Sunday, August 4, 2013

5 day Red Hot Candied Cinnamon Pickles

What do you do when you have an over abundance of cucumbers? Especially some that have grown monster sized because the hubbs apparently can't see 2 feet from his face....You make Red Hot Candied Cinnamon Pickles. I know,  it sounds weird but trust me you are gonna love them!  Sweet, sour and kinda spicy. Not to mention very addictive! If you like those spiced apple rings then you will love these. I will warn you this is not a quick process. There are multiple steps and lots of waiting around.

Here's what you need
7 -8 lbs of over sized, over ripe cucumbers
1 cup of pickling lime
Enough water to cover the cucumbers (in my case I used about 10 cups)
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups of water
7 cups of sugar
1  (9oz)  package of Brach's Imperial Cinnamon candies (or equivalent)
1 tablespoon of alum
3 tablespoons apple or pumpkin pie spice
3 Cinnamon sticks
4 dried cayenne peppers (slit)
Large ceramic container (crock pot works well)
Non reactive serving spoon

Day 1
Wash cucumbers, slice 1/2 inch off both ends, use a vegetable peeler to remove peel,deseed, and slice in 1/2 inch rings or chunks.
Rinse and drain well.
Combine 1 cup of pickling lime with enough water that it will  cover the cucumbers in a non reactive container (NO METAL!).  A crock pot works well or a large 2 gallon ziploc bag. Use caution when handling the pickling lime--it is Calcium Hydroxide and is a skin and respiratory irritant. 
Store in the refrigerator
Turn the cucumbers every couple of hours.
Refrigerate for 48 hrs.

Day 2
Continue to turn the cucumbers. The lime will settle out of solution, don't worry it is normal.

Day 3
Drain the cucumbers from the lime solution. Rinse 3 times. You need to remove all of the lime (as much as possible).
Add enough cold water to cover the cucumbers and soak overnight (store in the refrigerator)

Day 4
Rinse and drain cucumbers.
To a large stainless steel (or enamel coated) pot add 2 cup of white vinegar and 2 cups of water, bring to a simmer. Add 1 tablespoon of alum, stir until dissolved. Add the 9 ounces of cinnamon candies. Stir until dissolved. Add sugar 1 cup at a time until dissolved with stirring. Make sure nothing sticks to the pan. Add in the spices, cinnamon sticks and cayenne peppers.
Add the cucumbers.Stir gently
Bring to a low simmer--Do NOT boil!
Simmer for 2 hours in a covered pot, stirring occasionally. 
Turn off the heat and let stand overnight.

Day 5
Prepare jars for canning. I wash mine in hot (as hot as I can stand soapy water), Rinse in hot water (as hot as I can stand), I invert on paper towels to drain for a few minutes. In the interim, I have heated my oven to 200°F. I place the clean jars on a heavy duty metal baking sheet and place in the oven to proof. I keep them hot until I need them.

Wash and sterilize rings, funnel, ladle, a teaspoon and bubble wand.

Prepare water canner bath.

Prepare a small pot for lids.

Using a slotted spoon remove the infused cumbers from the syrup into a container. They will have a lovely translucent red color.
Heat the syrup to a simmer for 20 minutes. 
Add the cucumbers back to the syrup, let simmer for 20 minutes or until uniformly hot.

Pack into hot jars. It is your preference if you want to add the cinnamon sticks or cayenne peppers. The syrup is dark so you don't really see it in the jars. Use the bubble wand to check for air bubbles. Because this is such a thin syrup I left a 1/4 inch head space on my quarter pint jars, 1/2 inch head space on the half pints and a 3/4 inch head space on my low form square pint jars. Be diligent about cleaning the jar rims. Add the hot lids and rings. Finger tighten.
Process in  a boiling water bath canner for 5-7 minutes for 1/4 pints, 10-12 minutes for half pints and 15-18 minutes for pints. I always err on the side of longer process time.
Wait for the ping. Such a lovely sound!  In my case as soon as I pulled the jars from the water bath they began pinging.
Allow to cool and check there is no flex in the lid.
Remove the rings ( I don't like my stuff stored with the rings because of rust). If properly sealed the ring isn't necessary.
Label and store for 1 year--assuming you can stay away from these that long because they are addictive! 

Serving Suggestions
Refrigerate prior to use.
By themselves
Serve as an accompaniment to pork
Over ice cream

Hints, tips and observations
Chunks are better than the rings. 90% of my rings didn't hold up to all of the handling. So I ended up with chunks anyway.
The pickling lime provides the translucent quality to the pickles and makes them crunchy. A little pickling lime goes a  long way. I wasn't kidding about being careful. It is a lightweight powder and it gets everywhere! Even though I had my cucumbers in heavy duty 2 gallon ziploc type bags, the lime etched my ceramic container. So now it is permanently  part of the canning supplies.  Kinda bummed because it WAS a very nice corning casserole  pan. 
Wide mouth jars are definitely packed easier.
If your jars have a bit of haze after the water bath that is due to the mineral content int he water (hard water). Add a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar in the water bath and it will eliminate the haze.
To keep my 1/4 pint jars from falling out of the water canner basket, I used my pressure canner tray inside the basket and it worked like a charm!

Next year...
 I would like to use cinnamon oil and an find option for natural red coloring (beet powder, cranberries, etc...) Trust me you really don't want to know where red #40 comes from...
I am going to try a 3 day process instead of 5. I think it might work especially after the 2 day lime soak.
Speaking of the lime soak, I would prefer not to use lime and alum, so I might make a batch by brining and see how it affects the crispness and appearance.
Letting the cucumbers macerate in the jars for a couple weeks before opening should give the same effect--or so I hope!
I would like to up the spice flavor. Maybe more cayenne and ginger.
I also would like to reduce the vinegar (very zingy!) and the sugar (tooth achingly sweet). Maybe I could add lemon juice to the jar prior to processing--especially if I use beets for my red coloring since the lemon juice will stabilize the color. 

What cha' think?

DISCLAIMER--I am by no means an expert canner, these steps are merely suggestions based on existing literature and recipes. The information provided does not constitute legal or professional advice. I have done my best to provide accurate and safe techniques. I make no guarantee to the quality of your results. It is important you use proper hygiene and maintain a clean environment when food processing. Follow the recommendations for your altitude when processing. 


  1. What an absolutely creative way to preserve cucumbers! This is totally cool.


    1. Thanks Velva, Although it is was not my "ideal", this recipe is actually from an Amish cookbook that I modified. Regardless they are good!


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