Quick: how much salt will float an egg in 15 cups of water?
Because in the days before measuring cups and exactness, that is how strong your brine (aka salt water) needed to be for these Nine Day Pickles. To quote:
“Put 7 lbs. pickles in brine (strong enough to hold an egg) for 3 days. . .”
When I read this over the phone to my Mom to get her advice, she asked “Why are you laughing?” Go ahead. Read it out loud right now and picture yourself standing over a bowl of water, trying to make an egg float.
Needless to say, the first dozen times I saw this recipe in Lucie’s collection I conveniently breezed right past it. But then some canning friends and I were lamenting about why people thought canning was such a big deal when it’s really not. It’s easy. Right?
And then I remembered: it’s something I have done since forever and take for granted and am comfortable with. For others, it’s this foreign concept with strange equipment and urban (rural?) myths about exploding pressure cookers.
So, in an act of bravery, I am taking on the Nine Day Pickles, complete with floating eggs and strange herbs and a foraged crock (thanks Emily V.!). Just so you know, the title of these pickles is rooted not in the fact that they take nine days to make, but you have to do something every day for nine days.
If you are an old hand at preserving food, won’t you join me? Let’s venture into the unknown together. If you’ve nary made a jar of jam before, I challenge you to get out there and try it. Get yourself a box of pectin and a couple quarts of berries and just try it.
What’s the worst that can happen?
Nine Day Pickles – Chunks
7 lbs. cucumbers
3 cups canning salt
3 lbs. sugar
1 Tbl. alum* (optional)
1 oz. whole allspice
1 oz. cassia buds
1 oz. celery seed
3 pts. vinegar
Put pickles in brine (strong enough to hold an egg) [note: a 5:1 ratio, so 3 cups of salt for 15 cups of water] for 3 days. On day 4 replace brine with fresh water, repeating with new fresh water for days 5 and 6.
Day 7: Cut cucumbers in chunks and cook until tender in diluted vinegar and alum. Put in crock. Pour over, for 7 lbs. pickles, a hot syrup made of the remaining ingredients.
Pour off syrup each day, heat the syrup, and pour back on for three days. The last time, seal pickles in jars.
*Alum was used to keep vegetables crisp, but it can be toxic in large quantities and usually isn’t found in modern recipes. I omit it.