Bread and Butter Pickles

My friend Cathy in England wrote a while back to ask whether I had a recipe for bread-and-butter pickles. She says she can’t get them in the U.K. but loves them when she’s in the States.
I do, too. These sweet-and-sour cucumber pickles were a staple in our household when I was growing up, as ubiquitous as the bread and butter after which they are named. My grandmother learned to make them from her foster mother, and my mother learned to make them from my grandmother.
SOME DAY I hope to make a version of these with maple syrup. This year, however, I didn’t think about pickling until last week, when cucumbers were suddenly disappearing from gardens and farm stands in our area! 

To get something pickled this year, I’m sticking with my mother’s recipe, which probably came from Fannie Farmer long ago. She’s a Fannie Farmer cook. It’s simple, and the brown sugar gives it a mellow flavor.

The Pickles
6 cups thinly sliced pickling cukes (leave the skin on, but remove the ends)
2 cups thinly sliced onions
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 cups brown sugar (do not pack)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon mustard seed
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
2 cups mild cider vinegar (I used a store brand rather than the more robust version from my local apple orchard)
In a nonreactive bowl combine the cucumbers, onion slices, pepper strips, and salt. Cover the bowl and let the mixture stand for 3 hours to drain some of the liquid out of the cucumbers.
In a large nonreactive pot combine the brown sugar, spices, and vinegar. Bring them slowly to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes.
Drain and rinse the vegetables thoroughly. Add them to the liquid on the stove and heat just until the liquid is about to simmer once more.
Spoon the vegetables into 4 hot, sterilized pint jars, and cover them with the cooking liquid. Fill the jars but leave 1/2-inch headspace.
(If you’re a little short on liquid, add a small amount of vinegar to the bottom of the cooking pot—where there will still be a residue of the spices—and bring it to a boil; then add that to your jars.)
Cover the jars with two-part lids and process them in boiling water for 10 minutes. (For more information on this process, check out the USDA Guide to Home Canning.)
Now, here’s the hard part: wait at least 6 weeks before you open the first jar. We’re counting the days in our house. 

Makes 4 pints.

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12 Responses to “Bread and Butter Pickles”

  1. These look great. I love it that there are other things like onions and green and red bell peppers in there too. Yum!

  2. Sue Haas says:

    You’ve done it again, Tinky. You’ve got me thinking about tasty pickles…and canning! My father used to make these pickles. He loved a good pickle with his cheese sandwich. They look so colorful, crisp, and sweet/sour. Thanks.

  3. Bread and butter pickles are my favorite. I wish we got pickling cucumbers here, mine have to be store-bought.

  4. Oh, you’re speaking my language, Tinky! What is about pregnancy and pickles? Oh man, these looks scrumptious!

  5. tinkyweisblat says:

    EveryDay, I think it’s something about that great sweet-sour combination that appeals particularly to our bodies then. Abigail, I was about to feel sorry for you, and then I remembered that you can get fresh key limes, mangoes, etc.! Sue and Elizabeth, I’m happy to have appealed to your pickling personas…

  6. Grad says:

    Tinky, I don’t know if it’s appropriate to wish you a “happy” Yom Kippur, but I do hope you have a day wonderful, peaceful and joyful day. From what I have read, although it is a day for atonement, it is also a day of hope and joy.

  7. Grad says:

    P.S. You had me at the word “pickle” – one of my favorite things and I’ve always wanted to make them!

  8. tinkyweisblat says:

    Grad–It’s always appropriate to wish everybody a happy ANYTHING. And you’re reminding me to look at the big picture. (I’m having a slightly worrisome day so far so I need that!)
    I’m glad you’re a pickle person. I’m almost always Pickled Tink.
    With thanks,

  9. Much as I love your cake recipes – I prefer savoury things ….. and as for these pickles!! Do you have piccalilli in America – if you don’t I will have to send you the recipe! I now have lots of jam and chutney, but will have to make more jelly – both sweet and savoury.

  10. tinkyweisblat says:

    We DO have it–but I don’t have a recipe and would be honored to have yours, Frayed. Thank you!

  11. Sue Haas says:

    Tinky-I made your pickles this afternoon. They are bubbling in the water bath as I type. My friend cleaned out the farmer’s market in Yakima, WA (east of the Cascade Mountains) and brought me some, since pickling cukes were “done” for the season at my normal produce market. I put a couple spoonfuls in a bowl before loading the jars so I could taste the crunchy treats. Deeelicious! But now I will wait your prescribed six weeks for my next taste…I promise. Thanks for the recipe!

  12. tinkyweisblat says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe, Sue. Thank you for reporting back! I hope the six weeks fly by…..

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