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Ripe Cucumber Tongue Pickles


Making Betsy Rix's Ripe Cucumber Tongue Pickles

Autumn is the time of year when everything in the garden ripens and we rapidly pick, can and freeze the vegetables being grown there. This week we have been picking ripe cucumbers. Many people in Vermont continue the tradition of preserving their own pickles and it feels wonderful to continue a tradition passed down since before Garner and Betsy Rix's Time.

The pickles made in my family are a type not found in grocery stores. They are dark brown, sweet and full of sweet spices. Resembling Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce, they are the perfect accompaniment to Vermont Style Baked Beans and Home Made Brown Bread. Because of the way they are cut and the brown coloring we always called them Tongue Pickles.

Come out to the garden with me to pick the ripe cucumbers, feel the juice drip down your arms as you scoop the seeds out of these juicy vegetables, and smell the sweet spices as the pickles cook down in the vinegary sauce. Come make some Tongue Pickles...

Photo Credit: Ripe Sweet Cucumber Tongue Pickles

by Evelyn Saenz

All rights reserved

Ripe Cucumbers for Making Tongue Pickles

Ripe Cucumbers for Making Tongue Pickles

Huge Ripe Cucumbers Make the best Tongue Pickles

Picking Ripe Cucumbers to Make To Make Tongue Pickles

Today I helped my neighbor make Tongue Pickles. We started in the Garden. The cucumbers had been growing all summer until now they were big. You don't want the ones that the grocery store calls pickling cucumbers. Those are too small and not yet ripe. Leave your cucumbers on the vine longer. Wait for them to get to the size of overgrown zucchinis. The cucumbers will turn a light green, almost white, then yellow and sometimes orange. This is the stage that you want to pick them to make Tongue Pickles.

Photo Credit: Cucumbers for Making Tongue Pickles

by Evelyn Saenz

All Rights Reserved

The cucumbers have been growing in rows between black plastic. The black plastic keeps down the weeds and helps to draw in the heat that warms the soil to help the cucumbers grow. The black plastic also holds water in puddles that sometimes rots a few of the cucumbers. Step on a rotten cucumber and the smell will know you backwards.

We pick these cucumbers that are so huge that only 4 or 5 will fit into the plastic grocery bags we use for collecting them. The spines on the cucumbers tend to rip the bags but it is also the weight of the cucumbers that rips the bags.

We pile the cucumbers into laundry baskets in the wagon on the back of the lawn mower. It takes less than an hour for four people to gather a wagon load of the ripe cucumbers that we will be turning into pickles.

Washing the Cucumbers - Preparing the Cucumbers to Make into Pickles

Peeling the Cucumbers for making ripe tongue pickles

Peeling the Cucumbers for making ripe tongue pickles

Photo Credit: Peeling Cucumbers Tongue Pickles

by Evelyn Saenz

All Rights Reserved

First the cucumbers are washed outside with the garden hose. This takes off the dust and garden dirt. We grow organic cucumbers but if you use pesticides it is important to wash off as many other possible chemicals as possible. Then we take the cucumbers into the kitchen and wash them more thoroughly in a sink full of water and a vegetable brush.

It is very important to make sure that your cucumbers are clean and that the surface that you are processing the pickles on is kept very clean so that you know that the pickles that you produce will keep safely without growth of mold, germs or bacteria.

Place a towel on the table, grasp each cucumber and stand it on end. Use a vegetable peeler to slice off the peel revealing the thick white flesh inside. Though you could seed each one, I have found that doing each step separately is more efficient. Even better is when you work together with friends with each person doing a different part of the process.

One person peels the cucumbers, another cuts them in half, someone scoops out the seeds and another cuts the resulting boats or canoes into small pieces.

Slice and Dice to Pickle Perfection - Knives for Making Tongue Pickles

Cut the Cucumbers into Boats or Canoes to Make Pickles

Cut the Cucumbers into Boats or Canoes to Make Pickles

Photo Credit: Cucumbers Boats for Tongue Pickles

by Evelyn Saenz

All Rights Reserved

Once the peels have been taken off the cucumbers, use a large Chef's Knife to cut the cucumbers in half and pass them onto the person who will be taking out the seeds. I prefer a Chef's Knife as it easily cuts through the whole cucumber in one stroke.

Soaked in Seeds and Juice

Scooping out the Cucumber Seeds

Hold the cucumber in your hand facing away from you. The cucumbers are very juicy and the seeds tend to fly out in all directions when you begin to scoop them out. Don't be surprised to find that you are soaked from head to toe with seeds in your hair and even down your bra.

The cucumbers will now resemble boats or canoes.

Watch out for food fights! Cucumber juice soaked workers become playful children...

Tongue Shaped Pickles

Cutting the Cucumbers into Pickle Sized Pieces

The next person uses a paring knife for cutting the cucumbers into small pieces. Slice the cucumber boats lengthwise into long canoes. Then cut the canoes up into small pieces. Most of the pieces will be rectangles or squares but on the ends you will have triangles that when cooked will resemble tongues. That is where these pickles got their name.

The paring knife is also for cutting out bad spots. Remember that you want perfect cucumbers to make perfect pickles.

When in doubt throw it out! Rotten spots will spoil the whole pickle batch.

Pick a Pot of Pickles

Cook the Cucumbers in a Pot

As you cut up the cucumbers, toss them into a large stock pot. I prefer the ones with a thick bottom. That keeps the pickles from sticking to the bottom and eliminates the chances of burning the batch.

Tongue Pickle Recipe - Vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, salt and brown sugar.

What gives the Tongue Pickles that distinctive brown tongue color, the delicious aroma and the mouthwatering spicy taste?

For 8 -10 pints of Betsy Rix's Ripe Cucumber Tongue Pickles

1 quart of Cider Vinegar

5 sticks of Whole Cinnamon

2 Tablespoons of Whole Cloves

Some Pickling Salt

4 to 5 pounds of Brown Sugar


Wrap the Cinnamon and Cloves in Cheese Cloth and tie into a bundle. Tuck the bundle down into the cucumber pieces in the stock pot. Add the brown sugar, sprinkle on the salt and then finally pour on the vinegar. It's fun to watch the vinegar melt the brown sugar as if the vinegar was molten lava reshaping the earth.

Cooking the Pickles - The Cucumbers Turn into Pickles

Once you begin cooking the cucumbers, they are no longer cucumbers. The cucumbers are transforming into pickles. I like to start the pickles on the stove with the lid on to get them hot quickly. Then I transfer them to the top of the woodstove. Here in Vermont this is the time that it feels good to have the wood stove going and the top is just the right temperature for a slow simmer which is what you want for cooking the pickles.

Let the pickles simmer on the wood stove until they begin to turn opaque. Remember that they will continue to cook in the jars so you don't want to overcook them but at the same time, you want to cook them long enough to get them tender and for the spices to go all through them.

I stir the pickles often to make sure that they are not burning or boiling. They want to cook at a very slow simmer. When they begin to look opaque, take a fork and test to see if they are soft enough. Remember that the pickles will continue to cook in the jars as they cool so you want to take them off the stove just before they are to the perfect texture.

Filling the Jars with Pickles

While the pickles are cooking, make sure that your jars and lids are sterile. I prefer to put my pickles in pint Mason or Ball jars but any size will do as long as you have a lid that seals. As soon as you take the pickles off the stove you need to pack them into the jars. Remember that the pickles will be very hot and you don't want to spill any of the juice on the rims of the jars, which could prevent forming a perfect seal.

I recommend using a canning funnel. This special funnel has a wide opening to allow the pickles to be poured into the jars without spilling down the sides or onto the rim. Fill the pickles to the shoulders of the jar and then add liquid to the bottom of the canning jar funnel. Take out the funnel and immediately put on the top and screw on the ring. When the hot pickles and liquid cools it will create a vacuum which is what keeps the pickles from spoiling when left at room temperature. (Be sure to refrigerate any that don't seal. Once open the pickles will need to be refrigerated as well.) Place the hot jars on racks to cool.

Pickles Sweet vs. Sour - Choose Your Favorite Pickles

Pickles come in many varieties from shiver your spine sour to sweet and spicy. The debate may rage on between family members or all across the Internet.

Which kind of pickles do you prefer?

Tongue Pickles! - Make your Own Ripe Cucumber Pickles

Betsey Rix's Ripe Cucumber Tongue Pickles cooling on the Rack

Betsey Rix's Ripe Cucumber Tongue Pickles cooling on the Rack

Photo Credit: Ripe Cucumber Pickles

by Evelyn Saenz

All Rights Reserved

Come write about making pickles on Wizzley, a fun and easy place to express your opinion:

Pickle Fork

Available on Amazon

Each year we save the very best pickles for Thanksgiving Dinner. A Thanksgiving Dinner just wouldn't seem right without Betsy Rix's Tongue Pickles. We place the pickles in a glass pickle dish and serve them with a pickle fork. Are your pickles ready for Thanksgiving Dinner?

Pondering about Pickles - Thoughts of Cucumber Pickles

Benjamin Rondeau on October 09, 2020:


The amount of salt IS kinda important, you know?

Just saying "some canning salt" is vague.

Carolyn Pierzchala on August 29, 2018:

Made these pickles and very good. Do you think this same sugar, cinnamon, salt, and clove mixture could be used to pickle small, under ripe pares?

Ashley on September 19, 2017:

Is this reciepe for the whole batch of pickles or just 8-10 pint jars?

MarcellaCarlton on April 28, 2014:

I'm always ready! My husband read this with me. We will be making tongue pickles this fall. Lovely lens!

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on September 14, 2013:

I've never heard of tongue pickles before but want to try making them.

anonymous on September 03, 2013:

My grandmother made these pickles and I make a small batch whenever I can grow ripe cucumbers. She was a Vermonter from Peacham. The recipe calls them slippery pickles but her children called them cow tongue pickles. You should see the looks I get when I put the jar out with that label.

Scott A McCray on July 24, 2013:

Awesome - never heard of them, but I'm pinning this for future reference!

GramaBarb from Vancouver on February 27, 2013:

Never heard of Tongue Pickles! Talk about starting my day with something new - your lens is a winner! Thanks!

Brandi from Maryland on January 18, 2013:

I am not a pickle eater, but my hubby and oldest son love them...I'm sure these cucumber tongue pickles would be a hit! :)

BarbaraCasey on December 16, 2012:

Super lens. Making me hungry.

marsha32 on November 29, 2012:

My children and grandchildren would all love these.

Brian Stephens from France on November 29, 2012:

There is no finer sight than a shelf full of home made preserves, my favourites are green tomato chutney, pickled onions and pickled shallots especially shallots.

Evelyn Saenz (author) from Royalton on September 16, 2012:

@anonymous: That sounds about right. When the cucumbers are ripe, they are very large and yellow. The meat of the cucumbers are thick. My family loves ripe cucumber pickles so we make huge batches. We give them away as presents and usually a batch lasts for a couple of years.

anonymous on September 16, 2012:

@evelynsaenz1: Okay, on google a bushel is 48 lbs. Do you really use that many cucumbers for that recipe?

Evelyn Saenz (author) from Royalton on August 26, 2012:

@Ann Hinds: Then I am sure that you will like Betsy Rix's Ripe Cucumber Tongue Pickles :)

Ann Hinds from So Cal on August 26, 2012:

I will have to give these a try. I didn't vote in the poll because I have never met a pickle I didn't like. Blessed

Evelyn Saenz (author) from Royalton on August 20, 2012:

@anonymous: We make about a bushel at a time.

anonymous on August 19, 2012:

Recipe doesn't say how many of these giant cucumbers to use.8 or 10?

Rom from Australia on March 07, 2012:

Thanks for the lens! Was looking for something else to try, just finished some green tomatoes and i think my parents have some cucumbers that are just right.

traveller27 on November 24, 2011:

Very nice lens. Blessed by a travelling angel.

Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on November 21, 2011:

I have made freezer pickles. Good to have this canning recipe. Thanks for adding it to my Recipes, Reviews and Food Collection lens.

anonymous on August 07, 2011:

Betsy Rix's Tongue Pickles sound amazing, I would guess they go quick and everyone wants a jar to themselves. I love your step by step directions and tips along the way....and that you cook them on the wood stove, how cool!

anonymous on March 24, 2011:

My sister Love Pickles, sometimes I will go to the store and buy a Huge Jar of them & eat one every now and again! This is like a childhood memory that we share and still enjoy!!

HomeCanning on January 28, 2011:

Home canning is the best ways of preserving food for a longer period of time. Canning starts with first processing the food and is then sealed in an airtight container in order to prevent any microorganisms from entering and spoiling the food making it unhealthy.

HomeCanning on January 28, 2011:

Home canning is the best ways of preserving food for a longer period of time. Canning starts with first processing the food and is then sealed in an airtight container in order to prevent any microorganisms from entering and spoiling the food making it unhealthy.

poutine on January 16, 2011:

My mom used to do pickles also, different ones.

They were so delicious.

Great lens.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on December 20, 2010:

I imagine that these Ripe Cucumber Tongue Pickles smell wonderful when they are cooking. They sure sound delicious.

Sheilamarie from British Columbia on December 02, 2010:

These sound yummy! My pickles were flops!

Vikki from US on November 20, 2010:

I remember helping my grandmother do this when I was very young. Great memories. Great lens.

Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on September 12, 2010:

That was a lovely pickling journey. Thanks for sharing.

Nan from London, UK on September 11, 2010:

I have many memories of watching my grandmother make pickles as I was growing up.

Delicious lens. Blessed by an angel