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14-Day Sweet Pickles

This recipe is for sweet pickles which are sometimes called “icicle pickles.” I don’t know where the term “icicle pickle” originates but I have always associated it with a sweet pickle. Some sources suggest that it might come from the shape of cucumbers cut lengthwise into long wedges that might resemble an icicle, but I have never been able to find a definitive source.

This is a vintage fermentation pickle recipe that takes 14 days to make. The original recipe passed down from a family member was written on one side of an index card. It is the kind of recipe that you have to read between the lines because there is so much more to know than just the written words. If you are unfamiliar with food preservation, I will walk you through all the steps. If you are familiar, then this is a really delicious recipe and you can skip past the steps with pictures and go straight to the recipe.

For this recipe, you will need a pot called a canner that has a rack in it so your jars are elevated from the bottom of the pot during the water bath. Also needed are the following things: 1) a jar lifter as shown with the red lifts to get the jars out of hot water, 2) tongs (shown) or a magnetic lid lifter (not shown) to retrieve the lids out of hot simmering water, 3) canning jars, and 4) a crock for fermenting (shown in pictures later).

Most important of all, you will need pickling cucumbers. One common variety is called Kirby. You should not use waxed or burpless cucumbers in this recipe.

First, wash the cucumbers with a vegetable brush and cut off both ends. For home preservation, it is essential to cut off the blossom end (shown above) because it contains enzymes that can make your pickles soft. The other end is the stem end and it is more aesthetically pleasing to remove it.

Cut the cucumbers into slices, strips, or cubes. The size of the cucumber dictates how I cut them. For large cucumbers, I usually cut them lengthwise into four strips and then slice them into cubes. If I’m short on time, I just leave them cut lengthwise into strips. For smaller cucumbers, I slice them as shown above.

Roughly measure the cucumbers into a large measuring cup. This recipe calls for 2 gallons (7.58 liters) of cut-up cucumbers which makes about 12-16-pint jars of pickles. You can cut the recipe in half or by one fourth to make a smaller batch.

A crock is an earthenware jar that comes in different sizes and is also called a fermenting jar or stoneware jar. Use a 2-gallon crock to make this recipe. You can use a smaller crock if you are dividing (in half) the recipe. The 2 on this crock indicates that it will hold 2 gallons. In places other than the U.S., crocks are sized by liters and come in different shapes.

Place the cucumbers into the crock.

Next, add pickling salt. Do not use table salt. Pickling salt, also called preserving salt, does not have iodine or additives that can turn the water cloudy or make the pickles turn dark. I measure the salt in a pint pickling jar but a measuring cup works just as well.

Add the salt to the cucumbers in the crock. Boil the amount of water that is listed in the recipe and pour it over the cucumbers.

After adding the boiling water, stir the cucumbers to dissolve the salt. You can also place the salt in the boiling water to dissolve it. I have done it both ways.

I like to keep the cucumbers underneath the water level. Sometimes I add a small salad plate that fits inside the crock to help push down the cucumbers.

You will need to place a covering on top of the crock even if you use the small plate inside. I usually just place a dinner plate on it to cover it, but you can use plastic wrap or lid if your crock has one.

For the next seven days, just stir the cucumbers. You must stir them every single day. The above picture shows the cucumbers after just one day in the salted water. See how the salt is already preserving them by turning them to an olive-green color. Bubbles will form and stirring ensures that the cucumbers are all exposed to the salted water and not packed too tightly to preserve.

These cucumbers have been in the salted water for 7 days. The bubbles are still there but the cucumbers now all have an olive color instead of bright green. It is now time to drain and discard the salted water. Careful, the crock is heavy! I have found that it is best to use a slotted spoon or skimmer to dip out all the cucumbers and place them into a large bowl. Then pour out the water.

After you discard the salted water, add the alum to the top of the cucumbers, followed by boiling water. Alum is a white powder that is used to crisp the cucumbers. It is a one-day process.

After the boiling water is added to the cucumbers, stir until the alum is dissolved and distributed throughout the water. Let the cucumbers sit in alum water for 24 hours. Then drain the alum water and discard it. Place the cucumbers in the crock and add the pickling spice.

You can just pour the pickling spice on top of the pickles, but I like to add it to a square of cheesecloth.

I cut an 8 x 8-inch (approximately) square of cheesecloth and add the pickling spice and then gather the 4 corners of the cheesecloth and tie them together.

This sack keeps the spice together. When I use the pickle syrup (from the canned pickles) in recipes like chicken salad and potato salad, I don’t have to worry about straining out the pickling spice before using it. However, I have had the sack to come untied before and spill out so either way is fine. Once you have the pickling spice ready, place it on top of the cucumbers in the crock. Heat the sugar and vinegar amounts listed in the recipe. When it is boiling, pour it over the cucumbers. Reheat the sugar and vinegar mixture every day for 5 days and re-pour over the cucumbers.

After 5 days, you are ready to process the pickles in a water bath. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Heat water in the canner to a simmer. You will need enough water to completely cover the canning jars but not so much that when the jars are added that it displaces the water and it overflows. Be sure to add the canner lid when heating the water because it brings it up to a simmer quicker.
  2. Wash the jars and then place them in an oven that is 350 degrees F. Leave them there for 15 minutes to sterilize. See the notes below for an alternative sterilization method.
  3. In a saucepan of water, place the washed lids and rings. Heat for 10 minutes or to 180 degrees F. Simmer the lids but do not boil them.
  4. Pour the syrup into a large pan and reheat it to boiling.
  5. Pack the pickles into the sterilized jars. Using a funnel, pour the boiling syrup over the pickles to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jars.

Once a jar is filled with pickles and syrup, use a wet paper towel or clean wet cloth to wipe the rim of the jar to remove any syrup that might be on it.

A good way to simmer the lids and rings is to place the lid in the ring and place it upside down in the water. You can remove it with tongs as shown above. Be sure to pour off the water before attempting to place it on your jars. Also, there are magnetic sticks for retrieving jar lids out of simmering water but this way works just as well.

Place the lids and rings on the cleaned rim of the jars and tighten the ring being careful not to overtighten. Using the canning jar lifter, place the jars in the canner full of simmering water. Simmer for 10 minutes and then remove the jars and place them on a cooling rack or towel to cool. (For high altitudes, you may need to adjust the water bath time. Click here for a time chart.) Make sure you leave space around each jar so that air can circulate and cool down the jars. You will hear a “pop” when the jars seal and the center of each jar will no longer be raised.

After the jars are cool, write the date on the jar lids with a marker.

Click here for the USDA guide for additional information on home food preservation. See Guide 1 – Canning Basics and Guide 6 – Fermented Foods and Pickled Vegetables.

Click here for a boiling water processing time chart for high altitudes.

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14-Day Sweet Pickles
A 14-day fermented sweet pickle recipe
Votes: 32
Rating: 3.94
Rate this recipe!
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 2 weeks
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 2 weeks
Votes: 32
Rating: 3.94
Rate this recipe!
Days 1-7
  1. Wash and then trim off 1/4 inch off both ends of cucumbers. Then cut into cubes, slices, or strips and place them into the crock. Pour pickling salt over the cucumbers.
  2. In a large pan bring 1 gallon of water to a boil. Pour boiling water over cucumbers. Stir.
  3. Cover the crock with a dinner plate. If necessary, place a smaller plate in the crock to push down the cucumbers so they are all covered with the salted water.
  4. Let the cucumbers sit in the crock for 7 days. Stir each day.
Day 8
  1. Drain off the water and discard it. Leave the cucumbers in the crock. Add the alum to the cucumbers.
  2. In a large pot, heat to boiling 1 gallon of (fresh) water.
  3. Pour water over the pickles and alum. Stir to dissolve the alum. Cover and let stand for 24 hours.
Days 9-13
  1. Drain off the alum water from the crock leaving the cucumbers.
  2. In a large pot, add the vinegar and sugar. Stir until the sugar starts dissolving. Then heat the mixture until it boils.
  3. While the sugar water is coming up to boil, cut a large (about 8x8 inches or 20 cm) double-folded square of cheesecloth. Pour the jar of pickling spice into the middle of the cheesecake cloth. Gather up the four corners and pull tight and then tie a knot with the cheesecake cloth. Add this spice packet to the cucumbers in the crock.
  4. Then pour the boiling sugar syrup over the cucumbers in the crock. Cover the crock, again using a smaller plate if necessary to push the cucumbers underneath the syrup level. The cucumbers will sit in the syrup for 5 days.
  5. Each day pour the sugar syrup into a large pot and bring it to a boil. Then pour the boiling syrup back over the cucumbers and cover.
Day 14
  1. Fill a canner that has a rack with enough water to cover the tops of the jars. Remember that when the canning jars are added that the water in the canner will rise. Add the canner lid and heat the water to a simmer.
  2. Prepare pint or half-pint canning jars by washing and then placing them in an oven set to 350 degrees F to sanitize. Drain water off jars but do not dry. Heat for at least 15 minutes. The heat will sterilize the jars and also prepare them for canning.
  3. In a medium pan add washed lids and rings and fill with enough water to fully cover them. Heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Do not boil.
  4. Pour the crock syrup liquid into a large pot and heat to boiling.
  5. Remove jars two at a time from the oven and pack with pickles. Use a spoon to help pack in the pickles. Using a funnel or a glass measuring cup with a spout, pour in enough boiling syrup to completely cover pickles, leaving 1/2-inch air space at the top of the jar. Do not fill the jars to the top.
  6. With a wet clean cloth or paper towel, wipe the jar tops to remove any liquid. Using tongs retrieve a lid and ring from simmering water and place on jar. Tighten with a towel. Do not overtighten.
  7. Repeat until all jars are filled. Then place the jars on the rack in the canner and simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the processed jars from the canner and set on a rack or towel, spacing them far enough apart for air to circulate so they will cool. Jars will self-seal as they cool. When sealed, the center will self-flatten and stay flattened if you press on it. Do not press on the lid centers before they seal.
  9. Write the date and "Icicle Pickles" on the jar lids. They will last for a year or more.
Recipe Notes
  1. You must stir the cucumbers every day as stated in the recipe. This will keep a film from forming on the top of the salted water.
  2. Alum can be placed either in the crock on top of the cucumbers or in the water and brought to a boil.  Just make sure you stir it to help it dissolve.
  3. This recipe makes about 14 pint-sized jars.  You can also use other size canning jars.  You can cut this recipe in half.
  4. Only use real pickling salt.  Other salts have additives that shouldn't be used in food preservation.
  5. Only use real canning jars.  Other jars may not be heat resistant or suitable for food storage.
  6. Only use new canning lids.  Previously used lids will not seal again.
  7. It is okay to use rings again as long as they are not rusted from previous use.
  8. The best way to drain water from the crock is to use a large slotted spoon or skimmer to gather the cucumbers and place them in a large bowl.  Once the cucumbers are removed, pour the liquid from the crock.  Place the cucumbers back in the crock and pour out any liquid from the bowl.
  9. Jars can also be sterilized by boiling in water for 10 minutes in the canner.  For high altitude chart for water bath times click here.
  10. Occasionally the jars do not seal.  If only a jar or two, place them in the refrigerator and use within 2 months.
  11. Sometimes the jars seal but later become unsealed.  If you find an unsealed stored jar, throw it out.  There is no way to know how long it has been unsealed.  It is better to err on the side of caution because food poisoning can occur.


  • If a pink foam appears on the cucumbers at any time during the fermenting process, discard the cucumbers.
  • If the cucumbers start to smell bad at any time during the 14-day process, discard them.  They should smell briny from the salted water but there should not be any unpleasant smells.  Unusual smells that develop may indicate that unwanted bacteria are growing.
  • If a moldy fuzz appears on the top of the salted water and cucumbers, discard them.
  • If the cucumbers turn soft or slimy during fermentation, discard them.
  • Over time pickles can become soft.  Use them within a year of preservation.
  • Cloudy pickles can be caused by using salt with additives.  Only use canning salt.

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