Pickles, in general, are one of my favorite snacks. But when my mom introduced me to Wickles last summer, I realized I might have discovered the tastiest pickle of all. Still, while irrefutably tasty, Wickles do have some drawbacks—not only are they around $5 a jar (making them more of a special occasion food for someone on my budget), but they also contain Polysorbate 80 and Yellow 5, ingredients I try to avoid. Unwilling to live without Wickles, I decided to attempt making my own. The last couple of summers I’ve experimented with canning (mostly tomatoes and jams), and I’ve been wanting to try pickles for quite a while anyway. So, tinkering with Emeril’s recipe for Homemade Sweet and Spicy Pickles, I came up with the following recipe:
3 pounds pickling cucumbers, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
1/2 cup pickling salt
6 cups water
3 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
3 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
10 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic
24 dried cayenne peppers
4-6 sterilized canning jars with bands and lids (I like to wash them by hand with warm soapy water and then keep them in the oven at around 200º until I’m ready to use them)
Soak cucumbers in pickling salt and water in a large, non-reactive bowl for 2 hours. Transfer cucumbers to a colander and rinse well for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Combine the vinegars, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, cloves, garlic, and peppers in a mediumsaucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and add the cucumbers and onions. Bring to a simmer and remove the saucepan from the heat.
Remove the jars from the oven. Using a slotted spoon, fill each jar with the pickle mixture, dividing them evenly, and enough of the liquid to come within 1/2-inch of the top. With a clean damp towel, wipe the rim and fit with a hot lid. Screw on the metal ring just until the point of resistance is met. Process the jars in a hot-water bath for 15 minutes.
Using tongs, remove the jars, place on a towel, and let cool. Test the seals by allowing the jars to stand at room temperature overnight or until the lids pop. Remove rings and store in a cool dry place for at least 2 weeks before eating.
Because I had no idea how these would turn out, I started small, making only four pints to begin with. As it turned out, they were ready just in time for the fourth of July barbecue we had, allowing me a pretty large test audience. And they were a hit! While they were by no means exact, they were close enough to guarantee that I probably won’t be buying Wickles anytime soon (if you’re reading this, Wickles people, I’m sorry. I’m a grad student, and I just can’t afford your fancy pickles.) Furthermore, on my last trip back to Mississippi I inherited several more pounds of cucumbers from my dad, most of which went into making the second, much larger batch of these pickles.