Bread ‘n’ Butter, boys!

It’s been a couple years  since we grew enough cucumbers to make bread & butter pickles, but here we are with about six cups in waiting… after all, how many pickles does one need at a setting? I’m thinking raw cheddar on whole-grain toast with the tender cuke and onion sweetness glazing the top… this is a favorite winter breakfast for me, if you don’t mind!

I thought we would only be able to make the 1-pint  as per the recipe in the book, SUMMER IN A JAR byAndrea Chesman. It offers small-batch recipes, and it just so happened that those cucumbers in the Pyrex measuring cup amounted to about 6 cups.

As you can see from the photo above, I’ve used this recipe many times, doubling or quadrupling the quantities, and changing only the seasonings to my personal likings. Never change the amount of salt or vinegar in a recipe for pickled vegetables, they are designed to be the proper amount of “natural preservative” – in accordance with flavor of course – along with the processing time, to make a safe home-preserved product. Chesman says to process for 5 minutes per pint (including steam canning, which I do not recommend); my USDA/University Extension sources say to process for 10 minutes, and that is what I do. Nevertheless, I do use her proportions for flavorings and vinegar, I like how they taste. I highly recommend doubling the amount of brine though, there’s never enough for the amount of cucumbers! (Vinegar and spices aren’t very expensive, and better safe than sorry. You can always use the leftovers for slaw dressing.)


Pretty cucumber slices with thinly-sliced onion half-moons…

Here we are adding the salt to the cuke-onion blend…
(a little side visit to my reference books)
… then covering with water and ice cubes to stand for about 3 hours to crisp and brine.
And so, the part I forgot to show you, and it’s all because I am a beginner at this photo-journaling thing, is the vinegar brine, which is not to be confused with the salt brine, as shown above. After the three hours, the cukes are drained (remove the ice cubes by hand, or they will dilute the vinegar OH NO!!!), and placed into the awaiting boiling spicy sweet brine. (The vinegar and spices smell strong at first. Be sure you make extra.) When the cucumbers, onions and brine come back to a boil, you fill the sterilized canning jars (with lids and rings at the ready)…


and bring to a rolling boil…

… careful, put the lid back on, and put the boil down to steady, no need to rock the jars around (I had 6 half-pints going; I like to put empty jars into the spaces to keep them from falling over.).

Then, after the 10-minutes time processing, the heat is shut off, the canner lid removed (remember, this is a boiling water canner, not a pressure canner), we wait another 5 minutes, then take the jars out of the water. Keep them from getting knocked around, and out of any cool draft. Yesterday the outdoor temps went into the high 80’s and I had the exhaust fan going while the water was boiling, but once the jars were on the counter, I shut the fan off until they cooled off some.

Really, can you taste these next to cold sliced turkey or duck breast, or whatever your tradition for enjoying bread & butter pickles? Tell me how you like ’em!

So, without any further ado, here is the recipe from Chesman. I will admonish you again to make extra vinegar brine, I hate to see you scrounging to heat up extra vinegar at the last minute to top off the jars (grandma’s quick-fix for this kind of mistake – NEVER top off with hot water! This will dilute the brine, which is what you don’t want.)

2-1/2  cups thinly sliced cucumbers
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion (I like to cut the onions in half first)
1-1/2 teaspoons pickling salt (or plain sea salt)
Water and ice cubes
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon whole mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon mixed pickling spice
1 small dried hot pepper per jar
In a large bowl, combine the cukes, onions and salt. Mix well. (“If you are multiplying this recipe, do not use more than 3 tablespoons salt…”) Cover veggies & salt with cold water and ice cubes, place in refrigerator, and let brine for 3 to 4 hours. Drain. If the cukes taste too salty, rinse and drain again.
In a large non-aluminum saucepan, place remaining ingredients (except hot pepper) and
heat till boiling. Carefully stir in the drained cucumber and onion, and bring back to a gentle boil.
With hot jars at the ready, pack each with veggie and brine liquid leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rims, cover with lids and rings, and place in simmering hot water canner, and process 10 minutes for pints and half-pints. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars from canner to a towel, and keep out of drafts.
Next day, remove rings and wash jars, label and date, and lovingly admire the collaboration between you and the magic of the gardenand Mother Nature at her fullest.
Ohhhh, that sandwich is calling me! But you will like the pickles better if you wait three or four weeks before popping them open, giving the flavors a chance to get cozy.
I’d like to add here that the above recipe makes the assumption that you already know how to do water-bath canning (and also know how to multiply fractions!). If not, maybe you need an experienced friend to hang out with you for the first time or two (Thank you Lolana  Grace  Fontaign… I love you… I miss you…)but for your reading pleasure, here are the books I used for referencing my procedures. Of course, there are many others.  Perhaps I will offer a list as a separate blog entry.
SO EASY TO PRESERVE by the Cooperative Extension University of Georgia (“Bulletin 989”)
Enjoy that garden and put up some of summer’s bounty for this coming winter’s feasting. A simple jar of pickles can make a big difference to an ordinary meal. Plus, you know where the food is coming from.