This combination of techniques makes the ultimate supercrisp, sweet-and-sour pickle. Presoaking cucumbers with lime firms vegetable tissues. Preserving the cucumbers via low-temperature pasteurization avoids the overheating that softens pickles. (If you are new to canning, it’s important for safety to learn the basics. Read more at nchfp.uga.edu.) If you don’t want to do the canning, these pickles are delicious made through Step 4 and refrigerated (eat within a few months).
• About 6 pounds of 4- to 5-inch unwaxed pickling cucumbers (preferably fresh-picked and thin-skinned), scrubbed and rinsed
• 1 cup food-grade pickling lime (calcium hydroxide)
• 1/2 cup salt
• 1 gallon cold water
• 3 pounds white or yellow onions, diced
• 2 quarts white wine vinegar or cider vinegar (minimum 5 percent acidity; cider vinegar darkens pickles)
• 6 cups granulated sugar or 5 1/4 cups honey (honey adds its own flavor and darkens brine)
• 2 1/2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt or pickling salt
• 2 teaspoons mixed pickling spice
1. Cut cucumbers into 1/4-inch slices, discarding the ends. In a 2-gallon or larger nonreactive (glass or ceramic) container, mix lime with salt and water. Add cucumbers and soak, stirring occasionally, for 12 to 24 hours.
2. Remove slices from lime solution, rinse in a colander and resoak for 1 hour in fresh, cold water. Repeat rinsing and soaking steps at least 2 more times to completely remove lime. Drain well. Set aside.
3. In a large pot, whisk together onions, vinegar, sugar, salt and pickling spice. Simmer over low heat—do not boil—for 15 minutes.
4. Sterilize 4 quart-sized canning jars, with their lids and seals, in boiling water. Carefully pack cucumbers and onions into jars and pour hot liquid over them, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Use a wooden chopstick to stir out any air bubbles, and wipe rims to remove any liquid. Apply lids and rings.
5. Meanwhile, fill canner halfway with water, and heat it to 180 degrees. Set jars in canner, and continually monitor water temperature for 30 minutes. Make only minor adjustments to maintain this temperature for the duration. Ideally it should never exceed 185 degrees. (Alternatively, process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.) Pickles improve after a month in storage.
For more recipes for preserving food check out our End-of-Summer Food Preservation Guide.