Grandma Phoebe’s Mustard Pickles

With any good preserve, the devil is in the details. And as usual, a recipe that’s been followed for this many years comes written with fewer directions than actually needed to accomplish the task ahead. In family kitchens, there was an expectation that you had done this project many times under the supervision of someone who already knew the ropes, and that the recipe just recorded exact measurements. While I’ve added more detail to make this recipe easier to follow, there is an expectation that you have studied the basics of preserving and food safety.

Photo Credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

Grandma Phoebe’s Mustard Pickles

Approx 30 cups – 7 hours

25 lbs cucumbers (or more, but not less)
2.5 lbs onions, finely chopped fine
2 red peppers
½ cup salt
3 cups vinegar
6 cups white sugar
2 tbsp pickling spice, in a bouquet garni bag
(or tied in a cheesecloth)

Dressing
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vinegar
1 ¼ cup flour
5 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp turmeric

Safety first: consult the jar manufacturer’s website or an up-to-date cook book for exact directions.

  • Vegetable preparation: Peel and chop your onions to a very fine dice. Peel your cucumbers, de-seed and dice to 1” squares. De-seed and chop red pepper for colour, these pieces can be a bit larger than the cucumber.

Chop your vegetables and deseed your cucumbers!//Photo Credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

  • Brine your vegetables: Place in a large enamelled pot and cover with water Add salt, stir to mix thoroughly. Store in refrigerator for a minimum of 3 hours, or overnight (the longer the pickles brine, the softer the pickles). Drain well, do NOT rinse.

Photo Credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

  • Place drained pot on medium heat, add vinegar, sugar, and pickling spice bouquet. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are translucent, usually 40 minutes.
  • Prepare dressing: in a separate bowl while your vegetables simmer. Once they’ve reached the level of desired translucence, add the dressing to the pot and keep simmering until it thickens, a little under ½ an hour.
  • Sterilize jars: (minimum 10 minutes) and funnel hot pickles into the jar, taking care not to leave debris on the top of the rim (wipe off with a clean cloth or paper towel in case of drips). Follow jar manufacturer’s instructions for lids, then process jars submerged in a bath for a minimum of 15 minutes at 180 degrees.

Photo Credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

  • Cool jars on a rack, ensuring that each has made a complete seal before putting in storage.
  • A point of safety: work with hot ingredients to minimize danger of contamination. Handle your ingredients with proper heat protection, but if you’re in doubt about a seal on your jar or any other element during processing, discard those pickles or store them in the refrigerator and eat right away. If a seal is not present when you open a preserve, always discard.