Christmas Pickles Recipe (Made With Cinnamon Red Hots)
If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying Christmas pickles made with cinnamon Red Hots, you’re missing out. These pickles are sweet, tangy, crunchy, and cinnamon-flavored – the perfect addition to your Christmas snack table.
I have a very special recipe to share with you today!
This recipe isn’t difficult, per se, but the process of making these cinnamon-flavored pickles lasts several days. However, most of that is soaking time.
What Are Christmas Pickles?
Christmas pickles are red hot cinnamon pickles that are sweet and tangy. They have a delicious, addictive bite to them. They taste a bit like candied apples. In fact, it’s hard to believe they are made from cucumbers.
No red food coloring is required: These pickles are colored and flavored with a cinnamon Red Hots candy-flavored pickling liquid.
Christmas pickles make great holiday gifts. I usually make a batch in the fall and give them away around Christmas time. I also include them on my holiday grazing board. Making these has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions.
What Makes This Recipe Different
You’ll find many recipes on the internet for Christmas pickles. This recipe solves two issues I found with the original recipe I followed:
- More syrup: The recipe I originally followed did not have enough syrup (pickling liquid) – so I was left with extra cucumbers with no syrup. I have increased the amount of syrup to make sure you’ll have enough when canning your pickles.
- Safety warning: The first time I made the pickles, I didn’t wear gloves when working with the pickling lime. This was a big mistake! My hands got really chapped from coming in contact with the pickling lime. Be sure to wear latex gloves or kitchen gloves when handling this chemical.
What You’ll Need: Food Supplies
Here are the food ingredients you will need to make cinnamon pickles:
- Cucumbers: I typically make Christmas pickles in August/September in Minnesota, when I can find affordable large pickling cucumbers at the farmer’s market. For this recipe, I used 22 cucumbers like this. They were each between 5 and 6 inches long.
- Pickling lime: You can find this at many local hardware stores, Walmart or online. Look in the canning section of these stores.
- Red Hots: These candies were harder to find than I anticipated – but I finally found them at Walmart. The Red Hots provide the rich red hue to these pickles – no red food coloring is required.
- Vinegar: White distilled vinegar is the best option for Christmas pickles. You can usually find a 64-ounce container of white vinegar for less than $4.00 at the grocery store. Look for the standard 5% acidity.
- Alum: You can find this at most larger grocery stores, Walmart or online.
What You’ll Need: Supplies
If you’ve canned before, this recipe should be no problem for you. If you’re new to canning, just read through this whole post and follow the recipe, below. Here’s what you’ll need in terms of canning supplies:
- Canning jars: You can use pint jars (16 ounce) or half pint jars (8 ounce) to can Christmas pickles. It’s up to you. I typically make a few pint jars and a few half pint jars – both are good for Christmas gifts.
- Canning lids: You can purchase canning lids at most hardware stores, Walmart or any store that sells canning supplies. You can also buy jars that come with lids. Be sure to buy new lids – don’t reuse old ones!
- Canning rings: These are screwed onto the jars to secure the lids. Unlike lids, rings can be reused.
- Large stock pot: This will be used to boil the jars before canning.
- Large glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowls or crocks: Use these to house the pickling lime water which the cucumbers will soak in.
- Large Dutch oven or pot: This will be used to make the red cinnamon brine that the pickles soak in.
- Jar lifter: This helps you safely remove the jars from the hot water bath. Alternatively, you can use tongs to (carefully!) remove the jars from the water.
The Process: Plan For 4 Days
The process of making these pickles spans 4 days, but most of that time involves soaking. Here’s a breakdown of that process:
Prep the cucumbers: Wash the cucumbers to remove any debris. Peel and cut in half length-wise. Remove seeds with a spoon and discard. Cut cucumbers in small half-moons, about 1/2-inch thick each.
*Alternatively, you can cut cucumbers into more of a French fry shape that is slightly shorter than the size of your canning jars.
Soak in pickling lime:
Safety note: Be sure to wear protective gloves when working with pickling lime. It is very acidic and can damage the skin. I always wear gloves when opening a bag of pickling lime, when adding it to water and when I otherwise handle the substance.
DO NOT put pickling lime water in a iron, copper or brass container. Instead, use glass, a ceramic crock or stainless steel.
Add the pickling lime powder to the water and mix until dissolved. Add cucumbers to the liquid. If you don’t have a crock or stainless steel bowl large enough to hold all of the cucumbers in water, you can divide it up into 2 or more smaller bowls.
Soak the cucumbers in the water for 24 hours.
Wear gloves to protect hands: Drain the cucumbers and rinse with cold water. You’ll want to soak the cucumbers, swish them around, and rinse very well to remove all of the pickling lime debris. Go through this process 3 times.
Once cucumbers are sufficiently clean, set aside.
Combine vinegar, alum, and enough water to cover cucumbers in a large Dutch oven or stainless steel stock pot. Add cucumbers. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, drain liquid. Set cucumbers aside. The prepped cucumbers will look like this:
Prepare pickling solution, including vinegar, water, and Red Hots. Bring to a boil and stir until candies are dissolved. Pour over prepared cucumbers.
Remove cucumbers from Red Hot solution. Bring liquid to a boil, turn off heat, and add cucumbers back to solution.
To can the pickles, you’ll want to sterilize the jars in boiling water. Remove from water using a jar lifter or tongs. Carefully place cucumbers in hot jars, and fill almost to the top with red pickling brine. Using a damp paper towel, clean off the glass rim and any liquid that has dripped down, screw on the lid, and place in boiling water (hot water bath) for 10 minutes.
One the jars have been in the hot water bath for 10 minutes, remove from water and allow to rest on the countertop for 24 hours to bring to room temperature. The jars should seal – you may hear some of the lids pop.
Canning 101: What Is A Hot Water Bath?
Once the pickles are placed in the jar, the liquid has been added, and the tops have been screwed on, you will place the jars in a hot water bath.
But what exactly, is hot water bath canning?
This method of canning involves placing the jars in a water bath canner – or a large stockpot – full of boiling water. The jars are submerged in water for a set amount of time, usually 10 or 15 minutes processing time. This process kills harmful bacteria and microbes that can spoil the food.
As the jars cool, they will seal. You may hear a pop as the jars cool down and seal. If a jar does not seal, you can consume the pickles right away and store in the fridge – but don’t store at room temperature as the contents won’t be safe to eat.
Once you have removed the jars from the hot water bath with a jar lifter or tongs, let them set on the counter undisturbed for 24 hours.
Here is a video that explains the water bath canning process:
Are these pickles a lot of work? Kind of – you have to plan ahead – but I think it’s totally worth it. If it’s your first time making pickles, you may want to read the recipe a few times and watch the video, above.
I recommend reading the recipe carefully and planning your days in advance, since these pickles take 4 days to make.
This is the perfect way to use up the large cucumbers from your garden or farmers market.
Once they’re made, you’ll have several jars of pickles ready to give away as holiday gifts or enjoy at home. This is one of my favorite pickle recipes (tied with my favorite watermelon pickles).
Finally – good luck! This recipe is a lot of fun to make. You’ll be able to enjoy the pickles around Christmas time – and really, any time of year.
- 20 to 22 cucumbers, about 5 to 6 inches long
- 1 cup pickling lime
- 24 cups water
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
- 1 tablespoon alum
For cinnamon syrup
- 3 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 boxes Red Hot candies (5.5 ounces each)
- 12 cups white granulated sugar
- Day 1: Peel cucumbers, cut in half the long way, and scoop out the seeds and soft insides. Discard seeds. Slice into 3/4-inch pieces. In a large stainless steel, glass or ceramic bowl, dissolve pickling lime in 24 cups of water. Add sliced cucumbers to lime water. Soak for 24 hours.
- Day 2: Drain cucumbers. Place in a large colander and rinse well. Soak and rinse cucumbers a total of 3 times - swishing the cucumbers around while soaking to remove any debris or remaining pickling lime powder. Then, soak cucumbers in ice water for 3 hours. Drain and rinse again.
- Stir 1 cup vinegar + alum in a large Dutch oven or stainless steel stock pot. Add cucumbers and enough water to cover cucumbers by an inch. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 2 hours. Drain and discard solution.
- In a large stockpot, combine 3.5 cups vinegar, 3.5 cups water, Red Hots, and sugar. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Pour hot solution over cucumbers. Allow to sit until next day.
- Day 3: Remove cucumbers from cinnamon solution. Bring solution to a boil and pour it on the cucumbers. Allow to sit until next day.
- Day 4: Bring pickles in syrup to a boil. Sterilize canning jars in boiling water for 10 minutes.. Take jar out of water, add pickles to within 1 inch of the top of the jar, and add cinnamon solution to within 1/2 inch of the top. Use a damp paper towel to remove any syrup that has dripped onto the rim of the jar. Place clean lids on top and screw shut with rings. Place jars in a hot water bath and process for 10 minutes.
- Using a jar lifter or tongs, carefully remove jars from simmering water. Place on countertop, undisturbed, for 24 hours.