Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and butter pickles are one of my favorite pickles, but they often are too sweet. I worked on this recipe for a while to get it just right.

These pickles are so good, you could eat them on a slice of whole grain bread, with a thin layer of butter and have a delectable meal.  Hence the name — bread and butter pickles.  No, wait.  The name came from the man on the corner who made these in his basement during the Depression, and they were so good that he was able to sell them for enough money  to put bread and butter on his own table.

I was just guessing, but while waiting for them to process in the water bath I  looked online, and according to one web site,  they were a regular part of the diet during the Depression.  As regular as bread and butter, and probably eaten along with bread and butter, which is where the name really came from.

These pickles are similar to sweet pickles because they use a vinegar/sugar brine, but different because sweet pickles use sweet spices, such as cinnamon, cloves and allspice, and bread and butter pickles use savory flavorings, such as onions, mustard, ginger and celery seed.  You could also use onions, mustard and turmeric instead of the ginger and celery seed.

First, take 2 lbs of cucumbers and cut into 1/4 inch slices.  Don’t they look particularly good when cut with a wavy slicer?   Mix in 1 pound of thinly sliced onions and 1/6 cup of canning salt (pickling salt is best, kosher is good, don’t used iodized salt).  Let sit for  1 1/2 hours.

While waiting, prepare 5-7 half pint jars and the vinegar/sugar brine:

Combine in a saucepan:

—- 2 cups sugar

—- 3 cups vinegar

—-  1 cup water

—- 2 tablespoons mustard seed

—- 2 teaspoons  celery seed

—- 1 teaspoon ginger

—- 1 tsp peppercorns

After 1 1/2 hours, drain the cucumbers and onions, rinse and drain again.

Simmer the vinegar/sugar brine in the saucepan.  When it comes to a boil, add the drained cucumbers and onions. Return the ingredients just to a boil, not a minute more, and turn off the heat.

This is a hot pack pickle, vs. a cold pack pickle like the dill pickle.  A hot pack pickle is just that — it is packed into the jars when it is hot.

Immediately pack the pickles into jars, using a funnel and pouring brine over until you have 1/4 inch headspace. You will probably have 5-6 half pints.

Screw on lids and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath, 20-25 minutes at 5000 feet.

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12 comments to Bread and Butter Pickles

  • Brenda Bomgardner

    Bread and butter pickels are my favorite. I planted cucumbers in my gardern. Hence, If a have a good harvest this will be a wonderful recipe for me to try my hand at for pickeling.

    Thank you,
    Brenda Bomgardner

  • elizabeth

    I didn’t like them as a kid, but I love them now! It’s great to have a pickle that isn’t salty every once in a while. Good luck with your garden 🙂

  • I adore bread and butter pickles. According to A Way With Words, the excellent podcast on words and lexicography, the etymology of the name is more likely that “bread and butter” was a common turn of phrase for anything that’s everyday or commonplace, so these would be the pickles you’d have on hand for all occasions.

  • elizabeth

    Thanks Sean — I’m checking out that podcast . . . and making more pickles! Love your site 🙂

  • I am gearing up to make these tomorrow, though not with cucumbers. Your recipe just says “vinegar”. Do you mean regular white vinegar? Can you use apple cider vinegar instead?

  • elizabeth

    Apple cider vinegar makes them a little sweeter/fruitier, but tends to discolor the liquid they are in. Many people swear by distilled white vinegar for pickles. It’s up to you . . .

  • Nancy

    How long do you have to wait after making the pickles to eat them?

  • Dori M.

    can these be made like refrigerator pickles? that is, just putting it all together, and putting in the fridge instead of canning them. I love the crisp cruch that my fridge pickles have, and would want them also from these if possible.

  • elizabeth

    Wait a couple weeks for flavors to blend (although they are great as is).

  • elizabeth

    I haven’t tried them like refrigerator pickles. Would they be heated through? If brought to a boil they will probably last a few weeks in the fridge, but if you want to have them last longer, canning is probably best.

  • Chris

    What is the waiting time to eat bread and butter pickles???? After canning ???

  • elizabeth

    I have trouble waiting. I think the spices infuse better in the pickles if you wait longer, but try some early and try some later (two to three weeks) and then decide. They last in the jars a year or more.

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