Don’t throw away those big orange overripe cucumbers

I was raised by parents who grew up in the depression. Furthermore they are both of Scottish descent, so wasting things always bothered them and I grew up with the same values. I guess I could have rebelled but I chose to be frugal as well.
We always had a garden when I was growing up and on those sandy Maine soils cucumbers were easy to grow and they yielded well. Consequently, we made jars upon jars of pickles. My mother must have tried every recipe she came across, but after a while we settled on our favorites.
One of those required those big old overripe orange ones that we previously threw on the compost pile. Using what we would otherwise throw away was great for us skin flint Mainers. We peeled them and scooped out the seeds. Some we ground into relish, but most we cut into chunks. Then we mixed in onions, sweet peppers for color and poured this yellowish brine on them.
The vinegar brine was seasoned with sugar, mustard and celery seeds and pickling salt. It also contained turmeric, which along with the mustard provided the bright yellow color. The original recipe called for distilled vinegar, but Mom always liked to combine white and cider vinegars.  It deepened the color and added flavor.
These are among my favorite pickles. In fact, I like the recipe so much I use it for cauliflower and wild Florida betony tubers. It’s amazing the number of vegetables, wild and cultivated that pickle well.
My mother is in her eighties now and she still makes these pickles. In fact, she now processes them by the ton and has enlisted several volunteers at the church to help her for one of their annual fundraisers.
Each fall she enlists a bunch of church members and they travel to a cucumber farm several miles away and gather all the overripe cukes. The farmer donates the orange fruits to the church. He has no other market for them anyway. Mom and her friends literally harvest over a ton of them, load them in pickup trucks and everyone helps with processing. They get requests from miles away and all the locals know those pickles will be served at all the church’s baked bean suppers.
The only part that bothers me is that they don’t charge enough. I told Mom that when she considered the cost of traveling to get them and all the materials and labor she should double her price. She told me it didn’t matter because they were donating to the church anyway. When I reminded her that the church needed money she replied that the church is made up of people who help others. I guess mother knows best.
I can’t walk through my garden and spot an overripe cucumber without thinking of my mother and those pickles. The name of the recipe we first started using was Ruth’s Pickles. My mother has modified it a little, and I don’t even know who Ruth is, but her pickle recipe made a big impact on our family and that small Eastern Maine community.
Usually I have enough big orange ones for a batch, but this year our cucumbers were scarce. Bacterial wilt saw to that. Nevertheless, I think I still may have a few jars left. I guess I’ll have to make them last until next year.

Sweet Pickle Brine for those big orange cucumbers

5 qts. peeled and cut-up cucumbers                                 1  1/2 tsp. turmeric

4 medium onions, chopped (optional)                             6 c, sugar

2 sweet red peppers (optional)                                         1  1/2 Tbsp. mustard seed

1 qt. vinegar                                                                          2  Tbsp. celery seed

I usually use an even mix of                                              3 Tbsp. salt (I use pickling salt)    cider vinegar and 1/2 qt. white vinegar.

Peel and cube over-ripe cucumbers and mix in peppers and put into kettle with chopped onions. Add vinegar to only 3/4 depth of vegetable(about 1 quart).  Mix sugar, turmeric, mustard seed, celery seed, and salt; add to contents of the kettle.  Mix well and cook slowly at simmering temperature until pieces are just tender and can be pierced with a fork.  Ladle into hot sterilized jars and seal. Recipe is great for ripe cucumbers or cauliflower.

Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I recently retired from teaching high school agriculture after 25 years teaching with my wife. Until recently I wrote a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper ( I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle format. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone (presently out of print), a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death (this one is not yet published). In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books. I also wrote a romance novel titled Virginia. It is available on Amazon and is a different type of romance from a man's perspective.
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85 Responses to Don’t throw away those big orange overripe cucumbers

  1. Bret Latlip says:

    Ted, my mother born in Hartland, Maine recently passed away. Sadly, we did not get her over-ripe relish before she passed. Do you have a recipe?

  2. I just brought in 3 overripe cucumbers, bright orange in color. I was afraid they might not be fit to eat but after reading your post I have decided to try a few bits. I let them hang way too long on the vine and thus they were getting orange. I first thought the yellowish color that later turned orange was an indication of being under ripe. Now I know it’s quite the opposite.

  3. We had 3 bright orange ones we picked off the vine today. Glad I read your post. I actually thought they would turn green but later read that they were very over ripe. So I will use your recipe for my large overripe orange cucumbers. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I am not familiar with your post, I’m
    Sorry. Where is your iFlorida betony post? I’d like to key to get your recipe


  5. JOAN JUSTICE says:


    • tedmanzer says:

      I don’t process them after I test them for proper texture. I place them in sterilized jars and seal them like you would jelly. I’ve never had a problem with jars not sealing or any type of storage problems. I will admit that they seem to remain crisper if stored at a relatively cool temperature.

  6. Debbie Ferguson says:

    Does this recipe require water-bathing for shelf storage?

    • tedmanzer says:

      I’ve done it that way for ripe cucumbers, but it’s not necessary. I prefer cooking them until I like the texture and them packing them in sterilized jars. That way They never get cooked too long and get mushy.

  7. Angela Lambert says:

    I am new to canning, so I’m not sure how to seal Jelly, as you mention above, “seal them like you would jelly”. I really want to try this, since my daughter gave me several over ripe cucumbers.
    Thank you,

    • tedmanzer says:

      Sterilize your jars and heat them up before adding your boiling hot pickle mixture. Then, simply seal them with new jar lids. If they don’t seal (they will make a popping sound when they seal) put them in a boiling water bath and try again. If your jars and lids are sterile you’ll be surprised at how successful you are.

  8. Jennifer says:

    I am trying this right now. The jars are in the water processing. Can’t wait. Is there a time you allow them to sit and “age” or do you go right at them?

  9. Vicki V. says:

    The recipe says you usually use an even mix of salt. Not sure I understand that. An even mix compared to what? I see pickling salt is listed later in the recipe ingredients. I, too, left cukes too long on the vine (burpless variety), and hate to see them go to waste. I appreciate your time in answering.

  10. Jake Martens says:

    Some comments I searched, stated that the over ripe cukes we’re not edible, but dangerous to eat. What do you think of that?

  11. L Flanegan says:

    Tedmanzer, I have a batch of your cucumbers/pickles/ Orange Monsters, going right now, Oh My, they smell wonderful!! Thanks you for the great recipe!!! and tell your mom thanks too!

  12. Bret says:

    That’s awesome. My dukes turn yellow, not orange. Can you still use them for thus wonderful recipe?

  13. maria says:

    Hi I was wondering if this recipe will work without the sugar I love pickled stuff but not the sweet kind 😊 thank you!

  14. Amee Estill says:

    Loved this recipe! I was gone for a few days and ended up with some over ripe cubes. It was my first venture in canning and it went very well.
    Thank you for sharing!

  15. Andrew says:

    Just curious how long these would last (shelf-life) if they were placed in the fridge after sealing … We forgot about a jar we made in August that’s still sitting in the fridge and it has not yet been opened.

    • tedmanzer says:

      If it’s sealed I wouldn’t worry. I’ve eaten 2-year-old sealed jars stored at room temperature and they were fine. I always chill them first, because I think they are better cold.

  16. Mary M says:

    Thank you for sharing this information & your recipe !

  17. Deb Smith says:

    I remember this recipe and I’m glad I came across it on your page. We are going to make a batch tomorrow! Just a bit of background information, they were called Ruth’s pickles because of the story in the Old Testament of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth gleaned the leftovers in the field after the harvest. Since the big orange cucumbers were left after the marketable ones were picked, they were called “Ruth’s pickles” after her. 😊

  18. Tom Hewitt says:

    Thank GOODNESS I found this site!! I went away for 2 weeks and my neighbor was supposed to harvest my pickles…. but did not. I was heart broken since it was such a good crop for the first picking. I am going to use this recipe as the base for a finely chopped pickle/pepper relish that can be used as a sandwich/hoagie condiment.

  19. Donna Finton says:

    I am making your pickles tomorrow. Today I bought the spices. Jars will need to be sterilized, but other than that, I am ready. Very excited. I was handed about 7 huge over ripe cukes & told to do something with them. So……….

  20. Teresa says:

    I have a quart of leftover pickle juice. What can I do with that? Make more pickles?

  21. Teresa Strong says:

    BTW– I loved the story of grandma, and the pickles are fantastic. So many people say their mom made these, but they don’t how. So I thanking you for all of them.

    I used the extra juice to pickle yellow squash and to marinate chicken. I plan to put some in my potato salad.

  22. Pingback: Reddening Tomatoes, Canning Pickle Chunks, Fermenting |

  23. Roberta Bond says:

    I have a number of overripe cucumbers. I usually end up putting them in compost but I hate that because my (now) 16 year old son was the one who started some of the plants from seed last winter and I started some from seeds from the ones he started a 1 1/2 years ago… i have a few on my counter here in the kitchen and I decided to see if there was anything I could do with them. I started to type, “What to do with overripe… ” and the first thing to pop up was “cucumbers”! I am stoked to pickle these ones! My son is currently doing homeschool chemistry so I am planning on involving him in the process. I feel there’s much to be learned… 🙂

  24. matt gallo says:

    matt from british Columbia says: my wife and I follow a recipe similar called “pickles in a bucket inna fridge” the pickles should be turned upside down and back for the first 2 weeksin order to distribute the liquid evenly and we have kept them refrigerated for 10 months or so. originally we kept them in plastic ice cream pails with the lid on but now feel that large glass jars are probably healthier and we transfer from the large jar to smaller quart jars for immediate use. of course these pickles are not cooked in sealed jars so they need constant refrigeration because there was nocooking or boiling of liquids or sealing in this recipe. it is a recipe requiring refrigerator storage only but is so easy to prepare.

  25. Dana Harper says:

    How long do they need to sit before opening?

  26. Tammy says:

    How much cider vinegar?
    How do you cut your cucumbers?

    • tedmanzer says:

      I use a 50-50 mix of 1/2 quart white and 1/2 quart cider vinegar. I peel and clean the seeds out and cut the cucumbers into cubes. Sometimes I grind them into relish. They make a great sweet relish.

  27. Anita says:

    Great! Can this recipe be canned? I have a feeling my son and grandson will want a lot more and I would like to store for the winter. No mention of hot water bath. I used Morton sea salt without Iodide and it worked fine. Delicious and easy!

    • tedmanzer says:

      I’ve been off the grid for a couple weeks, so I’m late returning your comment. Yes, it can be canned, but it doesn’t have to be. I’m eating some right now that are over a year old and they’re still great.

      • Ksandra Kennedy says:

        Thank you so much for all of your knowledge!! We as a culture haven’t learned these kinds of methods for preserving food like our great grandparents and grandparents did. Especially in the times we’re living in now, we need this kind of knowledge more than ever. I’m so very grateful to have found your site.
        Thank you!!

      • tedmanzer says:

        Thank You! We must not lose these skills. They can come in handy and they’re just plain fun and satisfying.

  28. Mary says:

    Thank you everyone for your comments of experience. I have a lot of yellow and orange cucumbers. I will definitely use this recipe and am so glad to have found it. I too don ‘t waste food that is a gift.

  29. Tiffany Stull says:

    How long are the pickles good for after canning?

  30. Sue says:

    Ted, Do you seal in a hot water bath?

    • tedmanzer says:

      I have, but you don’t have to if you pour the pickles directly into HOT sterilized jars and cap them immediately. I’ve kept them 2 years like that with very satisfactory results.

  31. Lisa M Meunier says:

    These pickles sound like the ones my mother-in-law called “sunshine pickles”. They are sweet and bright yellow in color. Could this be the elusive recipe I’ve been searching for? My mother-in-law no longer cans so she got rid of the recipe years ago.

  32. Karen Larsen says:

    This is my fourth year making these delicious pickles. In an over abundance of caution I do water bath them but the texture is still fine. My family loves them as presents. Thanks so much for a new harvest tradition for me,

  33. John says:

    How much sugar?

  34. Lila Languerand says:

    How long g do you water bath ? Thank you.

    • tedmanzer says:

      I normally don’t water bath (But I have my jars sitting in boiling water until I’m ready to fill them) and they seal and keep fine. If you are concerned, you could water bath for 15 minutes and they would be fine.

  35. Lila Languerand says:

    I read your recipe it says 1 quart cider vinegar , then further down it says 1/2 qt, white vinegar . So do l use 1/2 qt. Cider vinegar , and 1/2 qt. White vinegar because it says to use 1 qt vinegar . So if l use 1 qt vinegar when do l use the white vinegar? Thank you !

    • tedmanzer says:

      The quart is a 50-50 mix of cider and white vinegar. There is a formatting problem on the recipe when I copied it I think.

      • tj says:

        When you talk about overripe cucumbers, yellow, or orange cucumbers, you are talking about the ones that are bitter I presume. I have bitter cucumbers, the seeds are sweet but the flesh bitter, it was my understanding that bitter cucumbers are inedible, can you confirm that the ones you are processing are bitter, presumably the processing removes the bitterness?
        I deliberately left some to ripen fully to gather the seeds as it is an heirloom variety.
        Many thanks

      • tedmanzer says:

        I think the bitterness of the flesh is a variety thing. I’ve always considered the skin and gelatinous material around the hard mature seeds to be more bitter than the flesh itself. I often nibble on some of the raw pieces while I’m making a batch. Some are bitter and some aren’t.

  36. Jacqueline says:

    How much cider vinegar? Equal amount to the salt or equal to the regular vinegar?

  37. Grandma Pickles says:

    Thanks Ted, This took me back to Grandma’s pickles. I threw in a clove or two in a few jars and I’d swear it was her recipe. I’m like that rat in Ratatouille with these pickles…

  38. Terry says:

    This is the best recipe! Thank you.

  39. Pingback: Are Orange Cucumbers Safe to Eat? (Read This First) –

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