Well, as you may have noticed, I never got to my last-minute Halloween craft. We bought a car instead. Hooray. But that meant we got home late and missed most of the trick-or-treaters. Which means we have loads of leftover candy.
Which means I will have gained 10 extra pounds by the end of the week.
People generally come down on one side or the other when it comes to pickles: dill or sweet.
I generally like both types, but my all-time favorite kind of pickle is the bread & butter pickle. I have no idea why they’re called that, but they’re delicious so I don’t ask questions.
Bread & butter pickles are on the sweet side of the debate, but they’re different from regular sweet pickles. I think they have much more dimension of flavor. They’re filled with onions and garlic and mustard seed and turmeric and celery seed. So when I came across my grandma’s recipe for them, I couldn’t think of a better way to use my cucumber crop.
I didn’t want (or have enough cucumbers) to make 7 pints, especially since the husband won’t touch sweet pickles of any kind. So I decided to slice up the cucumbers I had and adjust the measurements based on them.
Since it was a fairly large amount of cucumbers, I decided to slice them in the food processor. Much faster. But you can certainly do it the old-fashioned way.
I ended up with about 2 quarts of sliced cucumbers. This was convenient, since I just halved the recipe.
I put them in a bowl, along with sliced onions, garlic, and coarse salt. I didn’t have pickling salt, so I just used a very coarse sea salt.
The recipe says to “cover with cracked ice.” My refrigerator crushes ice (sort of) so I just used that. You could put a bunch of ice in a large ziplock bag and just pound it up a bit if you don’t have a fancy shmancy fridge.
I used 2 quarts of ice, but this ended up being more than I needed. When it was time to drain the cukes, I still had a fair amount of ice left that I had to pick out by hand. So I think 1 quart would be plenty.
Stir them up, and allow to sit for 3 hours. I may have left them for closer to 4 due to Little Man and his schedule.
Drain, and put in a pot. During my extensive (ha) pickle research, I found out that you shouldn’t use a (non-coated) metal pot to make pickles. Something about chemical reactions. But then I saw that stainless steel might be ok. But I still went with my enameled cast-iron dutch oven.
Add to the cucumbers: vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed and mustard seeds.
Heat this and bring it just to a boil. I took it off as soon as it got consistent bubbles on the edges. You really don’t want to cook these very much or your pickles will be mushy. And who wants mushy pickles? I mean, maybe you do. In which case, cook ’em up for a long time. Me, I prefer crunchy.
Use a large-mouth funnel to put them in hot, sterilized jars. Pack as many of the cucumbers as you can fit, and then ladle the brine in until there is 1/4 inch headroom.
This picture is sort of hard to see, but you’ll need to use a knife or a small spatula around the edges of each jar, pushing against the pickles to release any air bubbles. Air bubbles = bacteria, which = spoilage.
Wipe off the mouth of the jar with a clean, damp cloth. Put lids (which you’ve had heating in a small pot on the stove) on the top, and screw on rings. Don’t crank on the rings to overtighten them, they just need to be “fingertip tight.” That way when you process them, there will be a small amount of room for air to escape, which will allow the jars to seal. Please note, you can reuse jars and rings as long as they’re intact, but you have to use new lids each time or they won’t seal.
If you noticed on the recipe card, it doesn’t say anything about processing them. That’s probably because people didn’t used to always process pickles. In fact, if you put your hot pickles in hot jars and put the lids on, there’s a good chance they’ll seal as they cool to room temperature. However, the USDA seems to question how safe that process is. And if I’m going to go through all the trouble of making a big batch of pickles, I want them to stay spoilage-free for as long as possible. When processed, they should be good for a year stored at room temperature.
To process them, put them in a large pot of water, fitted with a rack. (I have this water simmering while I make the pickles, and keep the jars– not lids or rings– in it to stay hot until ready to pack them.) Place them so they are not touching each other or the sides of the pot. Make sure there is enough water to cover the jars by 2 inches. Cover, and bring the water to a boil. Process the jars (keep them in the boiling water) for about 12 minutes. Don’t start timing until the water is fully boiling.
Remove from the water using a jar-lifter, and place on a towel on your counter/table. Allow to cool completely without touching them to make sure they seal properly. After they’re cool, test the seal by pressing on the middle of the lids. They shouldn’t move. If they move (pop back up when pressed) they’re not sealed properly, and should be stored in the refrigerator. They will only be good for maybe a month.
So there they are! They taste just right– sweet, a little spicy, and tangy. My perfect pickle.