Questions and Answers - Craven County Sweet Pickles
Answers by Andra Cook
Adding Sugar Questions:
I am in the process of making those wonderful Craven County sweet
pickles and am wondering... I want to make a 2nd batch of them, can
I save the vinegar spice solution from this batch and just re-boil
and reuse it in the next batch? Seems like such a waste to throw it away if it can be reused. Thanks!
I agree that it is a waste...but I have never tried to re-boil and reuse the
vinegar/spice solution so I don't know if it works. I would hate to tell you that it does and then you have an inferior project after
all of that hard work. I have always just started from the beginning and done it every step of the way...using new vinegar, etc.
I'm making your sweet pickle recipe. I don't have enough syrup to cover the cucumbers. Should I make a syrup out of sugar and
water to finish covering the pickles? I only have about 1/3 of each jar with syrup. I know the recipe says to add more sugar, but I
think I would need to add a really lot of sugar! Please advise me on what to do ASAP.
I have that problem from time to time. But you should NOT make a
syrup of sugar and water that will make the pickles limp and
take away from the flavor. What you are doing by adding the
sugar is "pulling the vinegar" out of the cucumbers with the
sugar...that is how you get your syrup.
I turn my jars upside down to make sure the sugar has
dissolved. I think turning the jars back and forth makes the
sugar get onto all of the cucumbers. What I would suggest is
that you add more sugar. I know it seems like a lot, and I would
recommend that you remove the cucumbers that are not covered
(when they are maybe 3/4 up) and put them into another jar and
then add sugar to that jar.
I have a question on the Craven County Sweet Pickles.
I have added sugar to mine several times during the past week and
they still do not have enough of the brine to cover the pickles. Is
there anything else (such as water) that I can add too?
Please continue to add sugar to the pickles...by no
means should you add water...this will dilute the syrup and keep the
pickles from being properly preserved. Just continue to add some
sugar...at times I have found it necessary to turn my jars upside
down so the sugar will all dissolve.
YOUR CUCUMBER RECIPE DID NOT AMOUNTS OF SUGAR AND VINEGAR TO USE AS
EQUAL AMOUNTS PER LB. CAN YOU TELL ME THAT. I HAVE 3 QTS. OF
When you are working with different amounts of
cucumbers I find its best to just put the sliced cucumbers in a
container...cover with vinegar and then pour the vinegar off the
cucumbers into another vessel to heat up and pour back over the
cucumbers again. That way you will not waste vinegar. The short cut
to that is eyeball the amount of cucumbers and take a guess as to
how much vinegar it will take to cover them.
When you get down to the Day 8 of the recipe, I
start with 1/2 cup of sugar distributed throughout the jar and
continue pouring until I have covered all of the cucumbers...the
sugar "will draw out" a vinegar/sugar mixture that should end up
covering the "pickles". I would start with a 4 or 5 pound bag of
sugar and work from that. I usually start with 1 gallon on vinegar and 1 (5-pound bag) of
granulated sugar and go from there...depending on the size of my batch.
I'm in the midst of
making sweet pickles using your Craven County Sweet Pickles recipe (Day
5). When you coat the cucumbers with the sugar and put them in the
jars, the recipe indicates they will form a syrup. What happens if the
liquid does not cover the cucumbers? Should you add water or some of
the vinegar/pickling spice mixture??
I have had this happen before - if you
add more sugar you will get more syrup out of the cucumbers. You
would not add vinegar because it would be too strong (not sweet) and
water would make them soggy. I turn the jars up side down so that
the cucumbers get covered with the syrup. If you still don't get
enough syrup to cover the pickles they will still be good just not
as sweet and crisp. (I use those pickles in my potato salad.)
I have a question about the sweet
pickle process. Can you please ask Ms. Cook if we can use Splenda
instead of sugar? Great website. Gotta make that Red Eye Gravy next!
I have never used artificial sweetener
in my pickles. I am not sure you would get the same reaction to the
pickle - sugar "draws out" the vinegar and makes a sweet syrup that
covers the pickles. Having said all of that you might find more
information about pickling on the Splenda website.
Sealing the Jar Questions:
I hope you can answer a question for me. I was searching for answers
via the web and came across your site I loved it and then saw you
were on Facebook - so here I am. You seem to know so much. Please advise. I
made some lime pickles. They soaked in lime/water for 24 hours, then
ice water overnight, and then cooked in syrup mixture which was
sugar and vinegar (no water). The hot cucumbers and sugar mixture
where then put in jars and lids put on. I turned them upside down
(the old fashioned way to seal), for a few minutes and then right
side up. They all sealed. I did not water bath them. I don't like to
use water bath as it makes my pickles soggy.
Anyway, I left them on the counter for 2 days and now have placed
them in the fridge. Here's my question, since the recipe said to
water bath as do all recipes I read, do you think these pickles are
safe to eat? The cucumbers and sugar (syrup) were HOT when packed in
jars. I don't want to make anyone sick - but I just can't believe
that anything would be wrong with these. What do you think?? Just
asking for your thoughts.
I have a book Pickling Vegetables, August 1990, A Pacific
Northwest Extension Publication (page 11 - Quick sweet pickles) that states:
I think you have done all the right steps...you have processed
them according to recipes I have and your jars have sealed and
then you have refrigerated them...all of which would make your
product safe (in my opinion).
"Hot pack: Add cucumbers and heat slowly until vinegar
solution returns to boil. Stir occasionally to make sure mixture
heats evenly. Fill pint or quart jars, leave 1/2-inch
There is no mention of a boiling water canner
processing. Below it there is a "Raw pack. Fill pint or
quart jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace... to add hot pickling
Can you seal the Craven county pickles even though it is not necessary?
The answer so far as I know is "no". The pickles are never heated in a water bath or on the stove so they cannot be sealed that way. Don't know of any other
way to do it.
The Craven County Sweet Pickles.....if the do not seal can they
still be stored just as they are in the pantry cupboard....I'd like
to try this recipe but have never made unsealed pickles
before....pantry is just room temperature....around 72 degrees.
The pickles will keep just fine since the cucumbers have
been processed in the hot salt water and vinegar. You just need to
make sure that the pickles are covered with the sugar/vinegar
solution you will get in the very last step. I have made them for
years and they stay ready to eat for months.
I seem to be having a problem
with your recipe for the Craven County Pickles. I followed your
recipe exactly and everything was looking great until today, when
the lids started pinging. I'm using the two piece lid and band on my
jars. Last night, I flipped the jars back over onto their bottoms
and I just heard two jar lids pinging. I've checked the other jars
and I have a total of 8 jars that are no longer sealed, based on the
There are a couple of jars that could use some more sugar; they were
full when I flipped them over but not now. Is it too late to add
more sugar to these jars after they've been standing 4 days or not?
I also want to know if these pickles are still safe to keep in my
pantry after the lids have pinged. If not, are they still safe to
eat now once refrigerated? Any help you can give me is appreciated.
Your pickles are not in trouble. I
do not do a hot water bath on these pickles since they are been
preserved from the alum, salt and vinegar. Mine do a ping every
now and then, but it is not necessary for them to be sealed to be
stored in your pantry. I have pickles left over from last year,
and they are fine to eat at any time. You can add more sugar as
you go along, I usually add sugar until the liquid covers the
pickles (that way they are kept crisp and fresh).
I hope this helps. I know you will enjoy these pickles - my
husband's grandmother always had some on hand.
Thank you so very much Ms.
Andra for not only your very quick response but for easing my
mind about these pickle jars pinging! I've been canning a lot of
years but never pickles. Left pickles to my Great Grandmother and
Mother. I was so hoping that a little more sugar could be added,
but having not been around the pickling station in a while, my
memory could have been fallible. I would like to mention that
your recipe is quite easy and they do smell delicious! Thank you
for sharing your family recipe with my family.
I used your recipe for Craven County Sweet Pickles and put them in jars today. I am wondering about the
sealing process. No hot water bath? How do these pickles keep in the
pantry with out sealing with hot water?
Thanks for your question about the
sweet pickles. The pickles will be fine for an indefinite period of time
in the pantry.
When you process the cucumbers in the salt/boiling water,
alum/boiling water, and vinegar liquids, the cucumbers are preserved in
such a way that they will keep in the vinegar/sugar liquid that forms
and covers them. Cucumbers do not have the same properties as tomatoes
and green beans so bacteria does not grow after the processing. You
should make sure the pickles are covered with the vinegar/sugar liquid
or your top cucumbers will turn darker. They are still edible but just
not as good as the ones in the liquid.
Pickling Spice Questions:
I am trying to make sweet pickles. I have had them only three times in my life and loved them. When I was a child
(friend's grandmother had made them - she was making a new batch
when I had a visit and she let me try some - loved them!!) and
twice as a grown up (some ones grandmother had made them and
gave my in-laws some). I have never been able to get a recipe to
make them. I was never told the proper way of canning, so was
scared I would just waste a lot of money and mess things up. So
I never attempted to can anything until now. I figured that I
would never get any more sweet pickles unless I learn to do it .
So looked it up and found your site. I'm praying this works out
and taste as good as I remember.
I had several questions, but all have been answered on your site
but one. In the Craven County Sweet Pickles recipe, on DAY 4
where it says "Boil together enough cider vinegar and pickling
spices to cover the cucumber slices (1 gallon cider vinegar and
3 tablespoons pickling spices wrapped in cheese cloth).
I take it I put the 3 tablespoon of pickling spice in the cheese
cloth and boil it in the vinegar. Since I have never used cheese
cloth, does it come with something to tie it up with or close it
with? Also do I leave it sitting in the vinegar with the cucumbers,
or do I take it out and throw it away before pouring vinegar
over the cucumbers?
other thing, and I could be wrong, cause like I said earlier I
was just a little child when I first tried them and seen my
friends grandmother making them. But I thought I seen the little
seeds (picking seeds -spice) left in the jars. Was I wrong?
Are there never no seeds in the pickles. (maybe it some other recipe or just got it messed up in my mind with the jars of
bread and butter pickles I have seen).
Thanks for a very good question. I should explain first that
wrapping the pickling spices in cheese cloth is something that I do
because I don't want the seeds in the pickles when I am finished. I
happen to prefer to not have spices in my pickles but I have also
made them with the spices loose when I didn't have the cheese cloth.
The cheese cloth instructions are solely for that reason...but
cheese cloth is purchased in a package which will have far more than
you need for this recipe. Cut off a piece approximately 6-inches
square (or so) and put the spices in the center and tie up with a
string. This will be placed in the vinegar and processed as
described in the recipe. HOWEVER, you can also put the loose spices
in the vinegar and that would be perfectly fine (it is totally a
personal preference rather than doing something right or wrong). If
you choose to use the cheese cloth wrapped spices you can discard it
and pour the vinegar over the cucumbers.
Good luck with your pickling project...hope these are as good as
your grandmas - this recipe was one from my husband's grandmother -
it has been around for many years.
I have been in the process of
making the Craven County Sweet Pickles. I am to Day 7 and I just
realized that I boiled the cider vinegar, but forgot the pickling
spices. I am not sure if there is anyway I can do to salvage this
batch. Maybe by boiling more cider vinegar, but this time WITH the
pickling spices, or if I should just toss them out and start over?
If you have not already put the
pickles into jars and added the sugar, I would pour off the
cider vinegar and do as you suggested - boil more vinegar and
add pickling spices. I would not toss the whole batch. I
think you can salvage these and this batch might be the best
Cloudy Liquid Questions:
I can pickles every year and sometimes some of
the jars are very cloudy and some are very
clear. Do you know why some get cloudy and
what I can do so they are not cloudy? Thank
you for your help.
I have had this
happen also. It could be from the type of salt
used during pickling. If you use any other kind
of salt - table salt, etc., instead of pickling
salt you will end up with a cloudy liquid. It
could also be the particular type of pickling
salt used. I did not notice any difference in
the taste of my pickles and hope the same goes
for yours. Hope this has helped in some way.
I am in the process of making those wonderful Craven County sweet pickles and am wondering... I want to make a 2nd batch of them, can
I save the vinegar spice solution from this batch and just re-boil and reuse it in the next batch? Seems like such a waste to throw it
away if it can be reused. Thanks!
I agree that it is a waste...but I have never tried to re-boil and reuse the vinegar/spice solution so I don't know if it
works. I would hate to tell you that it does and then you have an inferior project after all of that hard work. I have always just
started from the beginning and done it every step of the way...using new vinegar, etc.
When making "crispy pickle recipe" I forgot one day of pouring boiling water over my cucumbers. Can I just continue the process and
do as my directions say for the number of days or have I ruined them? There was some white stuff on them but I rinsed it off and
they are still firm and look okay. When I was rinsing them, some of the peeling scratched off, but otherwise they look okay. Thanks for
any advice you can give me.
I am not sure which day you forgot. The salt water bath as well as
the alum water bath are essential for the preservation and crispness in the pickles. I would probably pick up where you left off and
continue on with the recipe. Just do not eliminate a day. The white stuff is normal it is part of the preservation process. It only
occurs on the first day and maybe the second day as well but will not continue to happen.
How long do you boil the cucumbers during each phase of the pickle process.
I don't know which recipe you are following, but in the pickling recipes in What's Cooking
America (on this page), you don't need to boil the cucumbers at all.
What you do is pour boiling water over the cucumbers for the first three day:
Day 1 - boiling water (nothing added)
Day 2 - boiling water + pickling salt
Day 3 - boiling water + alum
Day 4 - cider vinegar + pickling spices (bring to boil before pouring over cucumbers)
When you go to pour the next day's
mixture of water/vinegar you will pour off the water that presently
covers the cucumbers and replace it with the fresh boiling water or vinegar (depending on the day).
For days 5, 6, 7 - You let the cucumbers sit in the vinegar
When you get to Day 8, you then
pack the cucumbers in the jars (layering with sugar). The sugar will
"draw" out the vinegar and make a "sweet syrup" that will cover the
pickles. You may need to add additional sugar if the syrup does not
cover the pickles.
I turn all my jars up-side-down every so often to help dissolve the
You do not need to ever boil these pickles, they have been preserved
by the salt, alum and vinegar processing. Your jars will not be
sealed but your pickles will be preserved.
I just picked cucumbers from my South
Florida garden and only have 10 pounds. If you cut the Craven
County Pickle recipe down, do you still use the same amount of
alum/salt/vinegar? Thanks, can't wait to make the pickles.
When I make this recipe, I use a one
(1) gallon container to measure the water for boiling water. As long
as you have the one (1) gallon of boiling water and the proper
measure of either salt or alum then you should be okay. You can
gauge how much to make by when you have made enough to cover the
cucumbers. So if you make a smaller batch you simply have to make
fewer gallons of mixtures. As far as the vinegar goes you would use
the same as with covering with the water bath.
I am in the process of making
the Craven County Sweet Pickles. I was wondering if you
could make these pickles using zucchini and some onions, or
does this only work with cucumbers?
Thanks for your question.
I have only used cucumbers to make these pickles. The
resulting pickle is very sweet but you could certainly
try them using zucchini and onions. My other recipe,
Grand Mammy's Carolina
Sharps, is less sweet and more tart - don't know if it would be
better. I just don't know if the zucchini would hold up in the processing.
I have made these once before and they were wonderful. This year,
making them once again, everything went great up to the point of
putting them in the jars.......an hour later they had all shriveled
up?.......only thing different was I had to buy pickle size
cucumbers rather than have my own. Have you ever seen this shrivel
I have had some shrivel up also but I can honestly tell you I have
no idea why...as I recall the smaller size cukes were the ones that
gave me that problem. I don't remember if my small cukes were as
firm as the larger ones, mine may not have matured enough. If it is
any consolation, they will taste just as good as the others but just
won't look as nice...put them in the potato salad.
Thank You for your reply..........only thing I
can think of is that maybe I got a bit heavy handed with the sugar.
I guess I could have kept them but my compost pile seems to be
enjoying them. Thanks again.
I came across this recipe and decided
to try. My question is would it be safe to add some jalapeno slices
to this recipe? I have had sweet hot pickles before and loved them.
Thanks for the website - lots of interesting information.
I have never tried putting peppers in
these pickles. For one thing, you would have to put them in at the
onset with the hot water bath, etc. By the time you finished you
would have washed all of the heat out of the peppers - therefore
having only a pepper to see with no taste. This is my humble