Have you ever had a vision of ancient Greek citizens sitting around with their friends discussing the latest toga fashions and noshing on pickles? Some historians believe there is evidence that Aristole praised the pickled cucumber, not only for it’s taste, but for it’s healing powers. Hmmmm…wonder if they had sandwiches, chips and Barq’s root beer with their pickles? Throughout the ages, food preservation has been a necessity. When journeys were long, prior to refrigeration, pickling was a way of maintaining the quality of the food for as long as the journey lasted. European immigrants introduced pickling as a method of food preservation to the United States. This method became a necessary part of everyday life. Fire and Ice Pickles is an interesting recipe that transforms store bought dill pickles into a sweet, sour, and spicy pickle delight and doesn’t require a canning process.
In the Southern United States, food preservation involving salt, vinegar, sugar, drying, curing and smoking was a matter of survival. Food harvested during growing seasons, had to be preserved to remain a viable food source in the off season. Some of the root vegetables and fruits would keep their freshness quite a while if they were kept cool in a cellar or springhouse. Some of the fruits and vegetables could be dried and the meats smoked. It’s easy to forget that our early ancestors couldn’t rely on things that we may take for granted such as refrigeration. Food preservation wasn’t a fad, it was a matter of survival. They didn’t make Bread and Butter pickles so they could show them off at their cocktail parties and impress their friends. They made Bread and Butter pickles so they would have food to eat.
Both sets of my grandparents lived in Geneva, Alabama, a small town in the southeastern corner of the state. Each grandmother did a lot of food preservation. One was a pickle-grandmother and one was a jelly/preserves-grandmother. Now, it’s not to say that they stayed squarely in the camp to which I just assigned them. They would each do pickles, jelly and preserves. However, it just seemed that one would do much more in the way of pickles and the other was predominately jellies and preserves. In my memories, the pickle-grandmother did more vegetable canning, too. I remember the jelly/preserve-grandmother putting up vegetables in the freezer.
When I was about 5 years old, I remember the pickle-grandmother showing the jelly/preserves-grandmother all the food she had canned that season. In the pantry, lining the shelves, were tidy rows of clear canning jars that contained vivid colors. Among the bounty were tomatoes, corn, green beans and vegetable soup in addition to many types of pickles. All the vegetables were uniform in size. It looked like a picture that had been colored perfectly and all the coloring was done within the lines. Like a picture a big kid would have colored. At 5 years of age, this impression was imprinted in the “food” file in my memory chip. I was fascinated and wished I could have stayed longer just to admire the beauty. I certainly had no earthly idea regarding the amount of work that had gone into seeing this project to completion. I just knew it was a beautiful sight. The pickle-grandmother would lovingly take one of the jars off the shelf and wipe it down. It didn’t need to be wiped down. That was a reflexive move just like when a mother sweeps her child’s hair back with her hand. As she wiped she talked about where she had gotten the produce and maybe her canning technique. The conversation didn’t capture me. But the sight sure did. The jelly/preserve-grandmother admired the work. She knew well the labor that was involved.
As I was surveying the sight, I don’t remember even having a desire to taste any of the food. It was the sheer beauty that had me captivated. When the jelly/preserve-grandmother was announcing that it was time for us to go, I felt as though my place was in the pantry. I did sneak back in for one last look. As the summer progressed, I don’t recall going back to the pantry again. We stayed with the jelly/preserve-grandmother. More than 50 years and many, many food memories later, the impact of that experience has stayed brilliant in my mind. That experience definitely helped shape my passion for the beauty of food. In that pantry, on those shelves, in those jars, was a part of my future. It’s not often you get the chance to see your future. I was definitely blessed. And it was a sight to behold.
My husband has some sort of fascination with dill pickles. He doesn’t eat them everyday. Unlike Aristotle, I don’t think he is in to the “health benefits” of the pickles. He just has a hard time passing up the jars of dill pickles on the grocery store shelves without grabbing one. We have had as many as 5 (36 oz.) jars of dill pickles clogging up my pantry shelf. I’ve had to put him on “dill pickle” restriction more than once. I don’t particularly care for dill pickles. My sweet tooth gained dominance over every other flavor long time ago. I don’t mind a chip or two on a sandwich but eating a whole dill pickle is just not something I do. So, I needed to find a way to recycle a couple of jars of dill pickles. I remembered having a neighbor that would use regular dill pickles and turn them into sweet pickles. As I child, I had lunch at her house quite a bit and I loved those pickles but couldn’t remember for the life of me what she called them. After some very creative Google searches, I found what I was looking for: Fire and Ice Pickles. Now, before you start jumping up and down and declaring me to be a cheater, I fully disclose that I know this isn’t really pickling. You don’t have to process these pickles in a water bath. This is just a great way to deal with an excess of dill pickles and turn it into a product I dearly love. These pickles are sweet (whoo-hoo!), sour, salty and spicy all rolled into one. It’s a very beautiful thing. And I think Aristotle would approve. I feel healthier every time I eat them.
Most of the recipes I found just added sugar, garlic and hot pepper. But I really like Deep South Dish’s idea of adding in more pickling spices. Here’s what I came up with:
Start with a 46 ounce jar of real dill pickles, NOT kosher dills. They won’t work right. Drain the pickles.
Slice ’em up! Don’t make them any thinner than 1/4 of an inch. I made mine about 1/2 inch thick.
In addition to 2 1/2 cups of sugar, you will need 1 small head of garlic, chopped, 3 teaspoons of pickled jalapeño peppers, chopped, 1 1/2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes, a few sprigs of fresh dill and 2 teaspoons of pickling spice ( I used McCormick. Be careful of the whole cloves when you are eating the pickles. I bit down on one and almost had a dental emergency.)
Now, we start layering everything. Divide it all in half. Start with half the cukes, add half the sugar and half the spices and herbs. Repeat the layers. This is how it should look. Like it’s all a big mistake. But, it’s not. Just hang with me.
Leave it out of the refrigerator for at least an hour. As soon as you see that most of the sugar has dissolved, shake the jar up real well to mix sugar and spice and everything nice all together. This is how mine looked after an hour. See the sugar on the bottom? You want to make sure that gets mixed well.
After a couple of hours, you can pour everything back into the original jar and store in refrigerator for at least two days before eating them. This will become your new addiction. Sorry. Enjoy your Fire and Ice Pickles.
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Fire and Ice Pickles
Adjust the amount of heat to your taste preference by adding to or subtracting from the amount of red pepper flakes and pickled jalapeno peppers. I rate the amount of heat in the recipe as written as mild to medium.
1 (46 ounce ) jar whole dill pickles
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 small head of garlic, chopped or left whole or a combination of both
3 teaspoons pickled jalapeños, chopped or left whole or a combination or both
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons pickling spice
a few sprigs of fresh dill (optional)
Drain the pickles and slice 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch. Divide everything in half. Add half the pickles to a large jar, half the sugar and half the herbs and spices. Repeat layers. Keep on the counter for one hour. After an hour, shake well to make sure sugar and spices are mixed. After another hour, you can return the pickles and juice to original jar and store in refrigerator for at least two days before eating.
- Adjust the amount of heat to your taste preference by adding to or subtracting from the amount of red pepper flakes and pickled jalapeno peppers. I rate the amount of heat in the recipe as written as mild to medium.
- 1 (46 ounce ) jar whole dill pickles
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 small head of garlic, chopped or left whole or a combination of both
- 3 teaspoons pickled jalapeños, chopped of left whole or a combination of both
- 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons pickling spice
- a few sprigs of fresh dill (optional)
- Drain the pickles and slice 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch. Divide everything in half. Add half the pickles to a large jar, half the sugar and half the herbs and spices. Repeat layers. Keep on the counter for one hour. After an hour, shake well to make sure sugar and spices are mixed. After another hour, you can return the pickles and juice to original jar and store in refrigerator for at least two days before eating.