There’s a certain large picnic that I cook for every August, so I start pickling as soon as small pickling cucumbers show up at the farmers’ markets. This year I did not can any dill pickles, at least not so far, but decided to go back to an old family favorite, bread and butter pickles. The recipe comes from an old index card with childish handwriting that’s been in my notebook for a long time, but I have adapted to the amounts typically sold as a unit in the market (2 dry quarts) since I prefer to can in small batches. Sliced very thin, and accompanied by a lot of onions, these pickles become almost a condiment.
After all of the jamming for the Tigress Can Jam monthly blogging event (this month it’s about cucurbits, a plant family that includes cucumbers), I’m saturated with sugary concoctions, and intrigued with making things that are both sweet and hot. So for my sweet hot pickles, I cut them in thicker chunks (1/4 inches) than the slivers of bread and butters and dropped the celery seed in favor of cloves, garlic, and dried West Indian peppers (they looked like cayennes). I canned most but set aside some in the refrigerator to cure so that I could check on the hotness. These pickles take at least two weeks to cure, better a month. If the taste test is a disaster, I will decant what I canned and figure out the next step. I saved some pickle juice in the fridge just in case. Now nearly 10 days later, I can report so far so good.
Bread and Butter Pickles
2 dry quarts (0r heaping dry pints) pickling cucumbers (about 3 lbs)
3 medium yellow onions (about ½ lb)
½ c pickling salt (I used coarse Kosher salt)
3 c apple cider vinegar (or 2 white vinegar and 1 apple cider vinegar)
3 c sugar
1 tbsp yellow mustard seed
1 ½ tsp celery seed
1 ½ tsp ground turmeric
(See notes below for sweet hot variation)
For bread and butter pickles, slice the cucumbers and onions very thin and layer them in a large bowl with the salt. Nearly cover with ice cold water and set aside in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Drain, rinse well and drain again, setting them aside to continue to drain while making the syrup. Prepare the jars for canning.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. As soon as the liquid boils, add the reserved cucumbers and bring the mixture just to a simmer. Remove from the heat and spoon the cucumbers into the prepared jars, leaving about an inch of head space for pint jars or ¾ inch for 12 oz jars. Pour the liquid over the top, making sure to distribute the seeds among the jars and eliminating air space. Cap and process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, remove the lid and let stand for 5 minutes before removing to a cool place to sit undisturbed until cooled and sealed.
Makes about 3-4 pints
Variation: Sweet Hot Bread and Butter Pickles
Slice the cucumbers into thicker rounds (1/4 inch or more) than for bread and butter pickles. You can also cut the onions into chunks. Eliminate the celery seed and substitute a head of garlic separated into cloves and coarsely chopped (1/3 – ½ c), adding it to the sugar-vinegar mixture with the onions and cucumbers. Place in each jar as you’re ladling in the cucumbers 1 peeled garlic clove and 2 dried cayenne peppers or bird chiles. Note that the larger peppers are typically less hot than the little ones.