I love bread-and-butter pickles: not too sweet; not too sour; can stand on their own; and can dress up any sandwich worth its weight in Cougar Gold. In my youth, as with many of my culinary journeys, bread-and-butter pickles didn’t even register as a destination on my taste-bud triptik. I would instead opt for bites, nibbles, and snacks laden with sugar and heavy-handed flavors (ah, the palate of a ten-year-old).
Sweet Gherkins were my pickle of choice. The first time I had a cornichon, I thought it was a gherkin-gone-bad. I began to doubt the French—Sacre Bleu! Where was the sweetness? Where was the sugary syrup? Now I’m all grown-up and I apologize mes amis for my childish ways. As part of my penance, I wish to offer up a great bread-and-butter pickle provided by one of my favorite cooks (and peeps) Sharon B, though I’ve tweaked it a little bit based on my own preferences.
When it comes to her bread-and-butters, Sharon is a master canner of preserved pickled perfection. Her pickles are brightly colored, crisp, and wickedly addictive—a happy family of flavors: sweet, sour, spicy and savory. When the lid comes off of the jar, the contents go quickly. And her pickled beets made me a believer in a root vegetable that had tormented me my entire childhood; I spent countless hours alone, pouting at the kitchen table sentenced to choke down the lesser canned version of the beet.
Sharon’s recipe calls for brining the cucumbers in salt and ice.
This draws out unnecessary moisture, ensures crispness, and brightens the color of the cucumbers.
My back porch Mise En Place, with the most important ingredient front and center: super-fresh organic pickling cucumbers. I buy mine from Rob at Plum Forest Farm on Vashon Island.
Sometimes, I like to crinkle cut my cucumbers for extra crispiness, other times sliced thin in a mandoline, and for a relish type texture perfect for sandwiches or hotdogs, I run the cucumbers through my zoodle maker (spiralizer ).
The recipe includes a lovely combination of herbs and spices, and over the years I’ve customized the seasonings a bit, adding a few things I like in a pickle, such as cinnamon, ginger and clove. Each batch is a bit different.
I cold pack the cucumbers and add the spices to each jar. I then pour the vinegar-sugar mixture into the jar and leave one half inch of head (air) space between lid and contents. Then, I seal in a water bath for ten minutes.
The final product is a crowning addition to any sandwich or charcuterie plate.
Sharon’s Bread-and-Butter Pickles (With Tommy Spice)
|By author||Adapted from Sharon B.|
- 6lb cucumbers
- 2lb onions
- 1/3 cup canning salt
- 2 large garlic cloves (slice, add one slice per jar)
- 4 cups sugar
- 2lb ice cubes ((2 trays))
- 2 tablespoons mustard seed
- 1.5 teaspoons celery seed
- 1.5 teaspoons tumeric
- 4 cups apple cider vinegar
This recipe is a starting point and lends itself to customization, that is, add the herbs and spices you like, leave out those you don't. I usually add a slice of ginger and garlic, and a couple peppercorns per jar. Other times I'll add a bay leaf, clove and cinnamon stick. Experiment to find your favorite combination of seasonings for the pickles. Also, sometimes I spiralize (cut) the cucumber like super-thin ribbons. This works great for pickles destined for sandwiches; the pickles stay put.
|Wash and slice cucumbers. Thickness and cut are up to you: crinkle cut, thin or thick cut medallions, spiralizer noodles.|
|Peel and slice onions thinly. Combine cucumbers and onion; add salt and mix. Cover with the ice cubes and let stand 3 hours. Drain in colander. I don't usually rinse. |
|Combine sugar, mustard and celery seed, turmeric, and vinegar in large pot. Heat for 5-10 minutes to a simmer to meld flavors, dissolve sugar and make syrup.|
|Pack uncooked cucumbers and onions in pint jars (10-12) leaving one inch from the top clear. Add any additional flavorings per jar at this time, such as one clove or one slice of ginger per jar. Your choice, or don't add anything for a traditional Bread and Butter Pickle.|
|Pour syrup in jars, leaving 1/2" head space. Wipe top of jar clean, add lid, tighten securely but not crazy tight. The air needs to escape. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes, then remove to cool. |
|After an hour, make sure lids are sunken in, showing a vacuum seal has occurred. Enjoy and refrigerate after opening.|
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A word-to-the-wise: sample your fresh cucumbers first. Some varieties can have an amazingly bitter taste if not grown under ideal conditions.
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