The origins of this simple recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, which came out in the 1950s.
My mother got this cookbook as a newly married woman, and her adjustments to recipes are scattered throughout, including to this recipe for the sweet, vinegary goodness of a bread and butter pickle. While these could make you a meal with a hearty slice of fresh bread slathered with butter, I find I enjoy them adorning the top of a bowl of baked beans. My family usually bakes Marfax beans, a dark bean that definitely benefits from a bit of sweet, so it is now habit for me to spoon some of the pickles out and pour a bit of the liquid onto the beans.
Add some fresh bread or a steaming biscuit and that is about as good a meal as one can find.
I learned how to make these pickles as a kid, and we usually had enough to do a canner full each time. Yes, as in the kind they boil lobsters in and the kind that holds seven quart jars for processing.
In other words, we made huge batches. This is really just a starting point, especially if you have never made pickles before. But if I have extra cucumbers, I add them and then adjust by sight alone. I actually never measure the cucumbers, often judging the amount by how high they rise in the canner as I slice them. Most of the time, I get 13 to 14 pints, which is nearly double the yield of the recipe.
You also could halve the recipe, if you only want to do a few jars. Do what works.
Hint: If you plan on doing a lot of pickles, you can find bulk spices at your local natural foods store. In Bangor, the Natural Living Center stocks all the standards, including turmeric, celery seed, mustard seed and mustard powder. And the prices are right, usually only a few dollars per pound. And a pound of mustard seed is a lot of mustard seed.
Bread and Butter Pickles
4 quarts sliced medium cucumbers
6 medium yellow onions, sliced
1/3 cup canning salt
5 cups sugar
3 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
2 tablespoons mustard seed
Do not pare cucumbers. Slice thin, using a slicer or mandolin. Slice peeled onions in the same fashion.
Place in a non-reactive pot; an enamel kettle is perfect. Pour the salt over the vegetables and toss thoroughly to distribute the salt, making sure you get all the way down to the bottom of the pot.
Cover the top with cracked ice or a couple of trays of ice cubes. Cover and set aside in a cool place.
Let stand for 3 hours; drain well. Do not rinse.
In either a separate kettle or using the current kettle well rinsed, mix remaining ingredients. Place on medium heat and add well-drained vegetables. Stir thoroughly.
Heat to a boil, stirring often to keep from sticking.
The vegetables will change color as the turmeric kicks in, making the vegetables look like pickles. This is how you will know you are getting close to the boiling point.
Seal in hot, sterilized jars (see below). Makes 8 pints.
Hint: Use a funnel to keep the rims of the jars as clean as possible. But always wipe the rim with a damp cloth or paper towel once you remove the funnel to give the lid a clean surface to adhere to.
Options: One of the best tricks in the world with this recipe is that you can do the entire thing with zucchini instead of cucumbers. Think anyone will guess? In all the years I have been going back and forth between whatever is on in the garden, no one has ever guessed I used zucchini instead of cucumbers. You also can mix the two together if you don’t have enough of either one for a batch.
You can use a canner to do all the jars at once or you can do a few jars at a time. I usually do two or three jars at a time in a smaller pot because that is what I have available.
You need a pot deep enough to hold pint jars (they can be on their sides). Fill about two-thirds full of water, cover and bring to a boil.
When you are adding jars, turn the heat back on the burner so you don’t get splashed with boiling water.
Place lids and rings carefully into the pot using tongs. Gently lower the jars into the water, sinking them under the water using the tongs. Cover and turn the heat back on high. Boil for 10 minutes.
Turn the heat back, uncover and using the tongs, carefully lift a jar, pouring the hot water back into the pot.
Fill jar to about 1/4 inch from rim, wipe rim, then using tongs, carefully lift ring with lid and pour water back into pot before placing atop filled jar. You may need a clean handtowel to hold the hot jar and lid to screw the cover on. It does not need to be extremely tight, just tight enough to be thoroughly screwed on.
Set aside to cool. You should hear a pop as the jar seals within a few minutes.
Repeat this process (putting new jars and lids in the water, boil for 10 minutes, etc.) until all the pickles are in jars. If you don’t have enough to do a final jarful, then you can put what remains in a jar and cover with a plastic lid for the refrigerator. Then you can enjoy the fruits of your labor with dinner.
After jars have cooled, check the seal by pressing lightly in the middle of the lid. If it gives under your finger, then it is has not sealed and needs to be refrigerated.
– Janine Pineo