Introduction: Bread and Butter Pickles From the Nitty Gritty Gardener

About: Coming from a family of farmers who did nearly everything for themselves, I have found that making food from scratch is both satisfying and good for you. I love to learn to make things that most people buy as …

Bread and Butter Pickles are my favorite! I come from a family of farmers and grew up surrounded by canners: my mom, my aunts, and my grandmothers. When my maternal grandma died, my mom gave me her pressure cooker and her Ball Blue Book, which has been an indispensible resource for me! My recipe is adapted from this very book.

Bread and Butter Pickles are great on barbecued sandwiches (or any sandwich, for that matter), but I like them straight out of the jar. Crunchy, sweet, and tart all at once. Pickle perfection!

Making these pickles takes at least half the day, though there are about three and a half to four hours of downtime. Prep time is about an hour, but the cucumbers and onions have to rest in salt and ice for three hours, and then it can take a while for the water bath to come to a boil with the jars of pickles in it.

Step 1: Ingredients

Here's what you'll need:

  • 4 pounds cucumbers
  • 2 pounds onions
  • 1⁄3 cup canning salt
  • ice cubes
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds

Yield: 7 pints

Tip: the fresher the cucumber, the crunchier the pickles will be. You cannot use regular slicing (salad) pickles. I grow pickling cucumbers myself, but if you can't do that, a farmer's market is a good alternative. I have also read online that English cucumbers work well, but I haven't tried them. See my garden blog.

Step 2: Equipment

    • Scale for weighing cucumbers and onions
    • Cutting board
    • Sharp knife
    • Large mixing bowl
    • 1/3 measuring cup
    • Large wooden or stainless steel spoon
    • Plate that will fit inside the top of the mixing bowl and an object to weigh it down
    • 2 kitchen towels
    • Stainless steel ladle
    • Canning funnel
    • 7 pint jars
    • 7 canning lids and bands
    • Boiling water bath canner with racks (bottom and one to hold the jars) and lid
    • Jar lifter

    Step 3: ​Slice the Cucumbers and Onions

    Wash the cucumbers and, using a sharp knife and cutting board, slice them about 3/16 of an inch. Think sandwich pickle.

    Important: when slicing the cucumbers, remove and discard the blossom ends. (See above.) This will ensure you have crunchy pickles due to an enzyme contained in the blossom end that makes pickles go soft. Yuck.

    Slice onions in half vertically and remove ends and skins. Thinly slice horizontally.

    Step 4: Combine the Cucumbers, Onions, and Salt

    Thoroughly combine cucumbers, onions, and salt in a large bowl. Cover with ice. Place a plate on top of the cucumbers and let stand for two to three hours.

    I made a double batch, one with pickling cucumbers and one with zucchini and summer squash. I used the bowls as weights, putting a fruit bowl on the top. A tower of pickles!

    Step 5: Prepare the Pickling Liquid

    Combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed and mustard seed in a large pot. Heat to a boil.

    Step 6: Rinse the Cucumbers and Onions

    While the pickling liquid is coming to a boil, rinse and drain the cucumber mixture. Rinse and drain again. Pat dry in between two clean kitchen towels.

    You can see all the pretty colors of the summer squash, cavili squash (a light green zucchini), and cucumbers, along with some red onion I tossed in. Note that it all ends up pretty much the same color in the end due to the turmeric: yellow!

    Step 7: Start Heating Up the Water in Your Canning Kettle.

    Meanwhile, bring a canning pot of water to a simmer. You'll need quite a bit of water, so this takes a while. The water will need to cover the jars by an inch. It takes a little practice to know how much the water will be displaced by the jars.

    Step 8: Transfer Cucumbers and Onions Back to the Bowl

    Gather the edges of the bottom towel and use it to neatly put your pickles back into the bowl. (If your pickling liquid is ready, you can put them directly into it instead, as in step 7.)

    Step 9: Add Cucumber Mixture to Pickling Liquid

    Add the cucumber mixture to the boiling pickling liquid and return JUST to a boil. Remove from heat.

    Step 10: Ladle Your Pickles Into Sterilized Jars.

    Using a sterilized stainless steel ladle and a canning funnel, pour mixture into jars leaving a ½ inch head space. This means that you don't fill them all the way to the top. I tend to stop where the lid threads begin.

    Step 11: Sterilize Your Canning Lids and Put Them Onto the Jars

    Place your brand new lids (you can't reuse old ones or they won't seal properly) in a small pot of water and bring to a rolling boil. Turn off heat.

    Use a sterilized fork to carefully lift the lids from the boiling water. Place lids onto jars, making sure the rims are clean and free of any debris. Use lid bands to tighten firmly.

    Step 12: Put the Pickles Into the Boiling Water Bath

    Lift the rack up so that it sits on the rim of the canner. Gently place jars on the rack two at a time, being careful to balance them across from each other. Once all your jars are added, gently lower the rack into the water. The water should cover the jars by at least an inch. If you need to add water, boiling is best. Don't pour directly onto jars or they could break. Hot, hot tap water will do. It just takes a long time to come back to a boil.

    Step 13: Process Pickles for 10 Minutes

    Begin counting the processing time once the water reaches a rolling boil. It helps to put the lid on. Mine would only stay at a rolling boil if I kept the lid on.

    Step 14: Remove Pickles From Boiling Water Bath

    Use a jar lifter to remove the pickles from the boiling water bath to cool. (If you don't have one of these, you'll have to wait for everything to cool. The jars are extremely hot.)

    As you remove your pickles to cool on a towel on the counter, you should hear them pop as they seal. (I love this part!) Check each jar to make sure that it has sealed properly. Press on the lid. It should not make a popping/clicking noise. If it does, it did not seal properly. If any jars did not seal, store them in the refrigerator once they have cooled and eat within a week.

    Use a Sharpie or stickers to label your pickles, including the contents, month and year.

    Enjoy and happy pickling!

    Canning and Pickling Contest 2016

    First Prize in the
    Canning and Pickling Contest 2016