How a Misread Recipe Helped Newlywed Create Little Slices of Absolute Culinary Joy
I wanted to share with my readers a story that makes me laugh to this day about how a misread recipe helped a newlywed create little slices of absolute culinary joy.
Years ago, shortly after getting married I got really gung ho about gardening and being domestic. That first summer I tilled and planted a garden and somehow wound up with enough cucumbers to feed a small army. While I had no idea what to do with my bumper crop, I was very proud of my green thumb. The only problem was while we had a huge garden we lived in small duplex and I had washtubs full of cucumbers all over the house.
Although I’m not usually much of a pickle fan, I’d recently eaten sweet lime pickles at my mother-in-law’s house and I have to admit they were really good. One thing for sure my hubby liked them, so I decided to call her for the recipe. I mean what newlywed doesn’t want to treat her hubby to something coveted his mom makes and pulls out for special occasions?
The next day I bought jars, lids, pickling lime, spices and a 10 pound bag of sugar. Before the end of the day I had thousands of slices of cucumbers floating in a washtub big enough to take a bath in.
When my hubby got home I remember him saying, “Do you think you’re going to have enough pickles?”
Well I took that to mean I should make not one, but two, and maybe even three batches. So, that next day I was at it again, shopping and slicing cucumbers and filling up washtubs. I’s gone back to the store and bought more jars and more sugar and spices. I was by-golly going to make some pickles or die trying.
Sweet lime pickles are supposed to soak overnight so we watched TV that week with tubs of thinly sliced cucumbers floating at our feet. During the day while he was at school and work I stirred tubs of soon to be pickles like one of the three witches in Macbeth. I slaved over those pickles. I had an assembly line of pots to cook the syrup in, pots to sterilize the jars and then do a water bath. Our little house looked like a veritable pickle factory and smelled like what I imagine heaven smells like.
The jars of pickles started stacking up. I ran out of pantry space. I filled up the cabinets; I put jars back in boxes and put them in closets and even under the bed. I pickled until I was pickled out.
Then, came the moment of truth. I’d put a jar of homemade pickles in the frig and pulled them out to eat with dinner. My husband took a bite of cold sweet lime pickle and said, “Oh, my God, those are the best pickles I’ve ever eaten.”
I was elated, so much so that I called that evening to thank his mom for the recipe again. There was a bit of dead air when I told her what he’d said but at the time I was oblivious.
That weekend we made a trip to see his parents and I took her a jar of my sweet lime pickles. His dad agreed there was something special about my pickles. When she tasted them I could see the look of confusion on her face just before she asked me how much sugar I’d used. I replied, “Exactly what you told me to use. I put in eight pounds for each batch.”
To this day I don’t know if she misspoke or I wrote down the wrong amount of sugar but it was a fortuitous misunderstanding and they are still the best sweet lime pickles I’ve ever eaten. I’m also not sure she didn’t hold a bit of a grudge for a while after all the praise my pickles garnered.
Here’s the original recipe and if you’d like to make my recipe, just remember to slice your pickles very thin, about the thickness of a quarter and use eight pounds of sugar instead of 8 cups. All you’ll need besides that is a little love.
7 lbs medium-size pickling cucumbers
1 cup pickling Lime
2 gal water
2 qt commercial white vinegar (5% acidity)
8 cups granulated sugar (8 pounds is what I used)
1 Tbsp Pickling & Canning Salt
1 Tbsp Mixed Pickling Spice
Wash cucumbers. Slice crosswise about the thickness of a U.S. quarter. Mix pickling lime in water. Don’t use aluminum containers for the lime solution. Use plastic, glass or ceramic. Soak cucumbers overnight in the lime water. Rinse 3 times in cool water. Soak three more hours in ice water bath.
In a bowl, mix together vinegar, sugar, and salt until dissolved. Remove cucumbers from final ice water soak. Drain slices. Pour syrup over top. Let stand for 5 to 6 hours or overnight. Add pickling spice to taste.
Drain syrup off cucumber slices into a saucepan. Simmer for 35 minutes stirring frequently from the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. Place cucumber slices into wide mouth hot quart jars after washing, rinsing and sterilizer per manufacturer instructions.
Ladle hot syrup over cucumbers until jar is almost full and cucumbers are covered. Leave 1/2 -inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust lids and process pints for 10 minutes and quarts for 15 minutes, using boiling water bath method.
Be sure to use protective mitts when handling hot jars and pots. Store jars in a cool dry place after canning. As long as the jars are sealed and you hear a pop when opening, they can be stored and should be safe to eat for up to a year.