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Ice Water Pickles

November 14, 2017

This recipe has been a long time coming.

I had watched my mother make these several times over the years at our our childhood home, taking copious notes and asking lots of questions but the process never stuck.  Finally I really needed to know how to make them (I had, for the first time, an abundance of cucumbers I had grown myself) so my sister, Barb, suggested we do it together at my house with our mother there for guidance.  Perfect and it worked!  We did it one more time without our mother and then finally I did it by myself.

The recipe actually has 2 parts.  The making of the pickles and preserving.  It’s hard to explain preserving without actually watching and participating in the process. Making the pickles is the easy part.

This is also my Mom’s recipe.  Even though she has been gone for a long time, it’s quite difficult for me to write a recipe that is hers.  I miss her all the time.

Anyway, before I start crying on the keyboard, I will make the best attempt I can to explain how to do this.  Once you have accomplished the canning part, you will not be afraid to do other canning, like jam.  Which I have also done.

This is quite a unique recipe.  I really have no idea where my mother got it.  It’s like no other pickles I have ever had.  When I was very young, like 5,  and  I went out to dinner with my family, my mother would bring the pickles to the restaurant.  I would eat pickles and crackers for my meal because I refused to eat anything on the menu.  Ah, well, times have changed.  Obviously I no long survive on pickles alone these days.

Before I get started with the recipe, you will need several things.  You will NOT need any special canning implements.  What you have on hand will serve you well.  I do not have anything special to can and I like to keep it that way.  There are plenty of other things I would like to get besides canning stuff.  And I only do this once a year.

You will need ALOT of ice.  If you can’t make your own then get a 5 lb. bag of ice from the store.  Canning jars with lids.  I like, these from Ball.  Cucumbers from a farmer’s market or similar.  You need 8 lbs.  So call ahead to your market if you can.  I get mine from Dykeman Farm in Pawling, New York.

The only thing you might need to buy is a 10 plus quart bowl.  You could easily borrow this as well if you know someone.  And if you really like the results you could buy one.  I have my Mom’s so it is ceramic, heavy and has a crack in it.  I take good care of it.  You can use a stainless steel bowl or buy a really nice ceramic one from here.

Give yourself a day to make these.  I can do it in 6 hours but only because I have made them many times and do alot of prep work.

Ice Water Pickles from Helen Girling

1 gallon (8 lbs.) sliced cucumbers

5 white onions, sliced

3 whole garlic cloves

1/3 cup salt

3 (1-1/2) cups white vinegar

5 (2-1/2) cups sugar

1 (1-1/2 teaspoons) tablespoon mustard seed

2 (1 teaspoon) teaspoons celery seed

Clean the canning jars in the dishwasher (this can be done the night before) and then place jars in a large heavy saucepan 8 quarts or more, cover with water by at least one inch.  Cover pan and place pan on stove and turn heat to medium.  I usually do 16 jars, so I use 2 large saucepans with lids.

Take the lids and bands and put them in a bowl with hot sudsy water.  Clean and rinse thoroughly.  Separate the lids and bands.  Put the lids in a small saucepan. Put the bands on paper towels close to where you will be canning.

Clean the cucumbers in warm water and dry.  Set aside.

If you do not have a food processor, borrow one.  This will become an extremely laborious endeavor if you do not have one.  I don’t know how my mother did it by hand.  When they first came out with the food processor she was the first to get one.  What a time saver.

You will also need long tongs to get the jars out of the hot water.  A smaller tong to get the cooked cucumbers into the jar.  And a small ladle to get the syrup into the jar.  Pot holder and plenty of paper towels.  Below are pictures for the whole set up.

You will also need 2 more very large heavy saucepans to make the cucumbers into pickles.  You can borrow these, too, if you don’t have them.  And anyone you have borrowed stuff from gets pickles!!  They should be happy 🙂

Cut the ends off of each cucumber.  Then cut them in half.  Put the halves into the Cuisinart, cut side down, and slice them using the #2 slicer.   You should have 1 gallon of sliced cucumbers.  Put them in the very large bowl.  Take the onions, peel and cut a little bit off if you have to, to fit completely whole, stem side down in the Cuisinart.  Slice the onions using the #2 slicer and place in the bowl with the cucumbers.  Take the bowl and put it into your clean dry sink (unless you are taller than me, 5 ft. 1 in., I cannot get enough leverage on the counter) and mix the cucumbers and onions with your very clean and dry hands.  Put in the salt and mix  again by hand.  Take the garlic and put them deep into the cucumber/onion mixture in 3 different places.  Take the bowl and place on a cookie sheet with sides, on the counter.  Cover the whole thing with ice.  And I mean cover.  Cover until the ice comes up to the top of the bowl.  Let sit for 3 hours.

While the cucumbers are icing, prep for the next stage.

If the jars have come to a nice simmer on the stove, turn the heat off and set them aside on cutting boards on the counter.

Take the 2 other large saucepans, and put one on each burner.  Place half the syrup ingredients in each pan (the 1/2 ingredients are in parenthesis).   Bring to a boil and then turn off heat.

Set yourself up with cutting boards and such next to the stove.  See picture below.  Eat something, like lunch.  Because once you start putting pickles in the jars you cannot stop.  And drink plenty of water.  Remember, you are doing this in July when cucumbers are ready.  If you don’t have air conditioning in your house you will be sweating.  Brings back memories of my own mother sweating:  yikes!  I have air conditioning though.  I’m a lucky girl 🙂

So the 3 hours are up and you are ready to can.

Add water to the small sauce pan with the lids, to cover, and bring to a simmer on the stove.

Bring the iced cucumbers over to the sink and take off the ice.  By this point the ice has become almost one sheet of ice, so it will be easy to dump it in the sink.  Remove any stray ice cubes.

Put a very large colander into your clean sink.  Drain the cucumbers into the colander.  Remove the 3 garlic cloves.

Place the sauce pans with the syrup back onto the stove.  Divide the cucumbers between the 2 pans and turn the heat up to medium/medium high.  Bring the cucumbers to a boil and cook until they look like pickles (exact quote from my mother 🙂 ).

Also, put the pan with the jars back on the stove and bring to a simmer

When the cucumbers look like pickles, remove from heat and place right next to your canning set up.

Carefully remove 1 jar from the hot water with tongs and drain.

Put pickles using the small tongs and syrup using the small ladle into jar, leaving a quarter inch space from the top of jar.

Clean the rim of the jar thoroughly with a hot wet paper towel.

Take the tongs and remove one lid, shaking it free of water.

Place on top of jar.

Then take one band and place it on the jar twisting to seal.  You will need a pot holder to hold the jar.  Remember you just took it out of HOT water.

Set aside on a cutting board.

Continue doing this with all the pickles.

When you are done, reseal the jars one more time by giving it one more twist.  Let them sit there overnight.  The next day, make sure the pickles have been canned properly.  Press down on the lid.  If there is any movement at all, it did not seal properly.  Just put the unsealed jar into the refrigerator, let it get nice and cold and enjoy!

The other jars that have been sealed, clean with a warm cloth to remove any sticky residue.  They are now ready to give away or to be stored so you can eat them over the winter.

cleaning the cucumbers:

cucumbers in the dry, clean sink, with onions, tossed together:

add salt and toss again:

place garlic cloves into the cucumber/onion mixture:

cover with ice and place on a cookie sheet with sides (I also have a towel underneath because there is a crack in the bowl) :

jars in pan covered with water:


lids in water:

the set up with the bands dry and waiting:

after 3 hours:

drain the cucumbers and remove the garlic:

bring the syrup to a simmer/boil and add half the cucumbers/onion mixture:

progression of how the cucumbers transform to pickles:

drain the jar and start adding pickles and syrup:

jar filled, wipe rim of jar thoroughly with a hot paper towel:

top with lid and then band:

all done (with 1/2 anyway):

finished product, let sit overnight and then test for sealing the next day:

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Gail Bogossian permalink
    November 14, 2017 5:32 pm

    Well I doubt I’m going to try that recipe but I just love love loved seeing Helen! man talk about memories!!

  2. November 14, 2017 8:26 pm

    Thanks Gail,
    yeah, she was the best.

  3. Kelly Pierce permalink
    October 19, 2021 11:25 am

    What kind of cucumbers are best for this recipe? Pickling cucumbers? Can you use English or would they be too mushy to stand up to the recipe?

    • October 19, 2021 11:37 am

      Hi Kelly, I have never used pickling cucumbers or English, so I really can’t say. I usually go to the Farmers Market near me and use the cucumbers that they have grown. Seedless are the best for obvious reasons. Garden variety cucumbers is what they usually have. This was my mom’s recipe and my dad would grow cucumbers from seed from Burpee, Early Pride Hybrid would be his pick. You can go on their website and take a look at the type of cucumber. Hope this helps.

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