Those huge, end-of-the-garden cucumbers make wonderful sweet pickles. Just follow this long-time family recipe.
When I was a child in the 60’s and 70’s most meals at Nana’s house included homemade Russian Bear Pickles. The recipe had been passed down from Nana’s mother and was everyone’s favorite. But, as the grandchildren grew up and left home, Nana made pickles less and less often. You know how you do something over and over, thinking you will never forget how? And then a little time goes by and you realize that you can’t quite remember the details? That’s what happened with Russian Bear Pickles.
Oh, we had my great-grandmother’s recipe card. It read something like this; “remove seeds, soak in brine, drain and add sugar, cinnamon, and cloves to taste……1 cup water per 2 cups vinegar.” Not exactly clear.
So for years I searched for a Russian Bear Pickle recipe. No one knew what I was talking about. Years came and went, while family members kept asking when was I going to make them Nana’s pickles!
Finally things started to change. Another Master Food Preserver participant found me an old German pickle recipe that was similar. And I started pickling in earnest, learning more about pickles in general along the way. Then, in 2012 my garden had a cucumber explosion. I made pickles, more pickles, and even more pickles. There was no end in sight. So it was time to figure out exactly how to make Russian Bear pickles.
A few more searches led to a realization; Russian Bear pickles, made from the fat, over-ripe cucumbers that stay hidden under leaves until you can’t ignore them any longer, are basically a northern version of watermelon rind pickles. It makes sense. Living in northeastern Maine, my family certainly wasn’t growing watermelon. But cucumbers were grown every year. And that Yankee thrift thing we have going, doesn’t allow us to toss out a few cukes just because they are the size of a man’s arm!
I was able to pull the recipe together. It must be correct because my sisters request jars for Christmas each year. And even though it is an old family recipe, I am sharing it here. Sometimes old family recipes are lost, like this one almost was. Sharing decreases those chances.
If your garden is still hanging on just a little bit, you probably have some over-ripe cukes. Don’t waste them, try Russian Bear pickles. They will soon become a family favorite for you too.
By the way, I have no idea why they are called Russian Bear. My grandmother doesn’t know where her mother got the recipe, so that part of the story is lost.
- 24 cups of quartered, seeded, over-ripe cucumbers
- ½ cup pickling salt
- 8 cups water
- 4 cups sugar
- 3 cups cider vinegar
- 1½ cups water
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¾ tsp ground cloves
- Cut cucumbers into large strips or pieces.
- Combine salt and 8 cups of water in a large stock pot. Stir until salt dissolves.
- Add the cucumbers. Let stand at least 12 hours.
- Drain and rinse cucumbers.
- In a large pot, combine sugar, vinegar, 1½ cups water, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil.
- Add drained cucumbers.Gently boil until cucumbers begin to look transparent. You may have to do this in two separate batches if your pot is too small.
- Pack into clean pint jars.Cover with the vinegar syrup.
- Top with 2 piece canning covers. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.
- Remove from canner and let sit on counter overnight.
- Pickles will improve with age, so let sit at least 3 weeks before serving.
Have you resurrected an old family recipe? Tell us how you did it!