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!).
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.
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.