Oh, but they were good. Crispy, crunchy, sweet, spicy, pretty much the perfect accompaniment to ham or turkey or anything else being served. (If it was Wednesday, tuna casserole.)
After my mother-in-law stopped canning my sister-in-law K. continued the tradition, using up the past-their-prime cucumbers from her garden and bringing me a jar of the results for Christmas every year. Then K. stopped canning them, and the past few years a good friend (who knows how much I love these pickles) has brought me a jar from her kitchen because she's a sweetie.
When we were in Iowa a couple of weeks ago K. was loading our car with garden sass for the trip back to Kansas and started to throw out a couple of honkin' big cucumbers she deemed were too over the hill for consumption. I stopped her.
"Wait! I'll take those home and make some cinnamon pickles!" And she didn't say anything, she just stuck the vegetables into a sack. Because each was roughly the size of a loaf of French bread, they filled a sack by themselves.
Here and now I want to apologize to my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my pickle-supplying friend. I have been known to pop open a jar of these pickles and stand in front of the refrigerator eating them. I did not cherish each bite as a representative of time and effort, laden with love and cinnamon sticks.
I am so sorry.
Because holy hannah, these puppies are complicated. I am now into my FOURTH DAY of converting those two cursed cucumbers into cinnamon pickles, and they still aren't ready to eat.
You start with the cucumbers, which must be peeled and seeded and sliced. Then these slices are soaked in water and pickling lime for 24 hours. Then the pickling lime is drained and the slices are rinsed in cold water for at least three hours, changing the water at least once per hour. Then they're simmered two hours in water, vinegar, and red food coloring (and alum, but I didn't have any alum so I left this out because the internet said I could), followed by soaking for a day in a syrup made of vinegar, water, red hots, and all the sugar in the world. The next day you drain off the syrup, bring it to a boil, and pour it back over the pickles and let them soak for another day, then you repeat this step once more.
People, I gave birth to children who required less coddling than these pickles do.
This doesn't even take into account that the recipe calls for three gallons of cucumbers and because I had only two cucumbers, I have to cut down the recipe in a way that begins like an eighth grade math problem. ("If three gallons of cucumbers leave the station traveling east with 10 cups of sugar on board, how much vinegar does it take to pickle two cucumbers if you are in Central Daylight Time?")
Four days, people. Four days to make some pickles and I haven't even reached the stage when I can sample one.
Tomorrow I am going to put a nice tablecloth on the table, bring out Grandma's china, and eat a plate of pickles by candlelight.
I want to make sure the experience is special because as much as I love these things, me making pickles? It's not happening again.