Bread and Butter Pickles

I promised on Facebook and Instagram that the summer recipes were going to start popping up here on Nifty Spoon the other day. For me, summer means a few things.

1. Ice cream. Ice cream everywhere. A meal just isn’t complete unless there is a creamy bowl of frozen delights to follow.

2. Tomatoes! …and herbs. We could eat Caprese Salad every day of our lives and be happy. When we were in Italy we ordered it everywhere we went. It was better than the gelato, and that’s saying something.

3. And lastly, summer reminds me of pickles. This is probably because for the past three summers I’ve tried to make homemade pickles. It always started with a trip to the farmer’s market in search of pickling cucumbers and ended with disappointment.

I don’t know why, but I could get any jam or jelly under the sun to set up, I could bake fluffy cake, cream puffs would puff, custards would set perfectly and brulee without a hitch. But man, every time I set out to make pickles they failed.

Too salty, too vinegary, too mushy. Just inedible every time. So this summer, the first summer of married life, first summer in California, I was determined it would also be the first summer of pickle success. Previously, when I had attempted to transform cucumbers, I had prepared a brine, poured it over the veggies and let them sit for two weeks to pickle. So this time I tired something different.

This time, I sliced up mini green house cucumbers, onions, and baby peppers and covered them in ice and salt and let them sit for three hours. It’s hard to let something sit for three hours when all of your summer success is hinged on it’s performance. I disappeared into the bedroom to read a novel, but mostly I just watched the clock like an obsessive hawk.

Salted veggies before adding the pickling brine

Three hours up, I rinsed the vegetables several times. I didn’t want pickles that were too salty like last time. I cooked up a vinegar brine and poured the warm liquid over the salted veggies and.

I was done. That was it? The nerves started to set in. What if I really was just a pickle disaster? Maybe these were going to be just as awful as the other salty mushy attempts. The next morning I woke up anxious, but hopeful.

And I opened up one of the jars. I fished out a tiny little slice and bit into it with a hint of trepidation. Oh wow. It was worth it. Perfectly sweet, sour, a little bit of kick. Not mushy, but crunchy. It didn’t have that corn syrupy sweetness that overwhelms store bought pickles. It was, in short, the best bread and butter pickle I had ever tasted! I skipped through the house cheering and force fed the hubby a handful of pickles with glee.

The taste of success. It’s good.

Bread and Butter Pickles
These are crisp and tangy refrigerator pickles that do not require a canning process. But if you do wish to keep your pickles on a shelf for a longer amount of time feel free to process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Serves: 4 pints
  • 2 pounds cucumbers, preferably pickling cucumbers, sliced
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, sliced or chopped
  • ½ cup baby peppers, chopped
  • ¼ cup canning salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • Ice
  1. Place sliced cucumbers, onions, and peppers in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Stir a few times to distribute the salt evenly over the vegetables. Cover the vegetables with ice and let sit for 3 hours.
  2. After the veggies have sat in the ice and salt, drain away any water and remaining ice and rinse the veggies twice to get rid of any residual salt.
  3. Evenly place the mustard, celery seed, cloves, dill seed, peppercorns and red pepper flakes into clean, sterilized pint jars. Then pack the rinsed veggies in the jars.
  4. In a pot place the sugar, vinegar, water and turmeric and heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture boils. Ladle the hot brine into the jars, leaving a ½ of an inch of headspace between the top and the veggies. Wipe the rims of the jars and adjust lids.
  5. Store your pickles in the refrigerator or process for 10 minutes to keep at room temperature.
  6. You can eat your pickles as soon as they are cool! But taste best cold from the fridge. 🙂


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