I am REALLY good at growing cucumbers…not sure why, but all I have to do is blindly throw some cuke seeds in the soil and we always end up with more cucumbers than we know what to do with. This year I only planted three hills and we still had cukes running out of our ears. We make cucumber slaw, Asian cucumber salad, freezer pickles, relish, and of course lots and lots of pickles. By the end of the season, we’re sick and tired of cucumbers and just let them go until they turn into giant, yellow footballs that are great compost heap fodder.
A few years ago at a Christmas party, my wife and I were grazing at the relish buffet and discovered these curiously colored, bright red delectable snacks. We thought they were candied apples, but found out that they were actually cucumbers! Needless to say, there were no candied cukes in that dish when we made our way to the dinner table! I inquired about the recipe and was told it was a long, tedious process involving caustic chemicals and loads of sugar. The next year I vowed to give it a shot despite the warnings.
Before you embark on this adventure, make sure you use the right equipment or you may end up with something dreadful. Also make sure you have 3-4 days to devote to the process.
Start by searching through your cucumber vines for the biggest, ugliest, largest, yellowest cucumber you can find. This year I intentionally left several to grow to their mature state for the sole purpose of this recipe. Peel the cuke with a sharp knife or heavy duty vegetable peeler, slice in half length wise, scoop out the seeds with a spoon and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices. The one in the picture is the greenest one I used, I cut the other yellow ones up before I remembered to take a pic.
This is the most important part of the recipe…put the cuke slices in a NON METAL CROCK! Under no circumstances should you use aluminum…nasty things will happen! I use an enamel covered crock that works perfect for this.
For every gallon of sliced cucumber, mix one gallon of water with one cup of pickling lime. I recommend doing this in a clean milk jug so the lime dust doesn’t go everywhere and make a mess…mix this well and then pour over the cukes and let them soak for 24 hours minimum.
After 24 hours has passed, drain the cukes and rinse several times in fresh water. I put them in an enamel covered colander and switch them back and forth in a large bowl of cold water. Once they are rinsed, cover them all with fresh water and let them soak 3-6 more hours. Drain them again and then mix 1 ounce of red food coloring with 1 cup of white vinegar and pour this over the cukes…add water to cover them all up and let them soak another 3-6 hours.
Drain the cukes of the vinegar/food coloring mix after they have soaked. For each gallon of cukes, mix 1 1/2 cups of water, 1 1/2 cups of white vinegar, 8 cups of sugar, 15 ounces of cinnamon red hot candies, and several cinnamon sticks. Heat this mix until all the sugar and red hots have dissolved and pour over the cukes in the crock. Let them soak another 24 hours. (I told you this takes a while!
After 24 hours has passed, drain the liquid into a pan and re-heat until it is boiling. Pack the cukes into sterile jars (you will have red hands if you don’t use rubber gloves on this step), add a cinnamon stick to each jar, then pour the boiling liquid into the jars leaving some room at the top for headspace. Make sure you clean the rim of the jars well, seal them and hot water bath them for 20 minutes.
These will wow your guests at holiday meals! Let them try and guess what they are…I doubt many will figure out that you’ve taken something that could have been tossed in the compost and turned it into a new family favorite when placed next to sweet pickles, olives, and all the other relishes we all love to snack on. Gift a few jars to chosen friends and family and they’ll appreciate it way more than anything you could have bought at the store.