exploring, preserving: past, present

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Beautiful Bread and Butter #Pickles, or 4 Hours of My #Canning Life

bread and butter pickles

My recipe for bread and butter pickles comes from my mother. That recipe stems from a now unlocateable newspaper clipping, and years of adjusting the recipe to family’s tastebuds.  At the end of this post, I will share the recipe with you.

To me, there’s almost nothing more pretty than a perfectly canned pint of bread and butter pickles. This is another preserved item that I simply did not like at all growing up–something about all those onions–and now I just love the taste, texture, colour…everything about it. It’s a recipe that is much more time-consuming than dills, however, because of all the slicing.

Slicing can become dangerous if you’re not careful. I have a wonderful, very sharp, mandoline for slicing the cucumbers and onions. My husband is impressed with how perfectly uniform the slices are (hey, that’s what a mandoline does!).

This is approximately 4 pounds of cucumbers sliced with 3 large sweet spanish onions.

The slicing is what took up an hour of my time. It took about half an hour for me to staunch the bleeding from my thumb, which I nicked on the mandoline while loading it into the dishwasher (sigh). When discussing this injury with my mother yesterday, she proudly proclaimed that this was the first year she had not injured herself while making bread and butter pickles. Oh, the sacrifices we make while canning and preserving!

Because my dominant hand’s thumb was now bandaged and slowing me down, what would have normally taken only an hour or so more than doubled, as I packed 14 pints for processing.

Waiting for processing…mmm!

The turmeric spice is what adds the gorgeous colour to the pickles after they are processed. Lovely as well as flavourful!

I will share the recipe with you in this post–it’s a favourite of my family’s and I hope you will try it and tell me what you think!

Bread and Butter Pickles  (makes 7 pints)

4 pounds cucumbers

3 large sweet onions (Spanish or Vidalia work nicely)

1/2 cup salt (can be adjusted to less if on lower salt diet)

1 quart (1200 mL) pickling vinegar

3 cups sugar (can be adjusted to less if on low sugar diet)

2 tsp mustard seed

2 tsp celery seed (I have sometimes substituted fennel seed, adds similar flavour)

2 tsp ginger (fresh grated is best!)

1 tsp turmeric

Wash, then soak cucumbers in cold water for 4 hours (if coming straight from the garden or storage shed). Alternatively, chill cucumbers in fridge in preparation for slicing. All you really want is cold cucumbers to prevent losing too much juice while slicing.

Slice cucumbers without peeling them. Slice onions after peeling and stemming them.

Prepare jars in your water bath, or sterilize jars and keep them hot in the dishwasher. Keep lids on low simmer while waiting for processing.

Prepare brine by heating vinegar, salt, sugar, mustard seed, celery (or fennel) seed, ginger, and turmeric to dissolve salt and sugar and activate spices. Typically, canning recipes ask for spices to be in cheesecloth bag, but I mix them all in and strain them out later. Save what you strain so you can put a bit of the spices into the top of each jar you process!

Tightly pack jars with sliced cucumbers and onions. Put one teaspoon of strained spice mixture in each jar. Pour hot brine into jars, leaving approximately 1 cm head space. Use rubber spatula or wooden utensil to remove air trapped between slices, and add more brine if necessary to adjust head space. Seal jars finger tight.

Process in lidded, boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove lid, let sit for 5 minutes, then remove. If you remember my past posts about troubleshooting tips, you’ll flip those jars upside down on paper or cardboard (something where leaks are easily noticeable). Leave upside down undisturbed for 12-24 hours. If leaks develop, retighten and reseal. Reprocessing is not necessary if contents are still hot as vacuum will still form in cooling process.


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Lots of #canning, #preserving, and #troubleshooting today!

Tomorrow I will spend some time blogging about my chat with my mom today, and how “I am my father’s daughter” when it comes to apricots. But that’s going to have to wait, because today was a very long day of canning, preserving, blanching, and freezing.

Proof of my exploits are below:

4 quarts of dills, 7 pints of beets, 2 bags of blanched green beans, 2 bags of blanched yellow beans, 2 bags of rhubarb, 3 bags of sour cherries (only one of them pitted…so time consuming!)

The above took me all morning, all afternoon, and an hour after supper. But I didn’t stop there, oh no! Had to get some fruit preserves (not just frozen) into the mix. So for the first time ever, I raw packed apricots (halved and pitted) into light syrup.

6 pints of halved and pitted apricots, raw packed in light syrup. Not sure if they’ll seal properly, it’s my first time raw packing fruit…


While I was canning my beets, I noticed that after they came out of the canner all the jars had this cloudy film all over the glass:

Cloudy film coating the pint jars after processing

No, it’s not because they’re hot and it will disappear when it cools. No, it’s not because they’re not sterilized or cleaned. It’s either my canner starting to age and the metal reacting with the minerals in our tap water (leaving a filmy calcified deposit on the glass), or there were more minerals in the tap water today than other days.

No worries…the cloudy film easily wipes off to reveal the pretty preserves beneath!

A quick rub with a damp towel, and the processed beets are revealed!

As you must realize from the top two pictures, I have a lot to talk about–blanching, freezing, pitting fruits (is it really worth it or not?). But that, my friends, will wait for more blog posts starting tomorrow. It’s been a long and successful day of canning, and I’m tired! More blogging tomorrow after a good night’s rest!

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Memories of Mom, and Pickled Beets #canning and #preserving

Beets…and Memories

My mother is about to turn 79 in two weeks. She’s petite, with curly white hair, and is a canning and preserving guru. I remember always being “in her way” in the kitchen, wanting to see what she was doing and how she was doing it. I spent many hours watching and helping her cook, bake, and create shelves full of preserves while I was growing up.

This past week, my canning exploits triggered happy memories of how my home growing up smelled. That spicey, vinegary mix of brine with veggies was unmistakeable to my brain. In particular, the day I made pickled beets brought back a lot of memories for me. Memories of absolutely hating their taste. Memories of having to “taste it because you don’t know what you like”. Memories of trying to cut a pickled beet and having it slide onto my lap, hoping my mom didn’t notice but knowing full well that stain was just NOT going to come out easily.

As an adult, I now love the taste of pickled beets. Maybe it has something to do with lots of home-cooked meal memories from growing up. Maybe it has something to do with me being able to cut the beets without it getting messy. It definitely has something to do with how beautiful they look, both in a jar and on the plate.

Richly coloured pickled beets in pint jars.

Beets that I use for pickling are not much bigger than two inches diameter. Petite, easily pickled without cutting them up, and pretty when served in a bowl during dinner.

These cleaned beets have their stems and roots left on to prevent bleeding while being cooked (boiled) for 30 minutes.

Boiling the beets precooks them to prepare them for pickling, and allows the skins/stems/roots to be removed quite easily.  After cooking, their colour changes already. The beets below still have their skins, stems, and roots.

Beets cooling after being boiled for 30 minutes.

Trimming off the stems, roots, and peeling off the skins reveals an even more beautiful colour to these beets.

Beets ready and waiting to be processed with brine, then put into jars for pickling.

The brine for pickling beets contains a very different ratio of vinegar to water than the dill pickle recipe from past posts. There’s much more vinegar in this brine than water.

You can see the pickling spice in the brine. The recipe called for the spice to be placed in a cheesecloth bag. Rather than use cheesecloth, I strain out the spice after processing.

I had 2.6kg of beets, and this yielded 9 pint jars of pickled beets.

Nine pint jars of pickled beets cooling on cork trivets.

These should add some colour and flavour to winter meals!