Monday, April 25, 2016

Bread & Butter Pickles

 A little over a year ago, I decided that I wanted to learn the process of canning and preserving. I always loved the idea of making my own jams and jellies, and since I live in the Garden State, I have lots of fabulous produce readily available for my home canning endeavors.
 When I first mentioned this to my fabulous, gorgeous, talented, youthful, vibrant, funny, caring and all-around wonderful sister, Cathy, she was immediately on board with the whole idea, and we began to make a mental list of things we wanted to preserve. We knew we'd want to do peaches and also tomatoes during the summertime (since you just can't beat Jersey peaches and tomatoes!) but the very FIRST thing on our to-do list was to make PICKLES!
We decided to make a day of it (now referred to as Pickle Day) and we made two kinds of pickles, Garlic Dill, and Bread & Butter. The garlic pickles were pretty good, but the bread & butter pickles were just out of this world! The first Pickle Day was sort of a trial run, just to see how things would go. We immediately decided that we needed to do bigger jars and more of them! So now after a few Pickle Days, we have it down to a pretty good system. We do 50 lbs of cucumbers which comes to about 28-30 quarts of pickles! Cool, huh?? What can I say? More is more, right??? I know it seems like a crazy amount, but we figure if we're gonna do it, then lets DO it! Plus, it's really nice to have those jars of pickles on hand when you need a last minute homemade something to give as a gift.
 If you've never had Bread & Butter pickles, you're just not living your best life. They're sweet and tangy and they go fabulously with a sandwich and chips. My nephew, Gregger, loves them with tuna, and I have to say I agree. They're pretty awesome with chicken salad as well.
 Btw, if you're wondering why they're called Bread & Butter pickles instead of just sweet and sour pickles, I've read a couple articles stating that they were very popular served on buttered bread as a sandwich during the Great Depression. Backyard gardens often produced more cucumbers than any family could eat in one season, so they pickled them. Bread, butter, & cucumber sandwiches are a hold over from our country's English heritage, so using the sweet pickles instead of fresh cucumbers was just another variation.
 So there you go. I'm not sure if this is true, but it sounds good, so I'll go with it. I heard another origin story about someone who grew hundreds of pounds of cucumbers and then pickled and sold them, earning him his daily "bread and butter." I guess either of those stories could be true. Who knows? Anyway, if you've never made home made pickles, you should give it a try. I found this recipe on and they really are one of life's simple pleasures! I just made some and I'm already looking forward to our next Pickle Day! Enjoy!

10 lbs pickling cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup kosher salt
3 cups apple cider vinegar
5 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
Pickle Crisp (optional)

 In a large container or several large bowls, mix together cucumbers, onions, red bell peppers, garlic and salt. Allow to stand approximately 3 hours.
In a large pot, mix the cider vinegar, white sugar, mustard seed, celery seed, whole cloves and turmeric. Bring to a boil.
Drain liquid from the cucumber mixture. Stir the mixture into the boiling vinegar mixture. Remove from heat shortly before the combined mixtures return to boil. Refrigerate in airtight containers for up to a month or preserve in jars.

For preserving:
Ladle the pickles and pickling liquid into hot sterilized jars, leaving about 1/2 inch below each jar's neck. If using Pickle Crisp, add 1/4 tsp to quart jars and 1/8 tsp to pint jars. Wipe rims of jars with a clean, damp cloth; cover tightly with sterilized lids and screw tops. Using tongs or a jar clamp, transfer jars to a rack in a large canning pot or a large, deep pot filled with hot water, being sure to keep jars upright at all times. (Jars should be spaced 1 inch apart, and should not touch sides of pot.) Cover with water by 1 inch. Cover pot, and bring to a boil. Process pint jars in boiling water for 10 minutes and quart jars for 15 minutes. Remove from pot and place on a tray or kitchen counter lined with a thick towel. Let cool completely. Press down on each lid. If lid pops back, it's not sealed; refrigerate unsealed jars immediately, and use within 1 month. Sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

If you'd like to make the pickles, but don't know how to do the canning, just make a smaller batch and then keep them in the fridge until you're ready to eat them.
Be sure to salt them and let them sit for a good few hours. It's really amazing how much water will drain from the cucumbers. That's definitely key!
I like to use red bell peppers instead of green, just because it makes the jars look so much prettier, but feel free to use whichever color you like.
I used a mandoline slicer to make nice even krinkle cuts, but cut them however you like. Spears would be awesome as well!
Pickle Crisp is just an additive to make the pickles stay more crisp (I guess you probably worked that out on your own) but it's completely optional.
Instead of chopping the garlic, I just threw a peeled clove of garlic into each jar just before filling them. You'll use much more garlic than the recipe directs, but I'm not seeing this as a bad thing!

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