Fire & Ice Pickles! And How to Preserve Them to Keep ‘Em Crispy.

You’re not only getting insight into a rather obscure food preservation method today, you’re ALSO getting a dynamite Fire & Ice pickle recipe (to try this new method out.)  

 

Jars of pickles sitting on Karen Bertelsen's butcher-block kitchen counter top. An ironstone crock with cooking utensils in it and a kettle can be seen in the background.

I’m a sucker for a good pickle.  

What constitutes a good pickle?  A skin that isn’t tough, good flavour and at least a little bit of crunch.  Getting stuck in an elevator with Lenny Kravitz for 4 hours? Also a good pickle to be in.

If you just make a few jars of pickles that you keep in the fridge it’s easy to keep them crispy. The number one tip is ice.


To keep pickles crunchy … 

After cutting the pickles, put them in a bowl filled with ice and about 1/4 cup of kosher salt per 3 litre (quart) basket.  Let them sit for 3 or more hours.  Drain, then rinse, rinse, rinse away the salt.


But what if you want to make MORE.  What if you want a shitload of pickles?  Officially speaking.

Well then you have to put your pickles through a waterbath canning process. That involves submerging your jars of pickles into a pot of boiling water for 10-20 minutes depending on the elevation of where you live.

As you can imagine 20 minutes in boiling water is enough to make even the stiffest pickle go limp. 

How do you combat this?

Low Temperature Pasteurization

Low temperature pasteurization is a little known method of preserving foods. It cannot be used with ALL foods, only foods that have been tested to be successful with it. The recipe I’m about to give you has been tested by the National Centre for Home Food Preservation.

Low temperature pasteurization is a method of preserving food that INCREASES the length of time you process your food, but DECREASES the temperature.  

So instead of processing your food for 10 minutes in rapidly boiling water, you process your food for 30 minutes in 180° F (82° C) water.

The lower temperature preserves more of your pickle crunch. 

This method requires the temperature stay within the 180 – 185° mark without fail for the entire 30 minutes. So how do you do that?

Method 1

Submerge your jarred food into a pot filled with very hot tap water.  Insert a candy thermometer into the water and gradually pour in boiling water until you reach 180° F.   Make sure your jars are covered by at least 2″ of water.  Fiddle with your stove element until you have the water at a constant temperature of 180° F.  Then start your timer and stay by the stove so you can make sure the temperature doesn’t drop below 180° or go above 185°.

If the water drops below 180° you need to get it back up to temperature and restart your timer.

If the water rises about 185° there are no safety issues with regard to bacteria, but your pickles will be softer.

Process for 10 minutes for most altitudes. (But check this to make sure you know the right processing time for your altitude.)

Method 2

Use a Sous Vide stick.

Fill a pot or Sous Vide container with hot water and submerge the Sous Vide stick, set to 182° (just to be safe). Make sure your jars are covered by at least 2″ of water.

Once you’re at temperature, put your jars in, wait for the water to get back up to temperature (it will drop a bit when you put the cooler jars in) and then set the Sous Vide for 30 minutes.  You can walk away because the Sous Vide will automatically maintain your desired temperature. 

For these pickles, I was going to use my ultra fancy Sous Vide Supreme Demi water oven but half of my jars were too tall for it.  So instead I borrowed my mother, Betty’s, Sous Vide stick. You may know Betty from that time she sledgehammered down the wall in my kitchen when she was 80, or that time she scared the crap out of me.  (that time was my LIFE time by the way)

I wanted hot pickles, so I contacted North Dakota State University professor and extension specialist, Dr. Julie Garden-Robinson, a food safety expert. 

I asked Julie if I could add jalapeno rings to this low temperature pasteurization approved pickle recipe.  I received an answer of a resounding NO.

I was hoping that because jalapenos are very similar in terms of acidity to cucumbers and onions that they could safely be added to the recipe.  They cannot.

The logical part of my brain suspected this.  You should never alter any canning recipe at all. And you should never just randomly can something assuming if you process it for long enough that it’ll be fine. 

Julie did however say I could add as many crushed red pepper flakes as I’d like to make the pickles hot. So that’s what I did.  You can read more about food safety and why you shouldn’t use old canning recipes in this food safety post she wrote. 

A copper pot filled with canning liquid sits on a marble counter top. Beside the pot is a small spice jar containing red chili flakes. Sliced cucumbers in a white bowl can be seen in the background.

 

As I said I also opted to use the low temperature pasteurization method to help keep my pickles crunchy.

The Nova Sous Vide stick in a stainless-steel pot. An ironstone jar with a flower arrangement sitting can be seen in the background.

 

This is the exact Sous Vide Stick I used.

Fire & Ice Pickles

Hot and sweet pickles you can preserve using the low pasteurization method.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Canning/Preserves
Servings: 8 pints
Calories: 35kcal

Ingredients

  • 6 lbs cucumbers pickling variety
  • 8 cups onions thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup salt pickling
  • 4 cups vinegar 5%
  • cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp mustard seed
  • 6 tsps crushed red pepper flakes
  • tsp celery seed
  • 1 tbsp turmeric ground
  • 1 cup pickling lime (optional)

Instructions

  • Wash the cucumbers and cut the blossom end off.
  • Cut into 3/16-inch slices. I use a wavy cutter to give them a crinkle look.
  • Combine cucumbers and onions in a large bowl. Add salt on top and mix. Cover with 2 inches of crushed ice. Let sit for 3-4 hours. If you have room in your fridge stick them in there, if not don't worry about it.
  • Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot. Boil 10 minutes.
  • Drain and add cucumbers and onions and slowly reheat to boiling. 
  • Fill jars with slices and cooking syrup, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process. 
  • To process in a hot water bath: submerge jars in a pot of boiling water. When water returns to the boil, process for 10 minutes if your elevation is 0 - 1,000 ft. ---- Process for 15 minutes if your elevation is 1,001 - 6,000 ft. ---- Process for 20 minutes if your elevation is above 6,000 ft
    When finished processing remove jars from water and let sit undisturbed on counter until seals pop.
  • To process with low temperature pasteurization: Place jars in a canner filled half way with warm (120º to 140ºF) water. Then, add hot water to a level 1 inch above jars. Heat the water enough to maintain 180 to 185ºF water temperature for 30 minutes for pint or quart jars.

Notes

  • If you aren't sure which is the blossom end, it sometimes has remnants of the flower on it. The scab is also usually larger than the vine end.
  • These instructions are for pint or quart jars.
  • Variation for firmer pickles:  Instead of mixing cut cucumbers and onions with salt and ice, mix 1 cup pickling lime and 1/2 cup salt to 1 gallon water. (a crock is handy for this) Soak cucumber slices in lime water for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally.  (do not add the onions)
  • To me these pickles are hot but not blindingly hot. You may find you'd like them hotter or less hot.  All you can do is make them and make a note on the recipe for next time.
Remove from lime solution, rinse, and resoak 1 hour in fresh cold water. Repeat the rinsing and soaking steps two more times.
Continue on with recipe, adding the limed cucumber slices and unlimed onions to the boiling liquid solution.
***Avoid inhaling lime dust while mixing the lime-water solution***.   Drain well. 
Calories calculated pertain to slices of pickles only, not additional sugary sweet liquid.

Nutrition

Serving: 5pickles | Calories: 35kcal | Carbohydrates: 136g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 7091mg | Potassium: 735mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 124g | Vitamin A: 245IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 109mg | Iron: 2mg

I didn’t opt to use the pickling lime because I didn’t have any and couldn’t be bothered to run out and get some.  When a gal wants pickles, she wants them as soon as possible. 

A copper pot containing pickling liquid sits on a marble counter top with a copper ladle and clear glass jars filled with pickles around it.

Try this recipe while pickling cucumbers are still in season and let me know what you think.

Can’t be bothered to do all this?  || Read my post on how to turn regular sweet pickles into Hot & Sweet pickles ||

 

A fork with pickles on it above the clear glass jar of pickles on a rustic wooden board.

Good luck with them and keep your fingers crossed for me getting into that other pickle.

 

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Fire & Ice Pickles! And How to Preserve Them to Keep ‘Em Crispy.
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