Bread and Butter Pickles with a kick

I’ve been making bread and butter pickles for the last couple of years but am always looking for variations. A couple of weeks ago I combined a few different recipes and came up with the one below. I’ve also included some step by step pictures to ease the process.

Always start by sterilizing your jars and lids. I put the jars, even brand-new ones, in the dishwasher. The lids should be placed in boiling then a hot water bath till you use them.

The ingredients I used were:

4 lbs or 15 cups pickling cukes, cut in 1/4 slices, 4 medium onions sliced thin, 1/3 cup Kosher salt, 4 and 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar, 2 cups brown sugar plus 1 cup white granulated sugar, 3 tbls mustard seeds, 1 and 1/2 tsp celery seeds, 1 and 1/2 tsp ground tumeric, 1 and 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, 1 and 1/2 tsp ground ginger.

First, wash your cucumbers. Cut the ends off and use a mandolin to make the rippled edges. This is optional but it just doesn’t feel like a pickle to me if they aren’t ridged. Set the mandolin to make them 1/4 inch slices. This way they will have the perfect crunch texture. 

Next, slice the onions. Layer the cucumber slices and onions in a large glass or metal bowl with crushed ice. Toss with 1/3 cup salt. Some recipes call for more salt or soaking in water instead of ice. I’ve tried them all and this is the method and measurement I prefer. Cover the bowl in a wet towel and put something heavy on top. I use my flour canister. Leave them for 90 minutes or so.

After enough time has lapsed, rinse your cuke/onion mix. Rinse three times if you need to. Too much salt will ruin the whole recipe. Since these pickles are sour and tangy, salt flavor shouldn’t be evident.

Fill a canning pot with water to a level just higher than the jar tops and turn the stove on high. While that is reaching a boil…

Combine all your ingredients except the cukes and onions in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once boiled, pour in the (well rinsed!) vegetable mix. Bring that to a boil, which will take some time. About 20 minutes or so. You’ll know they’re done when they go from dark green to the caterpillar green pickle color.

Ladle this mix into waiting clean jars. Leave 1/2 inch head space. Cover with the hot lids (waiting in the pot of water) and screw on the bands. Don’t make them too tight but do tighten them. In this last batch, I had a jar open up on me when I took them out of the canner when they were done.

Once the water boils again, start your timer at 10 minutes. When they are done, take them out and set them on a dishcloth to cool. Don’t open them until they are completely cooled. I usually wait until the next day. This yields about 5 pint jars.

  Next step, enjoy!

To see Tracy’s other recipes, check out her Writer’s Kitchen or Canning page. For more information on her fiction writing, please go to her AMAZON PAGE.

Bread and Butter Pickle Recipe

Shifting away from my usual “take on writing and life” blog I wanted to share a great recipe and step by step instructions for Bread and Butter Pickles. A couple of years ago I was at a country festival and saw a woman selling jars of homemade Bread and Butter pickles at $8 a jar. I asked her how hard they were to make and she assured me they’re quite easy. I’ve tried a few times and she was right. I got a new recipe this week from the Blue Book Guide to Preserving. This is Edition 32. I’m also adding in tips I’ve learned along the way and made some minor modifications. This blog entry is more hands on for newbies than conventional cookbooks.

First, buy 4 lbs pickling cucumbers. These are the stubby ugly cukes not the shiny salad ones. Choose ones with bumps. They’ll make for a better crunch. Buy a bag of onions as well.

Clean and cut the end off the cukes then slice them into 1/4 inch pieces. I use a mandolin to make ridges but it’s not necessary. Next, cut 8 small (I used 5 medium) onions into thin slices. Combine the onions and cuke slices with 1/3 cup pickling salt. I used Kosher salt. I’m not sure what the difference is but mine works fine and you can buy it anywhere. Set them in a bowl and cover with ice then with a towel. Weigh it down with something heavy. I use my flour canister. Leave for 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill your canning pot (huge pan made for canning) with enough water to cover the jars and place a lid on top.  

At the 90 minute mark (time for the salt to draw liquid from cucumber mix), turn the stove on high and let the water in the canner start to boil. It takes a long time.

Thoroughly rinse all the salt off the onion, cucumber mixture. Drain and rinse and drain again. This is very IMPORTANT. My batch a few months ago was ruined because there was too much salt left on the veggies.

Clean your jars with hot sudsy water  (even if they’re new) and set aside. Place your caps in a pan of water to boil  and then simmer them. These need to stay bacteria-free so leave them in the hot water till the last second. Place your bands next to the jars. Get out your ladle and large mouth funnel and set those aside for later. If you can’t find a special funnel, cut the bottom off a paper cup. It’s messy but it works fine.

Next, in a large saucepan add all the below ingredients together. Once added, bring them to a boil stirring occasionally.

2 cups sugar, 2 tbls mustard seed, 2 tsps tumeric, 2 tsps celery seed, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp peppercorns, 3 cups white vinegar. (I’ve used apple vinegar as well)

Once boiled, fold in the onion/cuke mixture. You’ll notice as the water returns to a boil, the cucumbers will turn from dark green to faded pickle green.

When you’re at a good boil again, shut off the stove and start ladling the mixture into jars. I used quart jars but the next size down would be fine. Leave 1/4 inch headspace and add liquid with the solids. Adjust two-piece caps. Don’t overtighten. Add the jars to the now-boiling water canner. Wait for the water to boil again (shouldn’t take more than a minute or two) then process (meaning, sit and wait) for 10 minutes. The jar lids will pop noisily. This is normal.

After 10 minutes (don’t cook too long) remove from heat. With tongs, take the jars out and set on a towel on the counter. Don’t touch them for 24 hours. The book says it takes 4-6 weeks for the flavor to fully develop but I always open one as soon as the 24 hours is up to try them.

I hope you enjoy your canning experience. Let me know how it works for you.


Tracy L. Carbone ,  is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, published by Echelon Press. Buy Now as an eBook on Kindle . The print version will be released August 15th, 2010, and can be pre-ordered now.

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