Soil and Cellar

Growing and preserving foods in Seattle

Bread and Butter Pickles – it may not be too late!


Bread and butter pickles - after 4 weeks of waiting.

Bread and butter pickles – after 4 weeks of waiting.

I was raised on dill pickles: sour, spicy, herby, and crisp, the kind that will wake up your taste buds. Not sweet. Sweetness has no place on a pickle. I’m not even that big on relish. So bread & butter pickles have never really been my thing. Plus, I find the bright yellow store pickles off putting.

These pickles start with cucumbers (obviously) and also onions and green peppers.

These pickles start with cucumbers (obviously) and also onions and green peppers. I wondered about the green peppers, but I don’t taste them in the finished pickle. They must add a subtle flavor.

Wait, wait, hear me out. I was uninitiated! It isn’t surprising that our parent’s tastes (like their politics, values, and styles) permeate our own. My parents never served us sweet pickles, so how was I to know that a sandwich with semi-sweet pickles was delicious?

All of the veg are sliced very thin - I used a mandoline and set it at 1/8"

Slicing the cucumbers with a mandoline.

My “transformation” started this spring, with the carrot relish you see in the banner photo. (I will remake that and write about it soon.) It was amazing on burgers and sandwiches. So I had this revelation: “sweet and crunchy is good.”

Mix the veg with salt and keep in a bowl with ice cubes for 3 hours, with a weight on top. I used a plate stacked with canned goods, worked like a charm!

Salting the veggies. Let sit for 3 hours (the ice cubes keep it cool), with a weight on top. I used a plate stacked with canned goods, worked like a charm! This step pulls excess moisture from the veggies.

I wanted to try a new pickle recipe (still on the hunt for the best pickles!) and Becky over at Chicken Wire and Paper Flowers had posted a recipe from a book from the 70s. I figured any recipe that is still around after that long must be pretty good. The full recipe is below.

Thoroughly rinse the salt off the veggies. No need to pat dry but do let them drip dry a little.

Rinsing the veggies. No need to pat dry but do let them drip dry.

It took me two days to make them. See, you should really read the full recipe before starting. There’s a step where you let the veggies sit in salt for 3 hours. Once those three hours were up, I was due at a friend’s. So I rinsed them and put them in the fridge until the next day.

Mix the veg with the spices and vinegar, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until hot but  not boiling.

Cooking the mixture over the stove.

After finishing the recipe, you’re supposed to wait, so I dutifully packed them into jars, labeled with, “open after 9/21,” and waited. Honestly, I’m not sure the importance of waiting, but Becky said they are better the longer you let them sit, so fair enough. At any rate, I opened the jar on Monday. Holy smokes, these are delightful little beasts.

Pour into hot sterile jars, put on lids, and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Here the jars of pickles have been processed. Now we wait…

The pickles are sweet but not harshly sweet, just a perfect flavor. They’re a little yellow from the turmeric, but not fluorescent. They are exactly what a bread and butter pickle should be. They taste amazing on sandwiches, and are fun even as a snack. I will be taking them as my contribution to the appetizer lunch at Ladies Preservation Society today. Yes, they are good enough to give to others without apology, and the recipe is big enough that I don’t feel like a fool for sharing.

The waiting is the hardest part, as they say. When finished, they will be the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. Enjoy!

When finished, the pickles will be the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. Enjoy!

Recipe (I halved the recipe from The Ideals Family Garden Cookbook, via Chicken Wire and Paper Flowers)

Makes about 3 pints (using 2 lbs of cukes)

½ gallon cucumbers (about 2 – 3 lbs cucumbers)
4 small white onions
1 green pepper (shredded)
¼ cup salt

2.5 cups sugar
¾ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
½ tsp celery seeds
2.5 cups cider vinegar

Wash veggies. Slice cucumbers and onions crosswise in very thin slices. I used a mandoline at 1/8” thickness. Using a cheese grater, grate the green pepper (this is harder and more wasteful than it sounds, so cutting into small pieces would work, too). Mix the veggies with salt in a bowl. Stir in about a tray of ice cubes, to keep cold. Cover with a weighted lid and let stand for 3 hours. Rinse and drain thoroughly.

To make the syrup, mix all the dry goods together, then add vinegar.

Combine syrup and veggies in a large pot. Put over low heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very hot but not yet boiling.

Place in hot sterile jars, add lids, and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Let stand 4-6 weeks before opening.

6 thoughts on “Bread and Butter Pickles – it may not be too late!

  1. You can let them sit in the ice & salt mix overnight if you need to. All that does is make the pickles crisp.

    That was my mom’s recipe, but if you spend time reading pickle recipes (as I do), you’ll notice that most bread & butter recipes, esp. the older ones, are the same. The difference in this one is the tumeric. Letting them sit is key to the flavor developing – it allows the vinegar & spices to penetrate. I haven’t included green peppers in this recipe in a few years – although I have used jalapenos when I’ve had them on hand. I have tried others bread & butter pickles and some have come close to being as good as this, but this one is the best. You can use it for squash too, should you end up with way too many zucchini’s.

    If you are looking for pickle recipes, I strongly recommend you get a copy of “Joy of Pickling”. It’s the definitive book on pickles. Most pickle-making fanatics agree, dill cucumber pickles are hands down, the hardest to make. They are what some folks call a “level two pickle”, not for beginners. The secret in getting a nice, crisp dill pickle is fermenting. There was some sort of bug going around the pickling cukes here this summer, so my batch did not turn out. However, my mexican mini-gerkins have fermented into some lovely little pickles – so much so that the last batch of egg salad I whipped up, I used those and my husband raved about the pickles for days.

    • I’m glad you found the right recipe for the mini gerkins! Is it the one you posted earlier this summer?
      I’m also glad to hear I’m not alone in finding dill pickles challenging. I will be buying that book post haste!
      And thank you for being such a helpful canning mentor, your advice is always appreciated and kindly given.

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