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Canning Day Quilt

Old Time Favorite- Mustard Pickle

My husband’s grandmother Eva was an avid canner.  One of the family favorites was her famous “Mustard Pickle.”  It was a staple at the Sunday afternoon dinner table, where it was always served with a pot roast or ham.  It was especially loved for those Sunday night sandwiches made with leftover dinner rolls.

Have you ever tried Mustard Pickle?  I had never even heard of it until I married my husband.  And since, I have seen a number of other recipes… but this one has a special place in our hearts… it tastes like home…  and days gone by.

Several years before Eva passed away, my husband went to her home several times to cook with her.  I mentioned before that he learned to make her apple pie.

Luckily he also helped her make a batch of Mustard Pickle over the course of two evenings.

Here is Eva’s hand written copy of her recipe.  She had it waiting for him the first evening when he arrived to peel the onions and prep the vegetables for the brine:

Don’t you just love seeing her shaky scrawl?  I am astounded that, at the age of 90, Eva still had the energy to can a batch of Mustard Pickle, because let me tell you folks, it’s not for the faint of heart.  Peeling 3 pound (in our case 6 pounds this year) of pearl onions is nothing short of a pain in the rear.

It’s a process that is worth the work however.  And luckily the hardest parts of canning, sorta like childbirth, fades in your memory from year to year… and you are left with the warm memories of how smug and productive you feel when your cans are lined cooling on the counter.

Canning is always easier when you are in good company, and last night my kitchen was invaded by two of my favorite men, my husband and his father.

Here are some of the highlights of how we make Mustard Pickle:

Right there is the lion’s share of the work, folks.  I skipped taking the photos of our toil, since it happened after dark, and I was up to my elbows in onions.

The night (or the day before if you’re smart) peel the pearl onions.  This is done by pouring boiling water over them and letting them stand for about 2 minutes.  Drain and toss them into an ice water bath to keep them from overcooking.  Then peel, peel, and PEEL some more.  Pearl onions are very light… and 3 pounds of them is a lot of onions.  6 pounds is even more… since we doubled our batch this year.

Also wash and slice up your pickling cucumbers.  Eva specified 50 medium pickling cucumbers.  Slice them about 1/2 inch thick.  If a cucumber is fat, half or quarter them as needed.  Think bite sized pieces.

Cut 2 large heads of cauliflower into small (approx. 1/2 to 3/4 inch) pieces and toss them all together in a large bowl or pan.  Cover with cold water and stir in 1 cup of salt.  Now go to bed.

The next day, drain and thoroughly rinse the vegetables.

Pour them into a large stock pot and cover with vinegar.  Eva specified Heinz White Vinegar.  Use about 1/2 gallon.  Bring to a boil.

Once it comes to a boil add the dried mustard.  Eva specified Colman’s Mustard underlined… twice.  Don’t you dare try and use another kind of mustard or it will be ruined.. all ruined.

Actually I don’t know what would happen if you used a different brand… and I’ll never find out.  I wouldn’t dream of messing with instructions that were underlined twice.  You use both 2 oz. containers of the mustard.

Oh boy, my husband is in my kitchen.  I know because the spices have been measured into little glass bowls that serve no other purpose than to sit there until ready to pour into the cook pot.  You’re going to need turmeric, curry powder, celery seed, and ginger.  And my husband to do the dishes.

The recipe also calls for salt, lots of sugar, and…

seeded and chopped red peppers.  Add them all into the pot.

Last, you are going to thicken the sauce with flour.  I always ladle out a bowl of sauce and let it cool for a minute, then whisk the flour in.  Pour the whole thing back into the pot.  That way I don’t get lumps.

Simmer for 1 hour, in which time the sauce will thicken up.

And then can in pint bottles.  I won’t get into proper canning techniques in this post, but for my altitude we canned the Mustard Pickle in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

Leave on the counter overnight to cool.

Then here’s the hardest part of making Mustard Pickle.  You need to wait about a month before eating, if you want to taste it in all of it’s glory.  It needs time to cure.

I can hardly wait to cook a pot roast and enjoy a heaping spoonful of Mustard Pickle on top.

***** UPDATE:  Current canning guidelines DO NOT recommend using flour in any canning recipes.  Check with your local state extension service for advice on how to modify this recipe safely.

Here’s Eva’s recipe:

Eva’s Mustard Pickle
50 medium pickling cucumbers
2 large heads of cauliflower
3 pounds pickling (or pearl) onions
1 cup salt
water for brine
1/2 gallon Heinz white vinegar (approx.)
4 oz. Colman’s Mustard (dried mustard)
3 Tablespoons salt- I prefer salt without iodine for canning, ie. pickling salt
4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 Tablespoon Turmeric
1 Tablespoon Curry Powder
1 Tablespoon Celery Seed
1 Tablespoon Powdered Ginger
2 whole red peppers
The night before, chop up pickling cucumbers into 1/2 inch slices.  Peel onions by pouring boiling water over and letting stand for about 2 minutes.  Drain and place in a ice water bath to stop the cooking.  Using a sharp knife cut off the ends and peel.  Chop up cauliflower into 1/2 -3/4 inch pieces.  In a large pan or bowl, cover vegetables with cold water and add one cup of salt.  Stir and set aside overnight.
The next day, drain and rinse thoroughly.  Pour vegetables into a large stock pot and cover with about 1/2 gallon vinegar.  Bring to a boil.  Add mustard, salt, sugar, and other spices.  Add flour to thicken and return to a boil.  Chop red peppers fine and add to sauce.  Simmer for 1 hour.  Sauce should thicken.
Using safe canning methods, bottle in pint jars in a boiling water canner.  Check with your local state extension office for processing times.  For my altitude in the Mountain West it’s 20 minutes.
Makes 13 pints.

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28 Responses to “Old Time Favorite- Mustard Pickle”

  • beth:

    you’re right, it’s like childbirth. When you’re in the middle of it you are thinking, “WHY?” Why do I do this? The kitchen is hot, look at all those dishes, may hands will never recover from the chopping, what am I thinking. Then you see all the jars and get to enjoy them all winter. It’s a good feeling and you’re ready to go again next summer.

    • paula:

      Hi! This recipe sounds just like my grandmother’s and I miss them! I am going to attempt to make these but have one question. When do I add the 3 tablespoons of canning salt? It is not mentioned anywhere. Sorry for seeming “canning dumb” but I’ve never made pickles before. Thanks for your help! :)

      • Calli:

        The 3 tablespoons of salt goes into the pot with the vegetables and vinegar along with the sugar and spices. Good luck! cheers, Calli

  • VickiT:

    OOh that looks like an awesome recipe. I can say that I too have never heard of mustard pickles. My Mom always made Bread & Butter pickles because those were my Dad’s favorite. It’s very possible had I gotten my Grandmother’s recipes there would have been one in there for these since the German’s are known for using mustard in many things. Was Eva possibly German? I hope she doesn’t see your typed recipe because you DO know you did not underline the Coleman’s mustard, right? LOL

    I’m sure that I am quite a lot older than you are and I can tell you that yes, sometimes it makes a HUGE difference in the taste if you use a generic or other brand of a spice ingredient. I’m the same way with some of my recipes and when I pass those on to my boys I always do the same thing pointing out the exact brand it must be. LOL

    Thank you for this recipe. I know it won’t be this year, but next summer I will probably see if I can make this myself.

  • Holly:

    Wow, that looks really tasty. And how cool that it’s a family recipe. I’ll definitely have to try it at some point. Thanks for sharing it!

  • Paula:

    This looks like the same recipe my grandma made. . . right down to the Colman mustard. We always thought it was funny that she called it mustard pickle instead of mustard pickles, but I see your recipe calls it the same thing.

    Definitely worth the work, but I have to admit, I buy the pickling onions already peeled and in a jar. Really cuts down on the prep time, and by the time they are pickled, I can’t tell the difference.

    Thanks for sharing your great ideas.

  • Amy:

    I love your website! I am just starting to learn to can and blog at the same time, I just made your apple sauce today and I am going tomarrow to get all the things I will need to make this mustard pickle it looks amazing, and we eat alot of roasts in the fall so I’d better make this now!

  • Amy:

    I made this today and can’t wait to try it!! It looks so yummy in the jar:)

  • Jill:

    This really looks like something the British make called Picalilli and is similar to this recipe here. Perhaps that’s what it started out as before it got passed down and changed here and there.

    In Britain there are several different types of “pickle” (not “pickles”) which to us Americans are more like relish or chutney. Basically, any kind of vegetable or mixture of vegetables pickled in vinegar is called a pickle.

    Anyway, I just thought you’d like to know.

    • Calli:

      Jill that is interesting – the recipe does look similar. My husband always calls it Mustard Pickle, but his grandma’s handwritten recipe had it labeled mustard pickles, so that is what I called the recipe.



  • Loved seeing the actual handwritten recipe! This looks like a great recipe, and it looks similar to the Picalilli mentioned above, too. I just stumbled across your site from a Google search on the ingredients, because seeing the Royal Wedding on tv today reminded me of our trip to London. Pictured here is what I now think was Picalilli, about a third of the way down my page is a pic of our Ploughman’s lunch: http://hollyknott.com/england/england2.htm Your site looks great – am going to check out more of your pages now. :-)

  • I just found your blog through your Tasty Kitchen post on buttermilk syrup. My husband’s Aunt (who’s from Manti)made that syrup and has passed the recipe on to us. We love it!

    I couldn’t believe when I saw this post for mustard pickles! I have never seen anyone else blog about them. I was introduced to them by a roommate in college from Canada and I LOVE them! My favorite way to eat it is on a toasted tuna sandwich or a hamburger. Definitely worth the work

    Here’s my recipe for them:

    Have a great day!

  • Men also love canning
    I cannot wait to make your family’s Mustard Pickles. We moved to the mountains of North Carolina from Miami and I love the satisfaction of a full larder come fall. My partner’s job will be pealing the pearl onions.

    I do all kinds of pickles. tomatoes, jams, applesauce etc.
    Thanks for sharing you recipe

  • Francisco:

    Have you ever tried it made with honey instead of sugar? I’m sure it would taste great, do you think it could be done? This recipe taste’s amazing. I tried roasted apple slices with honey and mustard at a local restaurant and it makes a great combination…:D

  • Joyce A. Quintal:

    These pickles are the most delicious pickle. My Mom and I, and my three sisters did a lot of canning to make it through the winter months. My Mother acquired the recipe from an old “Rumford Complete Cookbook.” Each year we tried one or two new recipes. These pickles are amazing. After the pickles are gone there is usually some sauce left. Don’t throw it out ~ use on sandwiches that you would put mustard on, like ham or roast beef. Awesome.

    Enjoy, Joyce

  • I’m looking forward to making these pickles. My mother-in-law made mustard pickles many years ago and they were to die for. This recipe sounds very much like hers. I have one question–on the original recipe, the ingredient following the 4 oz of Colman’s Mustard is difficult to read but looks like 3 tbsp soft mustard–would this be a reference to prepared mustard? Should I simply disregard this? Looking forward to your feedback. I’m off to get started on these pickles. Thanks.

    • Calli:

      Hi Patricia, yes you should just disregard this. The recipe calls for 4oz of Colman’s dried mustard powder.

      Have fun!

  • Kami:

    I just wanted to take a moment and tell you how precious her little recipe is. I have a few from my sweet Grandma and finding this warmed my heart. How sweet!

  • Mini:

    We grew up on these pickles and I have my mothers recipe which is similar and they are so good. One little tip…..you can purchase frozen peeled onions – no brine and way cheaper than the canned ones. Way easier! I chop and freeze onions from my garden…just like green peppers. Very handy! Your original recipe is a real treasure!

  • Maureen:

    I too know these as picalilli. My grandmother made some every year but they were not my favourites as they were too sour for me. Later, grown up, I made my own and added more sugar!

    It’s origins are Indian, but the vegetable ingredients must vary according to what is cheap and available. My grandmother always padded it out with a giant marrow (squash), the sauce is so powerful that I don’t think it made any difference to the final result!

  • Lisa:

    I have been searching for a long time for this recipe. My lil granny made this all the time, but I never knew what it was called. I just knew I loved it! Thank you!

  • Georgia Goddeau:

    This is my second year making these. The first years I had some mistakes. They were good anyway. This year is perfection. 1st The 1 cup of salt. I used Regular salt was’nt specified and let sit over Nightthen rinsed in the morning. I added more cauliflower as it is so so good in that mustard sause pickled. I made a “DOUBLE” batch with 3 very large heads and 3 medium heads of cauliflower with 100 cukes.In two seperate pot. thats (Alot of cukes and cauliflower) I added 4 long hot pepers along with 6 red pepers. the onions I used 6 big white fresh onions chopped in a food processor as the pearl onins are very expensive. Then followed the regular recipe..A 1/2 gallon of vingar to each pot.*** The vegs will boil down and make juice and make it easier to stir. I had a perfect amount of vegs and mustard sause. note:I would add a very little xtra vingar/water about 1 cup to make sure you have enough sause while your adding the vingar. Because of the double batch and the exta vegs I added to it made 52 pints. I love this recipe !

  • Lesley:

    Hi, I would love to make this recipe but pickling cucumbers I have never seen in any shops here in Oz , and I am growing zucchini, could I use that instead and if so how many of what size ? Can’t wait to try make it.

  • Michael:

    These are also called Chow-Chow pickles. They are sold in grocery stores here in Utah as a regular item. When I was a kid they had large chunks of vegies and just enough mustard to cover. Now they are small bits of veggies and almost a soup of mustard sauce. I must try these.

  • misssmsry:

    Can you omit the cauliflower?

  • Jolene:

    So how many lbs of cucumbers is recommended? how many lbs is 50 med cucumbers? Also do we use cornstarch instead of flour???????

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