Icicle Pickles

We continue pickle week with another of Mernie’s recipes, this time for Icicle Pickles. I particularly like this recipe because it is written on the back of a church program and I picture them talking after church with Mernie explaining the recipe, though I doubt that is how it happened. The paper was folded quite a bit and is in bad shape. With all the editors marks on it, I wonder if Gram was working on translating it for someone else.

This is a process that lasts twelve days.

UPDATE: A reader recently asked if these pickles turn blue during the pickling process. Since I have not made them myself, I ask you readers to please comment about the color of them. Thanks!!

Icicle Pickles (Mernie)

2 gallons cucumbers (cut in 4 parts)

Pour over 1 pint salt, 1 gallon boiling water. Cover tightly & let stand 1 week (keep water level over cucumbers). Drain. (They look awful. Rinse.) Throw away mushy ones.

Pour over another gallon of boiling water. Let stand 24 hours. Drain.

Pour over another gallon boiling water and 1 heaping tablespoon alum. Let stand 24 hours. Drain.

Boil together 2 1/2 quarts vinegar, 8 pounds sugar, handful pickling spices (unless in cold weather, see below). Pour over pickles. Let stand 24 hours. Drain & boil juice 15 minutes & pour over pickles. Repeat next day. The day after than you put your pickles in the jars while the syrup boils & pour boiling syrup over pickles. Can.

Cold weather

2 quarts vinegar, 6 pounds 6 oz sugar about right for 1 full peck cukes. They won’t all go into a 2 gal crock. If you weather is cold enough, you don’t lose many cukes & can use a whole recipe of vinegar.

42 thoughts on “Icicle Pickles

  1. This recipe is very similar to my mother-in-law’s icicle pickle which I have been making for 10 years or longer. She kept her’s in a crock in the basement and I started doing the same but found it a sticky mess. I started putting mine into jars, pouring the boiling syrup over them & using new sealing lids to seal them. This has worked fine, but am now concerned about the safer methods recommended of water baths. My mother-in-law said this was not necessary and has years of safe eating to refer to, but I have grandchildren now and want to feel secure that what I am giving them is entirely safe.

    What do you suggest and can I go back and do the one batch I finished a few days ago if you suggest it necessary. Also in a water bath do the jars have to be covered and how long should they be boiling? I have never canned – just jammed and frozen. No worries there!

    Might as well ask your opinion on the pots I use to do the cucs. I have inherited my pots. I use a couple of baked enamel ones and one I am sure has aluminum cladding. I bought a food grade plastic bucket that I am concerned about pouring boiling into. I am torn by what I and my mother-in-law have “always” done and what I am reading about it now. The cucs come on so quickly in the garden that this year I even used a plastic laundry tub for one batch transferring them as other batches finished off.

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    • Hi Judy,

      Thank you so much for your comments. I have to admit, I’m quite surprised at how popular this recipe is. Unfortunately, I have not made it, so I can’t comment on your questions or give you any advice on water baths. My honest thought is that the pickling process is probably pretty safe. Modern conventions tell us we have to pasteurize and homogenize everything, not necessarily for the betterment of the taste or quality of food.

      Good luck with your pickles! I’d love to hear if you tried this recipe and how they turned out.

      Martha Gibbons

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  2. One of your readers asked if the pickles turn blue — the pickles my Great Aunt used to make back in the 50’s turned a bluish green color. These are one of my favorite pickles.

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    • The blue color most likely came about from food coloring My Mom always added green color at the end of the 12 days. They look much nicer that way.
      Barbara

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      • I doubt that the colour came from food coloring. Rather it came from the addition of “blue stone” (copper sulfate) that use to be obtained at the druggist. only a few minute pebbles were added to each jar. i used to help my grandma make this and i was in charge of adding the bluestone. (i’m 66 now). Bluestone can be poisonous in large amounts, and i don’t know if you can buy it anymore. I have my grandma’s supply and there is still enough for the next generation.

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    • I use my plastic ice cream maker container.
      ( The part the ice goes in.) I cork the little hole in the side and put a small plate inside to keep the pickles submerged and another on top to cover the opening. Works fine. The lid is to keep bugs out and doesn’t have to be overly tight.

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  3. This is the same recipe that was my grandmothers, passed down to my mother, and now me. It’s quite a process, but WELL worth it. My grandma’s says “alum the size of a walnut”. This helps a bunch, because I wasn’t sure how much to use. LOVE these pickles and have many family members that do as well.
    PS – that first 7 days of soaking leaves a very nasty smell. Make sure that you put the crock somewhere that you don’t have to smell it on a daily basis. Enjoy!

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      • No….she was born in Wisconsin, then lived in Michigan the rest of her life. If only I could ask her what that meant. I also have a recipe of hers that’s called “Frigidaire Rolls”. That’s because the dough can be stored in the frig for several months and pulled out when needed. They’re amazing!!

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      • Oh….and forgot to say, the recipe for the rolls says “1 cake of yeast”. It took me a bit to get that part right! :-)

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  4. This recipe brings back floods of fond memories. I remember my mother taking these pickles to church functions and bringing back an empty container every time. I am curious about the church bulletin this was written on because the writing looks so much like my mothers. Would you please share more information about the recipe and the church bulletin?

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    • Hi Sybil, I would love to show you the other side but I’ve packed up the book these recipes are in, unfortunately. I can tell you that my Gram lived in Erie, PA and attended the First Presbyterian Church.

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      • My interest was to learn from which church the bulletin came from to see if it were possible to be from a Free Will Baptist church in Alabama. I am just amazed at how much their penmanship resembles. Thanks for your response.

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  5. The ‘blue’ color to the pickles is probably due to a chemical reaction between the ingrediants and the type of cookware used for making the brine. I once used an enamel lined (modern) stock pot to pickle some onions and garlic in a vinegar-based brine. A few days later I noticed that all the jars were blue. I did some research and found out that it was due to the chemical reaction between the vinegar, pot and garlic.

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    • hi my English Grandmother made these pickles as well as my mon who passed away at 82.The recipe is a bit different in that the first step is only 4 days .They use to seal the crock by simply putting a dinner plate over it.The blue colour came from Blue stone ( you use to get it at a pharmacy.They used the size of a pea.This went in on day five for 24 hours then the alum was added. The reference to “size of a walnut ” means the walnut fresh off the tree is in a soft shell and is about the size of, if you put your thum and index finger together to form a circle. I make these pickles also ,my grown children look forward to them every year. I wash the containers in very hot soapy water, rinse then pour boiling water over the bottles and over the sealer lids that I put in a strainer and pour boiling water over.No one has ever been sick and the pickles looked great.

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      • My recipe has Blue stone in it as well :) The lady who gave me/my mother the recipe also gave us the Blue stone…so I had no idea where to actually buy it.

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  6. My mother (now 90) always added green food coloring and it did not interfere with the taste. Just made the color a beautiful emerald green and no it did not turn your tongue green lol. As for safety I am here at age 67 to attest to the fact that I ate my fair share and live yet to talk about it. :-)

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  7. Some do call for green food coloring. I don’t own a crock, so I used the plastic tub to my ice cream maker. I pluged the tiny drain hole on the side and a large Corelle plate fit over the top perfectly.

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  8. My mother’s recipe called for “bluestone” to create the blue -green color…..and the “size of a walnut for alum was also part of it. She was from Ottawa area, Canada. We still make icicle pickles every year.

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    • I’m from Shawville ( Ottawa area ) and my mother also used blue stone. They were beautifully coloured and crisp. Apparently blue stone was banned and we used copper sulphate the last time and survived. It is what makes them crisp. I used to use it on the cows feet for foot rot.

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  9. I have been thinking about making icicle pickles for years. Years ago I couldn’t find bluestone, This year I went online only to find out it is for colour sake only and not flavor! It is a copper that makes the pickles turn that lovely colour! There was quiet a story behind the colour which was very sought after! Women used to boil copper kitchen scrubbies or pennies in the water if they didn’t have the luxury of copper pots. Today’s pennies wouldn’t contain enough copper to work! Now we find out that bluestone can actually be dangerous if consumed in large dosages, lol! I know food colouring isn’t good for you in large dosages either, but what the heck, how often do we eat these pickles!
    I’ve just made old fashioned, red, Christmas pickles, now I can’t wait to make the icicle! I live in the Toronto Ontario Canada area and I’m the only person I know who makes pickles anymore…but I’m lovin it!

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  10. I’m actually surprised to see such recent comments here! My grandmother (recently passed) used to make these and she gave me the same recipe as above but I had a problem during the pickling process…Hopefully I can get some help from someone who has made these pickles before.
    Here’s my question: I was doing well until after adding the alum; the cucumbers were perfect afterwards; nice, firm, crisp…but then after sitting in water for the next 24 hours and then sitting in the vinegar/sugar brine for 24 hours they were limp and soggy! I stopped the process because I couldn’t imagine they would stiffen up again…was that poor judgment or did I do something wrong?
    I see there is something crossed off on the recipe regarding cool weather; I live in Florida so the weather is never ‘cool’ like NY so perhaps I should have let them cure and brine in the fridge? Any help that you can offer on this will be greatly appreciated as I’m the only one left in the family who will carry on the tradition! Cathy, I’m also intrigued by your ‘Red, Christmas Pickles’…please share!

    Thank you all in advance for your advice and opinions!

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    • Could it be that you sliced them too thin? I remember my mother-in-law would cut hers in a thicker cube and they always stayed stiff. I am going to try my hand at making them this year. Check out my recent comment.

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  11. Could not believe I came across this recipe on the internet. My husband’s mother used to make these pickles every summer. She has been gone over 25 years and the recipe was handed down to her by her mother. After an overabundance of cucumbers in our garden this year, my husband and I decided to make them. I thought to check the internet to make sure I would have the most up-to-date method of preserving these pickles. OMG looking at the handwriting on your recipe looks almost identical to the recipe card my m-in-l wrote. Anyway, we loved these pickles so we are going to try our hand at them and if they turn out, maybe an entry in our state fair. I still have the old crock she would make them in too. And, yes, I remember the pickles having a blue cast to them. So wish me luck. We will see how successful they turn out.

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    • I just love hearing all the wonderful stories about these pickles! Best of luck with yours. Be sure to come back and let us know how they turn out!

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      • My husband and I made and canned these at the end of our garden last summer. They will be an entry in our state fair next month.. I will let you know if they win a ribbon. Keeping my fingers crossed as they will be an entry not categorized.

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  12. Speaking of icicle pickles I have the recipe close to this above. I have blue stones for that. It had been years since mom made then. Oh gosh the best pickles ever. I’m trying to make it this year

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  13. I just stumbled across your wonderful post because I was copying my mother’s Icicle Pickle recipe to give to a friend, and decided to ‘google’ the recipe to see if it is still around (and if I could figure out what made up the ‘handful of spices’ Mom’s recipe calls for). The scan of the original handwritten recipe, with the notes and stains, looks so much like mine! I’ve never made the recipe myself but it was my mother’s favorite pickle (we hated them as kids) so they were ‘put up’ every summer until her health started to fail in the late 1970s. Yes, I remember the pickles had an odd bluish color – sort of a grey/blue – it’s one of the reasons as kids we did not want to eat them, LOL.

    And yes, my recipe describes the amount of alum as ‘the size of a walnut’.

    I actually think this recipe dates from the 1940s. Probably was published through Cooperative Extension, Farm Bureau or in one of the women’s magazines of the day. My mother was from northern Central Pennsylvania (Endless Mountain area), and we lived in Southern Central NYS (near Binghamton).

    I’d really like to taste these pickles again, but not sufficiently to make a batch in my tiny NYC kitchen.

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  14. Almost exactly my mom’s (& great grandmother’s) recipe.Read yours as I was boiling the vinegar for my second attempt. (Forgot to drain alum first try a few years ago.) My daughters went nuts when I told them I was making them. They would scarf down a jar at a time. Mom’s said “4quarts” of sugar. Came out about the same as yours.

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  15. Oh, and pickles same color as the cucumbers you start with (within reason) but I saw one recipe online as I was double checking measurements & it called for food coloring. Green I think but with the yellow in cucs…

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  16. I will be trying to make these pickles this week, what my mother in law (now 89) uses to make the green are Grape leaves. The leaves turn the pickles green. My question is this. The only crock that i can pick up has a crack all down the side of it. Will it hurt the recipe if i make them in a metal canning jar can or should i try and find another croc?

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