
Bring the pickles & syrup together to a boil & turn it down to simmer while you quickly fill your jars (you don't want to take too long & overcook your pickles but you want them to be nice & hot when they are poured in the jars). I have found the best way to fill your jars is to use a slotted spoon to scoop out the pickles into each jar first. Then ladle the boiling syrup into each jar afterwards, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Doing it this way is relatively mess free & insures you get a good amount of pickles into each jar.
Add the lids & bands. Then process your pickles in a 15 minute water bath.
There you have it! OLD FASHIONED candied cinnamon pickles! To serve them drain away the syrup and dump them in a candy dish, or eat them straight from the jar. They are very crisp, and delicious, and enjoyed by people young & old. I think this is one of those classic recipes everyone should try at least once. ENJOY!