Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pickles and Preserves

Bread and butter pickles.  Yum yum.  I love pickled things and these have been on my "to do" list for a week or two.  Saturday, I purchased cucumbers that are specific for pickling.  It was too hot to do anything outside today, so I made bread and butter pickles and peach preserves.  Oh boy! 

Why are they called bread and butter pickles?  I have often wondered that myself, so I did a little research today and this is what I found.

According to, bread and butter pickles are named such because during the Depression, they were as regular a part of a diet as bread and butter. The difference between bread and butter pickles and sweet pickles is just a few ingredients. Sweet pickles use cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in a vinegar-sugar brine. Bread and butter pickles are made with turmeric. mustard, and onion in a vinegar-sugar brine.

This is what I do know about these pickles -  they are so good and really easy to make.   Here is what you do.


3 pounds pickling cucumbers (they are small, no more than 6 inches long)
1 pound white or yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pickling or kosher salt (do not use iodized salt as it will turn your pickles "muddy")
1 cup apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1 1/4 cups white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 TBSP mustard seed
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 tsp celery seed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 all spice berries
6 whole cloves
1/2 tsp turmeric

3  1-qt canning jars with new lids, or 6 pint jars with new lids
1 large bowl to hold cucumber slices and onions
1 8 - 10 qt pan for the pickling process (use a non-reactive pan, enamel or stainless steel)

Sterilize your jars by washing them in the dishwasher or by hand.  When sterilizing them in the dishwasher, make sure you give yourself time for the cycle to complete before making your pickles.  If you do them by hand, place them in a cake pan and put them in a 200 degree oven for at least 10 minutes.  Put the lids and rings in a bowl.  Boil some water and pour it over the lids to sterilize.  You want your jars to be hot when you put the cucumber and vinegar syrup in, so you can do this right after you rinse and drain your cucumbers. (see directions below)

Next, you want to scrub each cucumber to make sure all the dirt has been removed.  Then, slice about 1/8 inch from each end of the cucumber and slice the remainder into 1/4 inch slices.  Pickling cucumbers are small, no more than 6 inches long.

Next, peel and slice your onions very thin.  Place all cucumbers and onions in a large bowl and pour in the 1/4 cup of salt.  Using your hands to mix, distribute the salt evenly throughout the pickle/onion mix. 

Now, place a thin tea towel over the bowl of cucumbers and onions (not terry cloth) and cover with ice cubes.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

After removing the cucumbers from the refrigerator, take the towel and ice cubes off the bowl.  Using a colander, wash and rinse the cucumbers and onions TWICE, letting them drain after each rinse.  *Now is the time to sterilize your jars in the oven if doing this method.*

Now, it's time to prepare your pickling liquid.  Put the 1 1/4 cups white vinegar, 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 1/4 cups sugar, 1 TBSP mustard seed, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 3/4 tsp celery seeds, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 6 all spice berries, 6 whole cloves and 1/2 tsp turmeric in an 8 to 10 quart pan.  Bring this mixture to a boil.  Once sugar has dissolved, add the sliced cucumbers and onions.  Let mixture come to a boil again.  As soon as the vinegar solution starts to boil again, use a slotted spoon to start packing hot jars with cucumbers and onion slices.  I used a funnel to make sure they don't spill everywhere.  

Pack the jars with the hot vegetables.  Go to within 1 inch of the jar rim.  I used a ladle and poured the vinegar syrup over the vegetables to 1/2 inch from the jar rim.  Be sure and wipe the rims of the jars clean or the lids may not seal.  Place a sterilized lid on each jar and secure with a metal ring.  As the jars cool, you will hear the lids "pop" which means they have sealed.  If you do not plan to use these pickles soon, you will need to process the jars in a water bath.  I will just store mine in the refrigerator, so this method is all I need to use.  If the lids do not seal properly, the pickles will need to be consumed within 2 weeks.  Another way to know the lid has sealed properly is, it will not move up and down under pressure.  That is in case you do not hear the "pop."

 I plan on making more pickles later and they will be stored outside the refrigerator.  Then,  I will use a water bath method to seal the jars.  You can find information on using a water bath method on the internet.

I also made peach preserves today.  I did not want to waste one morsel of the delicious peaches we have been getting from the farmer's market.  We will be happy to enjoy a "mouthful of sunshine" when it's cold outside and there are hot biscuits on our plates and wonderful, sweet summer peaches preserved for us.  I will tell you how to make those tomorrow!  They are super easy.  

Our house smells of good things to eat and I can't wait to dig in to those bread and butter pickles.  They need to sit for a few days so that the cucumbers absorb all of the delicious flavors of the spices and vinegar syrup.  

I am impatiently waiting for the tomatoes in our garden to start ripening, because boy howdy, do I have plans for those -  tomato preserves, green tomato chow chow, freeze some for soups and stews.  Oh, I just can't wait.  Take a little time and preserve some summertime goodness for you and your family to enjoy when the weather has turned cold and summer seems far away.  It's so easy.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

"On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally's cellar."Thomas Jefferson

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