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Nine-day pickles

My sister and I want to tackle our mother's nine-day pickle recipe, but we're not sure about some of the 50+ year-old instructions. Online searches have provided some recipes, but none are exactly like ours. These were the pickles of our childhood, which we both loved, so we're willing to put out the effort. Can anyone offer any advice?

Nine-Day Pickles

2 gallons of cucumbers--soak 24 hrs. in 1 1/2 box of salt in water. (Mom used "pickling salt" but we can't find that in our grocery stores. How is it different from regular salt?)

2nd day--cover with 2/3 box of alum and boiling water. Let stand 24 hours. (No size given for the box of alum)

3rd day--Pour off alum water. Cover with boiling water. Let stand 24 hours.

4th day--Boil one gallon vinegar (we think she used apple cider vinegar) and a 10-cent (!) box of pickling spices for 15-20 minutes. (Best guess is a regular-sized spice bottle.) Pour over cucumbers; let stand for 9 days.

We do remember Mom putting a weighted plate on top of the cucumbers in the crock.

On the last day, cut cucumbers into thick round slices. Put in jars with same proportion of cucumbers and sugar.

That's the end of the recipe; we figure we have to seal the jars in a water bath.

Any help will be greatly appreciated!

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  1. First off, pickling salt is free of additives which can discolor the pickles (iodine & anti-caking compounds) and it is very fine grained as to dissolve quickly. Where have you looked? Often Ace Hardware and Tractor Supply have canning supplies. I find the less fancy the grocery is the more apt they are to carry canning supplies, ie IGA, Piggly Wiggly vs Harris Teeter.

    BRINE: The rule of thumb for the brine is enough salt to make it strong enough to float an egg. According to Marion Brown's Pickles & Preserves the 9-day Sweet Cucumber Pickle recipe calls for 4 oz. salt to 1 quart water. She notes in her general discussion that this brine is a 10% brine, 1 lb. salt to 9 pints water. The volume of brine should be about 1/2 the volume of vegetables.
    Betty Talmadge, in How to Cook a Pig gives this ratio of 2 cups salt per gallon water (which is the same ratio as M.B.'s 4 oz/qt.).

    ALUM: M.B.'s ratio for alum is "a piece the size of a marble" to each quart water.
    B.T. gives this ratio for alum in her recipe for 9 day pickles: 1 Tb. alum to 1 gal. hot water

    SPICE: M.B.'s recipe for 1 gallon of cucumbers used 2 1/2 oz. of spice consisting of whole allspice, stick cinnamon, celery seed.
    B.T.'s uses 4 Tb. of pickling spice for 2 gal. of cukes. Later 1/4 tea. tumeric is added to each jar (no size specified) just before filling.

    SUGAR: M.B. for 2 gal. cukes uses 7 lb. sugar made into a syrup with 6 pints vinegar and the spices. B.T. advised to measure enough vinegar to cover the cukes and add an equal (to vinegar) amount of sugar. This is also boiled with spices and the syrup poured over the cukes.

    You probably know, but do be sure to brine in a non-reactive container. You If you don't have a plate which fits you can fill a ziplock bag with brine and use this to weigh the cukes down. (Some people fill bag with water, but if it leaks then your brine will be diluted.) Once weighted also cover with a clean cloth to keep off dust and insects.

    Note: I see you are in NC. so I checked these references since I'm assuming your mother was in the South too. M.B. was from NC, B.T. from Georgia, both probably of a similar generation to your Mother.

    Hope this helps! It is always wonderful to recreate a taste of "home".

    4 Replies
    1. re: meatn3

      Thanks so much for all this information! I tried to find the pickling salt in Harris Teeter and my small neighborhood Food Lion, but neither one carried it. I'll keep looking.

      In the years before my mom passed away, I tried to get as many of her cooking tips as I could, but I never thought about these pickles. Now that we've gone several years without them, my sister and I decided to give them a try, but we need all the help we can get since neither of us has any experience making anything other than fresh pickles. Wish us luck!

      1. re: marisold

        I've seen pickling salt at an independent hardware store, right near their other canning supplies. Also, here: http://www.walmart.com/ip/Morton-Cann...

        1. re: marisold

          You can use Kosher salt in place of pickling salt. You simply want to avoid and salt that contains iodine.

          1. re: CDouglas

            Thanks, all! I found pickling salt at a Food Lion. Next week we begin our pickle experiment. Your info has helped a lot.

      2. Oh, how fun. My mother and I did a recipe like this when I was in high school, and happily devoured those pickles for years afterward. Do let us know how they turn out! :D

        1. One more question before we begin this project tomorrow: My mother always kept the crock of cucumbers in her basement throughout the process, but neither my sister nor I have a basement. We still have access to my mother's home if that's an important component, but it would be a lot easier to keep the crock in one of our homes. We don't know if the darkness and/or the coolness of a basement was essential, or if she just kept them there because of the space. Pickle-makers, can you answer that for us? Would a dark place in an air-conditioned home work just as well?

          2 Replies
          1. re: marisold

            For long term storage it is good to keep things like this in cool, dark places like a pantry or cellar.
            During the process you will be fine in air-conditioning.

            Are you using a crock or glass? A crock won't let in much light. A glass container might process faster if it has sunlight hitting it. I think either container will be fine for the nine days.

            Did your mother have a canning kitchen in the basement? It would have provided a cooler place to process.

            Hope they taste just like you remember!

            1. re: meatn3

              We're using my mom's crock to make the pickles. She didn't have a canning kitchen in the basement; she just kept the crock there throughout the process. Everything else she did in her kitchen. Once she canned them, she stored them in the basement.

          2. Did you get a chance to make these? If so, where they as you remembered? Any tips to offer?

            I eventually remembered reading this:
            http://www.ncfolk.org/ncfood/sweetpic...
            and thought I'd add it to the post since it fills out the information a bit.