Oil Pickles

James Beard

Author and Educator

Many people are afraid of pickling, but it is really quite simple and one of the best ways of extending the harvest known to man. Cucumbers lend themselves beautifully to this process and there are, accordingly, a plethora of pickled cucumber recipes from all over the world. Try this one as your starter recipe. Except for the powdered alum (see Notes), all the ingredients are readily available. You will also need, of course, canning equipment and pint-sized canning jars.


  • 10 to 12 medium cucumbers (4 inches long) or 30 small cucumbers (3 inches long)
  • 4 to 5 medium onions, sliced paper thin
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup salt
  • 1 teaspoon powdered alum (See Notes)
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons celery seed
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seed
  • 5 to 6 pint-sized canning jars


Wash the cucumbers well to remove any wax and slice on a slicer or, if you are deft, with a knife, into slices not over 1/4-inch thick. Mix with the onions and place in a large bowl. Combine the salt and alum and sprinkle over the cucumbers and onions. Let stand in a cool place overnight.

In the morning, drain and rinse the cucumbers and onions thoroughly and put them back in the bowl, which should also be rinsed. Pour enough vinegar over them to just cover, and let them stand for 1 to 4 hours; the longer the better.

Drain off the vinegar into a large measuring cup, noting the amount; then pour it into a saucepan. For each cup of vinegar add 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Add the celery seed and mustard seed. Bring to a boil and pour it over the cucumbers. Pack the pickles and liquid into hot sterilized jars and seal. Let the pickles stand a week before you eat them.


5 pints