This year my 11-yr-old son worked on the Boy Scout garden to earn a badge. If you have never done Scouts with your son, I highly recommend it. It's inexpensive and teaches your son so many useful skills! Just so you know, you do not have to have done Cub Scouts to become a Boy Scout. My boys have done Cub Scouts, but I discovered that everything basically starts over when you move to Boy Scouts (badges, etc.). I was actually happy because while I did as much as a working mom could do when it came collecting badges in Cub Scouts, he did not collect them all.
Anyway, my son focused on the gardening badge during the summer. He would go every Saturday and Tuesday to plant, weed, and pick vegetables. Often I or my husband would help. It was a great learning experience for the kids and for us as we have never gardened before. They sold the vegetables a couple of times in our small town and the boys actually earned some money.
One Saturday toward the end of summer I was helping the boys pick vegetables and noticed a whole section of cucumbers that were huge. I asked about them and was told that they were worthless as they had become too large to sell. I asked to take a few and was told that I could have as many as I liked. So I took a few home and cut them up to see what they were like. They tasted like slightly bland cucumbers, not tart. The white flesh was thicker than the typical store bought cucumber.
I thought there must be something you could do with them so I started researching recipes. I discovered that this one canning recipe, Cinnamon Cucumbers, came up over and over again. It was often accompanied with fond memories of childhood and grandmothers so I knew I had a winner. It actually required oversized cucumbers to work. I had plenty of those! So I went back to the farm and picked bags of them.
Someone online recommended buying a Home Depot 5 gallon bucket for this three day process which is what I did. In the future I will probably purchase a large stock pot that is not plastic but if these had turned out awful, I did not want to invest a lot of money.
The first thing you have to is clean, skin and cut the cucumbers. Some recipes have you cut them like rings, but since this was my first attempt I went the easy route. You have to cut the seeds off the center and slice to bite size.
Put in 5 gallon bucket until it is about half full.
Mix 2 cups pickling lime and 8 1/2 quarts cold water. Pour over cucumber rings. Let stand 24 hours.
Drain. Wash and put in cold water. Let stand 3 hours. Drain. Put in large cooking pot.
Mix 1 cup vinegar, red food coloring (used half a bottle), 1 t alum, and add enough water to cover. Simmer 2 hours. Drain. Return to five gallon bucket.
While cucumbers are boiling, mix 2 cups vinegar, 10 cups sugar, 2 cups water, 1 package red hot cinnamon candy, 8 cinnamon sticks. Bring to boil. Make sure all Redhots are dissolved. Pour over cucumber rings. Let set overnight.
Notes: Numerous people online had difficulty finding Redhots. Apparently Walmart carries them but I found them at Dollar Tree. Because they were in small packages I used two the first time. I have made the recipe three times now, the first exactly as the recipe requires. I have found that as I boiled the cucumbers, when I doubled the vinegar and alum it turned out better. You can find alum in the herb/baking section of the grocery store, not in the canning area). Also the first batch did not have enough liquid to completely can all the cucumbers (probably because I had a ton) so in the next two batches I doubled the liquid (4 c vinegar, 20 c sugar, 4 c water, 4 packages red hots, 16 cinnamon sticks).
Drain off liquid; heat and pour back over cucumbers.
On last day, heat cucumbers in sauce to simmer, pack in jars (with or without cinnamon stick in each), and seal in water bath for 10 minutes.
These turned out great! They taste like crunchy cinnamon apples. You actually would not know that these are cucumbers. This would make a great side dish, particularly during a holiday.
Here is the original recipe from Cooks.com:
2-3 gallons cucumber rings
8 1/2 qts. cold water
Red food coloring
1 tsp. alum
2 c. water
8 cinnamon sticks
2 c. pickling lime
1 c. vinegar
2 c. vinegar
10 c. sugar
1 pkg. red hot candy
Mix 2 cups pickling lime and 8 1/2 quarts cold water. Pour over cucumber rings. let stand 24 hours. Drain. Wash and put in cold water. Let stand 3 hours. Drain. Mix 1 cup vinegar, red food coloring, alum, and add enough water to cover. Simmer 2 hours. Drain.
Mix 2 cups vinegar, 10 cups sugar, 2 cups water, 1 package red hot cinnamon candy, 8 cinnamon sticks. Bring to boil. Pour over cucumber rings. Let set overnight. Drain off; heat and pour back over cucumbers. Do this for 3 days. On 3rd day, pack rings in jars; seal.