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bread and butter picklesHere in SE Michigan it’s been a cool summer so far, which has been perfect weather for cucumbers. I’m taking advantage of the bumper crop to make pickles.

Today’s batch is an old-fashioned favorite: sweet & tangy bread and butter slices. Fresh Kirby cucumbers are best to use. I’ve cut mine into crosswise slices, though you can certainly make spears if you wish.

Bread and Butter Pickles makes 8 pint jars, recipe may be halved 

  • 5 lb fresh pickling cucumbers
  • 2 lb new white or yellow onions
  • 1/2 c fine pickling salt (NOTE: be sure to use a salt without additives, because regular salt will make muddy dark pickles) 
  • 2 1/2 c white distilled vinegar, 5% acidity
  • 2 c apple cider vinegar, 5% acidity
  • 4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 12 allspice berries, plus a pinch of ground allspice
  • 12 whole cloves, plus a pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • about 6 cups ice cubes or crushed ice

Rinse the cucumbers well, and scrub away any dirt that the farmer may have left on. Slice off 1/8″ from each end, and discard. (There is an enzyme in the blossom end that would make your pickles mushy. Get rid of it.) 

Slice the cucumbers 1/4″ thick, and put into a 4-5 quart nonreactive bowl or basin. Have the onions lengthwise, then slice the halves crosswise 1/4″ thick, and add them to the cucumbers. Pour the salt over all, and mix well together. Pile on an inch or two of ice. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, and put it in the refrigerator or a cooler for 2 to 4 hours.

Prepare 8 pint jars for canning: either boil them in a large kettle of water for 10 minutes, or run them through the dishwasher. Set 8 bands aside, ready to use. Put 8 lids in a heat-proof bowl, cover them with boiling water, and let the lids stand until you are ready to use them.

When you’re ready to proceed, discard the ice from the sliced cucumbers and onions. Rinse the vegetables thoroughly, drain, and then rinse and drain again.

Take a 6 to 8 quart non-reactive pot (I like stainless steel for this). Pour in both vinegars, the sugar, and all the spices. Bring this to a boil, stirring occasionally, and be sure that the sugar is dissolved. Add the sliced cucumbers and onions, and bring back to the boil. As soon as the liquid begins boiling again, use a slotted spoon to pack the hot jars with the vegetables. Pack each jar, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Then pour the hot vinegar/spice solution over the vegetables to within 1/2 inch from the rim. Wipe the rims clean, cover with lids, then secure finger-tight with the bands.

Process the filled jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (up to altitudes of 1000 feet above sea level.) Let jars cool on a towel, and listen for the cheerful popping sound as the lids seal. If a lid does not seal properly, store the jar in the refrigerator and use it promptly.