Back in 2014 I posted a column about making sweet pickles from big overripe cucumbers. I included a recipe my mother used and still makes for her church. She’s now almost 88.
The recipe was called Ruth’s pickles and I found out after I posted the column that it was named for the story in the Old Testament of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth gleaned the field after the harvest, salvaging what she could. In this case the big orange cucumbers were left after the marketable ones were picked.
Therefore, the final product was called “Ruth’s pickles” after her. One of my readers, Deb Smith, supplied me with that information. That recipe has been a part of our family since I was a teenager.
I’m a fan of them, but I also love dill pickles. My middle son is a type 1 diabetic and has been for 19 years. He doesn’t eat sweet pickles. He’s been on his own for some time now, but I thought it might be cool to experiment with overripe cucumbers to produce dills.
My concern was maintaining the crunch without a flinty skin. Peeling them was an easy fix for part of that problem. I thought removing the gelatinous mature seeds might solve The other dilemma, so I played around with several recipes until I found a brine that gave me the flavor I wanted.
I thought that the flavor of apple cider vinegar overpowered the garlic and dill, so I settled on white vinegar. In order to preserve crispness, I added some sugar and a touch of calcium chloride. My recipe is probably not totally accurate as I’m a taster. I keep adjusting until the taste feels right to me.
Another thing I did was let the brine simmer for a while before adding it to the jars. That way the garlic and dill taste might be stronger sooner.
I did not cook the dill sprigs or whole garlic cloves. They went straight to the jars. Only minced garlic and dill seed were cooked with the brine. I didn’t process them. Instead I stored them in a relatively cool spot though not in the refrigerator. After six weeks all the jars remain sealed.
I tried a jar within three days, and I was encouraged. At six weeks the quality was even better. I’m not saying they are as good as they would be had I used young pickling cucumbers, but I’m satisfied with the results.
I thought about pickling some of the orange cukes without peeling and removing the seeds, but I knew what the result would be, and it wasn’t worth wasting ingredients.
Thus far, I think the experiment was a success. Time will tell. My desire was to find another edible use for those overripe cucumbers. I love the sweet pickles, but I also love dills. Most of all, I love to experiment.
My recipe is as follows:
Approximately 10 pounds of prepared cucumber pieces
10 cups white vinegar and 10 cups water
1 cup pickling salt
½ cup sugar
6 Tablespoons dill seed
10 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
20 fresh dill sprigs
20 cloves of garlic
All ingredients except the cucumbers, dill sprigs and garlic cloves are simmered in a brine for about ten minutes. I packed the cucumbers tightly in sterilized jars and added two sprigs of dill and two cloves of garlic. Then I added the boiling brine mixture over the cucumbers until all were covered. After placing lids and rings on the jars I let them cool for a few hours until the jars sealed. Had any not sealed I would have placed them in a water bath for a few minutes and given them another chance to seal. Fortunately, this wasn’t necessary.
Next time I’m making dill relish. I might add a few red peppers for color.
Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.