Bread and butter pickles
Fresh cucumbers and onions get a seasoned twist when canning season comes around. These sweet and crunchy bread and butter pickles are a great way to put abundant produce to good use, put away some summer flavor for the winter, or satisfy a craving.
As a child, I had a huge sweet tooth. So bread and butter pickles were the only kind of pickles I ate. I've since come to embrace salty and sour foods and my pickle horizons have widened accordingly but these sweet, crunchy chips still hold a special place in my heart.
My not quite 2-year-old son seems to have inherited my fondness for them based on the way he stuffs them into his mouth with both hands. He can fit an astounding amount into that adorable little mouth of his....
We made a big batch of these last summer but polished off our last jar two months ago and have been forced to bridge the gap with a jar from Trader Joe's so I was very happy to see the first pickles getting big enough to harvest. It's that time of year when things happen quickly in the garden and our cucumbers are getting bigger by the day.
We began by grabbing our copy of "Put 'em Up!" by Sherri Brooks Vinton off the bookshelf. This is one of our favorite canning and preserving cookbooks.
Then the slicing began. Fortunately, my husband is something of a ninja with the kitchen knife. The end result of his hard work was a big bowl of sliced cucumbers and onions that got salted and placed under ice for two hours.
I made lunch, made a stab at cleaning up the ever-present mess that fills our entire home, fed the younger child (the pickle enthusiast), changed his diaper, and played a few sweet if utterly mind-numbing games with him. Then it was time to drain the cucumbers and onions and get the brine going.
Once the simple brine was ready, my husband tossed the cukes and onions in to soak up some flavor.
While that was cooking, we sterilized our jars and lids. Unfortunately, it was quite a hot day but it will be worth the sweat come winter time when we can grab a jar of these crunchy chips out of the pantry. And then it was time to fill the jars and process them.
The payoff for slaving over a hot stove in 90 degree F., weather is being able to restock our pantry shelves with jars of these delightful coins, the perfect way to add a little sweetness and crunch to burgers, sandwiches and more.
Bread & Butter Pickles from Sherri Brooks Vinton's excellent book, "Put 'em Up!"
Makes about 7-8 pints or 3-4 quarts
5 lbs. cucumbers (Kirby's are ideal), ends removed and sliced into 1/4-inch coins
1 lb. sweet onions, sliced (you can also roughly chop but I actually like to eat them along with the pickles and the slices are easier to handle)
1/2 cup kosher salt
2 cups ice cubes
4 cups distilled white vinegar (I like to buy white vinegar in bulk so I'm not caught out when I want to pickle something)
2 cups water
1 cup organic cane sugar
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1. Layer the cukes and onions with 1/2 cup of the salt in a large bowl and cover with a layer of ice cubes. Set aside for 2 hours. Drain and rinse in a colander.
2. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, mustard seed, peppercorns, celery seed, turmeric, and the remaining 1 tablespoon salt in a large nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the drained vegetables and return to a boil, stirring to ensure that all of the vegetables are heated through. Remove from the heat.
3. Now it's time to preserve them. You can either refrigerate them for short-term usage or can them for longer storage.
Ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot pint canning jars, covering the pickles by 1/4 inch with liquid. Leave 1/4 inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
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