Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sweet Pickles - Bread & Butter

I have often wondered why those nice crunchy sweet pickle slices are called bread and butter pickles. Maybe it is obvious to everyone else, bread and butter has the connotation of sandwiches, so I guess it is a sandwich pickle vs. a hamburger pickle.

So I did a little research on this.

Turns out the sandwich part is a good guess. These pickles were developed during the Great Depression when food was scarce and cucumbers were plentiful. The pickles could be preserved for a time of winter scarcity. Cucumber sandwiches were a frequent healthy meal during the off season when garden vegetables were not available but bread and butter were plentiful.

Here is a great recipe that I have made several times and have been fine tuning the approach and seasonings. The first time I made it we ate two jars in the first day.

You can make these two different ways one is without canning call refrigerator pickles and the second by using a water bath to heat and seal the jars. You can also salt the cucumbers for a more crispy pickle or use them unsalted if you want a low salt alternative.

 This recipe will make six pint jars.


  1. 6 pounds of  organic cucumbers (about 12 medium slicers), you can use larger pickling cucumbers or just smaller slicing cucumbers from your local farmers market. Wash well. Cut into 1/4 inch slices. You can do smaller or bigger slices according to your preference.
  2. A red bell or other pepper cut into thin slices.
  3. Two large onions cut into thin 1/2 inch slices. 
  4. Optional.  One poblano, serrano, or jalapeno pepper. Dice into thin rings.
  5. 2 cups organic white vinegar.
  6. 1 cup organic sugar. (If you like a very sweet pickle you can use 2 cups).
  7. 1/2 cup water
  8. 1 tablespoon mustard seeds (yellow or brown)
  9. 1/2 trablespoon of whole pepper corns
  10. 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (you can use whole ones too)
  11. 1 teaspoon tumeric (gives the pickles that golden color)
  12. 1/2 -3/4 cup of pickling or kosher salt. (don't use iodized salt or it will discolor your veggies)
  1. Wash the cucumbers thoroughly and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Discard the two end pieces.
  2. Cut up the peppers and onions into thin pieces so they will mix into the pickles.
  3. If you are going to salt the pickles mix salt with the sliced vegetables stirring thoroughly until the salt coats everything. Cover with plastic and let sit in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours. This will pull the water out of the cucumbers and other veggies an make them more crisp.\
  4. After the salted cucumbers slices sit for 2-4 hours rinse them off for 3-4 minutes removing all the external salt. While they are rinsing you can make the brine.
  5. Add the sugar, vinegar, water and spices to a sauce pan. Heat until simmering. Let simmer for 15 minutes. It smells great!
  6. Sterilize your jars and get your water bath boiling if you are going to be sealing your jars.
  7. Pack the cucumber mix tightly into pint (or quart) jars. Leave room about 1/4 inch or a little more below the rim of the jar.
  8. Use a canning funnel if you have it. Pour the brine over the pickles leaving about 1/4 inch head room. If you see air bubbles slide a thin knife along the edge until they bubble to the top. Add more brine if needed until full.
  9. Wipe off edges, add caps and rings. Put in water bath for 15 minutes after the caner comes back to a boil. 
  10. Remove from water and set to cool. Caps should all pop to be sealed.
  11. If doing the refrigerator version. Just fill the jars on put in the frig.
You can leave. out the salt step if you are sensitive to salt. Just use the vegetables fresh. They are still great. It is also a little quicker that way.

You can experiment with the spices. Add some chipotle peppers if you like it spicy. Several cloves of garlic are also a good addition.

I didn't grow any pickling cucumbers this year and a small to medium slicing cucumber worked real good. We grow these long thin cucumbers which are just perfect at the younger stage.

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