Putting the vanilla in… Pickles?

You might have to suspend belief in all that is pickling recipes in order to follow me on this. But suspend you must and following me is recommended because these pickles are NOT to be missed. 

I cannot claim credit for this recipe. I found it online at a garden forum about 5 years ago. The forum itself was even older then that. It was a discussion about lemon cucumbers, which at that point, was my newest obsession. Everyone was throwing out recipes that were for pickles and relishes… They were troubleshooting about the best way to grow them in order to get the most out of their bushes… It was a lemon cuke lovers meeting of minds and it was amazing. 

I read thru the pages of that forum like your average rabid canner. It didn’t take long and I had found it. The recipe. The one I just HAD to try. And I am going to do the right thing and pass it on. 

If you don’t believe me, make a half batch or even less. This brine covered 4 quarts plus 8 pints worth of cucumbers with some left over. That’s a lot of pickles to make if you’re unsure. But if you like the idea of a sweet pickle with lots of flavor punched in, this is it. Take a flying leap. 

French Vanilla Pickles

  • A big bowl of small pickling cukes. 
  • 9 cups sugar
  • 8 cups white vinegar 
  • 1 Tbsp canning salt
  • 1 Tbsp whole cloves
  • 1 Tbsp pickling spice
  • 1/4 cup vanilla
  • 1/4 lemon juice
  • 2 to 4 cinnamon sticks per jar 
  • 3/4 tsp alum per pint, 1 1/2 tsp per quart
As always, the best pickles begin with clean, firm cucumbers

First things first – clean your cucumbers thoroughly. I use my soft veggie brush and cold water. 

For extra crispness, put cut cucumbers on an ice bath in your fridge for a few hours

Get a large bowl and put a whole tray of ice in the bottom. Once I cut the cukes into smaller pieces they’ll go into the fridge on an ice bath for at least 5 hours. 

Goodbye blossom butt and stem

Trim the ends of  each cucumber. Then cut the cucumber into quarters. 

Cut the small ones into quarters for a mini treat

I cut the larger ones in half lengthwise before cutting those pieces into quarters. 

These are all acceptable sizes for pickling lemon cucumbers

Anything larger then the cucumbers picture above are chicken food in this household.

The large ones can be cut in half first for smaller pickle bites
These little guys make great snacks at family gatherings

Once you’ve got the cucumbers all cut up and on ice, seriously put them in the fridge and leave them alone for a while. After you’ve given them their ice bath, you’ll want to give them another quick rinse with cold water. 

Maybe I’m odd but that is such a pretty sight to me

Now you’ll need a large pot for this brine, the recipe makes a lot. 

Supplies are gathered!

On a medium heat, combine the 9 cups sugar, 8 cups white vinegar, 1/4 cup lemon juice (1/2 a jumbo lemon), 1/4 vanilla and 1 tbsp of canning salt. . 

Yes you really do need that much vanilla and lemon juice.

Mix this well, but be aware that it will stay cloudy for awhile. 

We use this tea holder for our spices. Some of the leafy stuff escapes, but not much

Next, in either a tea ball like ours or some cheesecloth, put the 1 Tbsp of cloves and 1 tbsp of pickling spices. Drop this into the brine mixture right from the get go. 

The sugar dissolves as it gets closer to its boiling point

Keep this going on medium heat, stirring pretty much constantly. Because of the high sugar content it will scorch quickly, so keep an eye on it. 

Getting closer to the boil


Once it gets to a boil, keep it there for five minutes. 

While its boiling is a good time to pack your jars and relax your lids. Remember, relax your lids in simmering water, not boiling. If the water is to hot, it can actually ruin the rubber seal.

For every pint, we use 2 cinnamon sticks, as many cucumber pieces as I can squeeze in and 3/4 tsp alum. In every quart we use 4 cinnamon sticks and 1  1/2 tsp alum. 

Our pickle packing station

Once the jars are all packed and the brine has boiled for 5 minutes, it’s time to fill them with the liquid. After all your jars have been filled, cover with your lids, secure with your rims and process in your hot water bath canner for 5 minutes. 
After the jars come out of the water bath canner, set them on a towel, covered with another towel for 24 hours. If any don’t seal, put them in the fridge. 

I like to let my pickles stew in their juices for at least a month before eating. My dad usually waits 2 or 3 days. My way makes for more flavor saturation, my dad’s way means yea pickles. 

So that’s that for this blog. We still have lots of pickles to make, but now it’s apple season here in Maine. And that is what’s going on for next time. It’s time for another Maine adventure, and it’s about to get real. Real foragie. Because we don’t pay for apples. Nope, we go Apple hunting. 

But that’s for next time. 

Until then, have a wicked good day. 

Published by gillisgardensllc

This is the official website for Gillis Gardens, LLC. Gillis Gardens is a farm, run by myself and my wonderful husband. We believe in biodiversity, organic growing methods and doing things ourselves. I knit, crochet, make jewelry and sew. MrGillis builds, doing everything from our plumbing to our mechanical to our renovations. We are both active members of our little community. We both take care of the plants and animals. He weeds, I harvest. He spreads manure, I plant. We raise multiple breeds of chickens for eggs and meat. We have a herd of Alpacas that we shear every year for their beautiful fiber, which we then have milled into ultra luxurious yarn. We make our own maple syrup, preserves and pickles. We raise bees for honey and herbs for medicine. We also raise pigs for meat and fun. We are the parents of two young children, and consider that our most important job. Follow our adventures here and also on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

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