Homemade Pickles! Sharing Granny’s Famous Southern Icebox Pickles

When we saw Kelli’s story below about her granny’s icebox pickles, it brought a big smile to our faces.

So many of the gardens and garden stories shared by our readers revolve around canning and preserving from the garden. And they almost always include traditions and recipes passed down from parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents.

icebox pickles
In the old days, canning was often the only way to feed a large family

Years ago, growing a garden and preserving the harvest was much more than a hobby. For many it was about survival. Growing your own vegetables and canning helped feed hungry mouths through the cold winter months. It was simply a way of life.

Reading Kelli’s story below, it brought back memories for me, like I am sure it will do for so many of our readers. I love hearing my own mother, now 92, tell stories of her mom and dad making big batches of pickles down in their cellar. She remembers with a smile memories of her little brothers trying to sneak down the cellar steps to sample a few.

Let’s take a look now at Kelli’s story, and her Granny’s Icebox Pickles. She has even been so kind to include the recipe as well.

Sharing Granny’s Famous Southern Icebox Pickles

I love reading all of the garden stories here from people from all over. So I thought I would share a little garden story from my past.

My name is Kelli, and although I now live in the Georgia, my parents and grandparents grew up in the middle of Kentucky. They both had large gardens growing up, and before we moved away when I was 10, my brothers and sisters spent a lot of summers working in them alongside my Granny. She taught us how to use a hoe, how to fertilize with horse manure, and to never turn your back on a rooster!

But if there is one thing that always reminds me of my Granny, it is her famous Icebox Pickles. Every year, when the cucumbers started to come on, we knew we were in for a treat!

icebox pickles
Fresh cucumbers means it pickle season!

Mind you, when I say famous, I don’t mean “FAMOUS”. My granny’s picture never graced the cover of a pickle jar, nor did she win blue ribbons at local fairs. But she did win the hearts and taste buds of everyone who ever tried one of her famous Icebox Pickles. And for that, she was certainly famous.

We had a refrigerator by then, but as she made them, granny would always tell us about the real icebox’s of the old days. It was a stout metal chest in the corner of her house that kept things chilled with a block of ice. Every so often, as the old ice block melted, a new one was put in to take its place. It was simply a way of life for many rural folks to keep a few necessities cold. And it was where she made her Icebox Pickles. We still make them today, but in the refrigerator of course.

The recipe is actually quite simple. She started by cutting fresh cucumbers into 1″ slices. She would cut up enough to have about 4 quarts on hand. Then she would slice two large medium sweet onions into 1/2 inch long slices as well.

To make the liquid portion, she used 4 cups of apple cider vinegar, 2 cups of sugar , 1/4 cup of pickling salt, 3/4 teaspoon celery seeds, 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric.  She would pour all the ingredients in a pot and warm them up for about 5 minutes. She would always tell us the secret was to never let the water boil, just getting it to barely simmer.

She would then take the mixture and pour it over the onions and pickles in a large pot and let it cool for about an hour or until the mixture came back to room temperature. Then it was off to the icebox overnight! Well, for us now, of course its the fridge! I love putting them in old fashioned canning jars to give away as gifts.

It still amazes me that you can pick fresh cucumbers one day, and have these pickles the next! It’s a little easier now with our modern refrigerator “icebox”.  Although, I still remember Granny saying they turned out better in the ol’ icebox.

My kids and now grandchildren still gobble them up just like I did when I was a child. Maybe it’s the sweetness, maybe it’s the fact that they are ice-cold on a hot sunny day. But for me, every time I taste my a homemade Icebox pickle, it simply reminds me of my Granny. People always ask me how long they will last in the refrigerator, and I reply with a simple, “not for long” as soon as someone tastes them!  Thank you for letting me share my Granny’s recipe and story!

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4 thoughts on “Homemade Pickles! Sharing Granny’s Famous Southern Icebox Pickles

  1. Kelli, I live in southeastern Kentucky, and I, too, love reading all the stories about gardening and canning. Thank you for sharing your granny.’s icebox pickle recipe, and I will definitely be trying these when I have enough cucumbers. They look delicious! I have a large garden, and I am going to be canning and freezing lots of goodies in the not too distant future. Again, thanks for sharing.

  2. I made these pickles and they got rave reviews at the 4th of July! Now I am making a second batch, though I did back off on the sugar a little bit for round 2. They aren’t quite as sweet as bread and butter (which typically aren’t my favorite), but the mustard and celery seed make it work!

    I do have a question — can I reuse the brine for another batch or do I need to make a fresh round? I assume I would reheat the brine to a simmer, then add the pickles and onions, cool, and then refrigerate again. Can you confirm this for me? Thanks in advance!

    1. We re-use the brine for a second batch. However, we do make a new batch for round three. Glad they were a hit!

      1. Great, thank you so much! My family loved them and I am thoroughly enjoying my second (half) batch. Thank you for sharing the recipe. =)

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