Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sweet Pickle Sticks: Remembering Mr. Joe and Mrs. Ila Maude

Mr. Joe and Mrs. Ila Maude Carpenter lived up on the little hill above Aunt Selma and Uncle Sherman.  They were an ancient couple to a child, living well into their 80's (Mrs. Ila Maude lived into her 90's).   They were, reaching back through a youngster's memory, the little old couple that loved friends and family, loved to garden, and loved each other.  There was never a cross word uttered, each waiting on the other's needs with the sweetness of genuine affection that defies time.  They were slim, both wrinkled with care and age;  both stooped with years of work;  fixtures of the community as kind as the day is long, living long years in the little white house on the hill.

They used to buy whole milk and yard eggs from Mama.  Mama had her pet milk cow, Bossie, a black Angus of all breeds, that'd give two to three gallons of cream-rich sweet milk a day - more than enough for the bunch of us to eat everything with an abundance of real butter and clotted cream.   And yep - it's another story for another day.

Annnnyways...  More often than not, Mr. Joe'd come in the back door with a jar of something or another he and Mrs. Ila Maude had made:  strawberry figs, pickled okra, pickled banana peppers, or these sweet pickle sticks.

Tart, tangy, and sweet, loaded with flavor from the turmeric, mustard seed, and celery seed, I used to love them.  Lately I've had a hankering from them.  With a gift of over five gallons of cucumbers too large for pickles,  I decided to make them for the first time in roughly twenty-five years.  I had Mama dig out the Carpenter's recipe, not trusting memory enough to look for a similar one online.
This is roughly half of the cucumbers.  See how big they are?  
They're too large for 14 day sweet pickles and I didn't want
to make relish or mock spiced apple rings.
It's a good recipe to use those cucumbers that stayed on the vine three or four days beyond when they needed to be picked.

The pickles take two days to make and need to set (sit?) a week before opening and enjoying.  Y'all ready?

Wash, peel, deseed, and slice cucumbers into half inch strips.  I sliced a few of them thinner and wished I hadn't.  They were limp after the first night.

Don't forget to save the waste for the compost pile or your mama's chickens.  Or your chickens.
They'll cluck in delight you've afforded them this kindness.

Boil enough water to cover cucumber strips by an inch.
I didn't want to crank up the stove twice so I made sure there was
plenty of boiling water to cover them the first time.

Cover with boiling water, weighing cucumbers down, and let sit (set?) overnight or at least 8 to 10 hours.

Heavy porcelain on steel pot lids work great for pressing the
cucumbers under the boiling water and keeping them there.

I let mine set (sit?) overnight.  And most of the day, too, since Favorite Child is coming back in and a certain residence at Pine Level required cleaning.  Pour off water and let strips thoroughly drain.
**giggle** I almost forgot to get the pic, not that y'all need it to know
how to drain something.

Pack strips into clean, sterile jars.  Since these aren't going into the pressure canner I've used glass mayo jars.

Mama doesn't remember adding the turmeric directly into the jar.  I didn't tell her her memory was faulty, finding more and more hiatuses in my own lately than is comfortable.  I added a heaping teaspoon of turmeric to each quart jar - use 1/2 heaped teaspoon for a pint jar.
See?  I told you they were mayo jars.

In a non-reactive pot combine vinegar, sugar, salt, celery seed and mustard seed.  Bring to rolling boil, turn down a bit, and let cook for five minutes.

Pour over packed cucumber sticks, wipe rims, and seal jars.
See those socks in the corner of the pic?  I've repurposed stretched
hole-y socks into something beyond rags.  I'll show you!
Tadadaaaa!  The canner rack has been gone way long
time ago.  Old socks work GREAT for keeping the jars safe.
Water bath for thirty minutes.
Really.  I think the socks work better 'cause the jars are actually
cushioned and not bumping against the wire rack.

Tadadaaaaa!  Let them sit (set?) a week, open a jar and enjoy the complex flavor that these pickles are.

Sweet Pickle Strips Recipe (exactly as Mr. Joe wrote down for Mama)
Ten pounds cucumbers, peeled, deseeded, and cut into strips

Pour boiling water over and let stand overnight or 8 to 10 hours.

Pour off and drain.

Pack solid in jars.

In a porcelain pot, combine and boil for five minutes
3 1/4 cup vinegar
3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons salt
4 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
4 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
4 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds.

Pour over cucumbers in jars and seal.
Makes six pints
Since I had a lot more cucumbers than that I tripled everything but it's not rocket science by any means.  Double or triple as needed.   Y'all enjoy and have a Happy Fourth of July!

<3 Mary


  1. Mary, the turmeric that you add to each jar is in addition to the amount called for in the recipe for the"juice"? These sound pretty good and the Amish market here has all varieties of cucumbers, I haven't made pickles in years but lately I'm feeling a little on the domestic side! Just may give them a try.

    1. It is Rasha Ann, and it's actually a little less turmeric. I like the flavor of turmeric but it can be overpowering. When in doubt make it by the recipe. The cucumbers have been plentiful this summer, despite lack of rain. I've almost five gallons of 14 day sweet pickles needing to be jarred up. And folks are saying Mrs. Heidle (Smith's) over night recipe is good too! I think I've enough cucumbers for one. more. batch