Preparation / Directions:
Curing cucumbers: Into large glass jars or pickling crocks, slice small, young, near seedless cucumbers (or you can leave whole for whole pickles) forming layers about 2 inches thick. Add a layer of pickling salt (or NON-iodized table salt) to cover cucumbers. Continue alternate layers of cucumbers and salt until jar is a little over 3/4 full (to leave working room). Always end up with layer of salt on top. The process of adding cucumbers can continue for months as necessary to fill the jars if your cucumber supply is small. Let stand, stirring every week or two until cucumbers have become translucent (at least 8 weeks, usually longer). I've seen cured cucumbers over 2 years old in crocks make excellent pickles.
Preparing pickles: Drain and thoroughly rinse cured cucumbers. Cover in cold water, change to fresh water twice a day for 2 days and nights. Boil 1/2 gallon water, 1/2 gallon white vinegar and 3 boxes alum (you can use 4 to 6 boxes alum for crispier pickles) (lumps about the size of an egg if bulk is used) and pour over drained cucumbers while still BOILING hot. Let this stand for 2 days and nights and pour off. Make sure cucumbers are real firm at this stage. If not, leave in alum water for another night or two.
Fill small cloth sacks or cleaned nylon stockings cut in 6 inch lengths and tied at one end to form a sack each with 1 can pickling spice, 1 clove garlic, and 1 tsp. black pepper. Tie loose end of stockings or sacks to form balls of spice.
Boil 7 lbs. sugar (2 1/4 cups sugar make a pound), 1/2 gallon cider vinegar, and all spice bags and pour over drained cucumbers hot. Make sure spice bags are evenly spaced throughout cucumbers. If gallon jars are used, place at least 2 spice bags per jar. Let this get cold and add tarragon vinegar. (Divide amount evenly between jars if required). Let stand one week. Remove pickles (SAVING JUICE) and pack in jars, DISCARD spice sacks. Bring the saved pickle juice to a boil and pour over pickles and seal jars. You may want to have extra vinegar, and sugar on hand to make up additional juice if needed. You can throw the spice bags into the vinegar/sugar and boil it to make extra juice. You will have to season the juice by taste, but make sure you use enough sugar to give it the consistency of a very thin syrup.
Variations: Leave out garlic if desired or add jalapenos to spices for hot pickles.
Other uses: The pickle juice from jars of eaten pickles makes excellent seasoning for many other dishes, including barbeque sauces, spaghetti sauces, sloppy Jose, enchiladas, tuna, chicken, or turkey salads or anything favoring a sweet/sour seasoning.
Here's the recipe for the Pickle Juice BBQ Sauce and also the recipe for the sweet pickles from which you MUST obtain the juice. No other pickle juice will do. Anyone making this sauce will have to make the pickles and eat them first so you will have the leftover juice.
Actually, if you don't want to make the pickles, you can just make the juice by making a couple of the little sacks of spices mentioned in the recipe and simmering with cider vinegar and sugar for an hour or so. Just pour in a pint or quart of vinegar, heat, throw in the spice bags, and add sugar until you have a very very thin syrup, aka pickle jui