4 quarts pickling cucumbers, rinsed well and blossom ends rubbed off
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons celery seeds
2 teaspoons red-pepper flakes
1 batch prepared brine (recipe follows)

Cut the prepared cukes into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Pack cucumbers into clean jars or food-grade, plastic containers, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Divide the mustard seeds, celery seeds and pepper flakes among containers.

If the brine has been refrigerated, reheat in a nonaluminum pan. Ladle hot brine into containers, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Attach lids. Let cool to room temperature, then store in refrigerator.

Pickles need at least 7 to 10 days of aging but will improve even more as time goes by — for months and months. I've kept batches for up to 24 months, and they've been fabulous down to the last pickle. Makes up to a gallon.

To store pickles at room temperature, wash pint or quart-sized canning jars (such as Ball or Kerr). Keep hot until ready to use. Pack pickles into jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Divide spices among jars. Pour strained, hot brine into 1 jar at a time, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Wipe jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Place metal disc of two-piece lids on top of jar opening, then screw on metal screw band. Fill and close remaining jars.

Process jars, using low-temperature pasteurization, which doesn't expose pickles to boiling water and keeps them firmer. Place jars in canner filled halfway with warm (120 to 140 F) water. Then add hot water to a level 1 inch above jars. Heat water enough to maintain 180 to 185 F for 30 minutes. Check with a candy or jelly thermometer to be certain water temperature is at least 180 F during entire 30 minutes. Temperatures higher than 185 F may cause unnecessary softening of pickles. There is no a processing time for 2-quart jars, so if you are using this size, jar(s) must be refrigerated.

MAKE-AHEAD BRINE: In a large, nonaluminum pot, combine 6 cups cider vinegar, 2 cups water, 12/3 cups granulated sugar, 1 cup fresh dillweed, 1 cinnamon stick (optional), 2 tablespoons salt and 2 teaspoons ground turmeric. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. If readying a batch of refrigerator pickles, let mixture cool, then strain off dill and cinnamon stick. Pour brine into nonreactive containers, such as glass canning jars or food-grade, plastic tubs or jugs with tight-fitting lids. Refrigerate until ready to use. Makes 1/2 gallon.