Raise your hand if you love bread & butter pickles because you love anything that's old timey, delicious and comes in a mason jar. These crispy, sweet and tart pickles are delicious right out of the jar or as a side to a sandwich.
I've been eating bread and butter pickles for 2 weeks straight now. I eat them faster than I can make them. In the middle of my face there is a puckery canker sore the size of a ping pong ball which kind of resembles a mouth? And I don't care that I have a pinched up canker sore mouth. They're that good.
First up I made fermented kosher dill pickles, which for some reason taste a bit weird this year. I think the dill was too mature or I used a different kind of salt? They're still edible, I mean they're pickles - people eat pickled fingers! Actually you know what? I don't think that people eat pickled fingers, I have a hunch I just made that up.
Anyhow, the slight let down of the fermented dills meant I was really counting on my bread and butter pickles.
I've tried the churched up, fancified versions of bread and butter pickles, but always come back to the classics.
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What exactly is a bread & butter pickle?
Traditionally they're thinly sliced pickles made from cucumbers that are equal parts sweet and tart. They're a depression era invention which is probably why I associate them with grandmothers in threadbare ruffled aprons and dusty porches. In a good way.
There's neither ingredient in them so ...
Why are they called Bread & Butter pickles?
There are two stories about how they came to get their name. As one story goes, people ate these pickles between bread and butter because of both food and money shortages during the depression.
There's a more fact based answer to this question though. Bread and butter pickles were invented by Omar and Cora Fanning in 1920 by a husband and wife farmer team in Illinois. In 1923 they filed a trademark on the name "Fanning's Bread and Butter pickles".
Not wanting to waste anything they took the cucumbers they grew that were too small to sell and made them into sweet and tart pickles. Their family raved about them, went crazy for them, ran through blazing barn fires while juggling bottles of flaming moonshine for them (I took a bit of artistic license with that scenario.)
When they realized how loved the pickles were they used them to barter with their grocer in exchange for staples - like bread and butter.
These are good old fashioned, classic bread and butter pickles right down to the fact that I use whatever I have on hand to pickle. Pickling cucumbers, like Kirby cucumbers obviously, but also green beans and zucchini if I have extra from my garden. So don't just limit yourself to cucumber slices, try anything you have around.
I like to use my wavy knife for making these pickles. You can buy the exact same one on Amazon - they're $8 and work great. I also use it to make crinkle cut fries when I can be bothered.
I deviate from a completely traditional B&B pickle by cutting the slices a tiny bit thicker than they would normally be, plus I sometimes crinkle cut them. For 100% traditional, slice them very thin and straight.
If you only have giant, mammoth cucumbers or zucchini don't worry about it. You can still use them. If the zucchini has seeds in it, just remove them because they can get bitter when the zucchini is big.
Then just cut the offensively large zucchini/cucumber in half, then cut the halves into quarters lengthwise.
They'll look like little triangles, when you cut across them, as you can see below.
You can use regular table salt to draw the moisture out of your vegetables but kosher/pickling salt is better. It doesn't dissolve as quickly or absorb into the vegetables as easily.
Then you throw in a tray of ice cubes to help everything stay cold and crisp.
Once the pickles have soaked in salt for 3 hours rinse them like crazy to get rid of the salt. Taste one of the cucumbers to make sure the majority of the salt is out. Add the rinsed cucumbers to your boiling brine (we'll get to the brine in a minute but it's some spices, vinegar and sugar) and bring everything back to the boil.
Shove as many pickles into the jar as you can. Just smash them in there. I use canning jars but you can put them in anything because these aren't processed and are going to live in the refrigerator once you've made them.
Finally pour the brine overtop. You may have some left over. I just stick any leftover brine in the refrigerator if I think I'm going to make some more in the near future. Which I always do. They're that good.
Once your pickles are packed, just store them in the fridge. If that seems like a waste of time, just leave them on the counter. They'll be gone before you can say who ate all the pickles dammit, you SUCK.
Want to make a HOT version of these? They're like Wickles, if you're familiar with those. HOT and sweet pickles. SOOooOOOoooo good. Here's the one easy trick that will turn these classic bread & butters into hot & sweet pickles! But I'm currently in the process of coming up with a completely new stand alone recipe for hot and sweet pickles.
Classic Bread and Butter Pickles.
- 5 lbs cucumbers cucumbers, zucchini, green beans ... whatever
- 2 onions sliced
- ¼ cup salt kosher or otherwise
- 3 Cups cider vinegar
- 5 cups sugar
- 2 Tablespoons mustard seed
- 2 teaspoons celery seed
- ½ teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 Tablespoon turmeric
- Slice your cucumbers. I like mine fairly thick. Almost ¼". But the traditional way is to slice them very thin.
- Combine your sliced cucumbers with onions in a bowl. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of pickling salt and toss. Mix in a tray of ice cubes and let sit for 3 hours. (this sucks out the moisture from the cucumbers so they turn into crispier pickles.)
- Rinse, rinse, rinse your cucumbers! Soak them in water and then rinse them again. You want to get rid of as much salt as possible otherwise your pickles will taste salty.
- Combine the vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, celery seed, cloves and turmeric in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add your cucumber/onion mixture to the pot and return to the boil.
- Stuff your pickles into sterilized jars, then pour the liquid in until covered. Store in fridge until you wanna eat them (but try to wait a few days otherwise they won't have that great bread & butter pickle flavour)
My family members all love pickles, but they also all agree that they never eat them. Which I don't understand, but who among us has any real understanding of any of our family members? Other than our pets?
So if you're confused about how to eat these or what to eat them with I have a few ideas for you, the first being how I eat them all the time.
- I STAND AT THE REFRIGERATOR WITH THE JAR IN ONE HAND AND A FORK IN THE OTHER AND I EAT THEM.
That's it. That is all I do. Usually when I'm getting dinner ready or just feel like chewing on something.
- If I'm having anything BBQey for dinner I put a little side of pickles on my plate. Stuff like ribs, or hot dogs or anything else no one is supposed to admit to loving anymore.
- And the next time you make a homemade hamburger? I want you to ditch the dill pickle and cover the top with these bread and butters instead. If you like relish on your hamburgers this is going to be something you'll appreciate.
Maybe even run through a burning barn for.
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I like your wavy pickles, but I can't eat bread and butter pickles, even though I am a pickle crazy person. They are gross. Similar to brussel sprouts. However, my Hungarian grandfather used to make pickles in a large jar, with salted water, garlic, dill and rye bread. In the sun for a week or two. That's it. They are pickles from the gods. If I had a recipe for them I would share, but I have shared all I know. I made them for the first time ever this past week. So far, so good. They are fermenting away and are starting to smell fantastic. They will only last a couple of weeks in the fridge once they are done, so you have to enjoy them quickly and then wait for next summer again. I will let you know how it goes!
I made some sweet pickle slices last year..refrigerator pickles..Your recipe sounds even better..My tummy thanks you!
Ahh, that's what that "wavy thingy" is for! I luv, luv bread and butter pickles -- have never tried to make them myself but your method sounds pretty easy -- may give them a try and pick up some kukes at the market this weekend -- thanks for sharing!
Maybe this will embolden me to venture out to the scary place in the garden where the Green Submarine lurks... i.e., a zucchini that managed to hide until it's now big enough to eat ME.
Does the pickle juice etch your marble? We just did our kitchen with a marble island & got such lectures & finger wagging from the pros & trades people. I sure would like to enjoy it more!
Hi Stephanie - The only marble in my kitchen is very, very old. And that's partly why I bought it. Because I knew I wouldn't have to worry about spilling anything on it because the marble was already aged, worn and stained. I like things with a patina so it worked out. If you look at your marble that way, something that will wear with age, then you won't worry so much about spills and stains. If you want it to remain perfect you do have to be careful about things like vinegar etc. etching it. :( ~ karen!
FYI, I left a slightly over-ripe banana on a marble cutting board, and it etched the shape of a banana into it. Who knew?
I did the same with my butcher block. Had to bleach out the offending shapes...lol
My son and I just made these, I'm off tomorrow to buy a huge bag of cucumbers. I may need 100 jars to last through the winter. They are that yummy. Thank you.
Thanks for letting me know Sheri. And if you just made them and you think they're good, wait'll you try them in a couple of days, lol! ~ karen
Well I only stumbled upon your site tonight as I was trying to find answers to my 'transferring photos to wood' drama and found your post on it.... excellent. It certainly inspired me to ease off on the idleness and start being uber cool at making stuff!
Consequently I have now been up hours, reading all your posts and I am looking at the clock and my empty bottle of wine and realising that I am in trouble!
I shall of course be sleepily wandering the aisles of the local supermarket tomorrow in search of the ingredients required to master these fantastic looking pickles.
Keep up the good work and thanks a bunch for the sleepless niii......zzzzzzzzzzzz
LOL I thought you were going to say I'd kept you up all night because you were transferring photos onto every wood surface in your house. That'll come later I guess. Welcome to The Art of Doing Stuff! ~ karen
Thanks for the welcome Karen,
The application of photos to all that is wooden in my house is imminent but I do fear for my safety... After 3 hours kip I feel that I could end up with some rather dodgy spellings or worse!! When my wife comes home from her shift later, I think I should be somewhere else!!
Looks great Karen, I love bread and butter pickles with a sandwich. Question: I am the expiration date kinda girl sooo I don't have to can these but they will stay good in the fridge in a mason jar maybe for 2 weeks ya think? I have never canned in my life or made pickles but I am willing to give this recipe a try:)
Oh they'll easily last for 2 weeks Debbie. They're FULL of vinegar which acts as a preservative. ~ karen!
I love your recipe. The pickles look amazing.
Karen, I cannot thank you enough!!! This recipe is right on time. Just yesterday, I was in Ace Hardware checking out & was thrilled to find jars of all-natural bread & butter pickles by the front desk. I was thrilled because pickles are hard to find in regular grocery stores without a couple of nasty ingredients in them … didn't want to wait until my Trader Joe's/Whole Foods shopping later this week. But, my jaw hit the floor when the cashier rang up my total, my jaw hit the floor … surely she must have charged me twice for something. Nope … it was the pickles … they were $9 … that's ri-ight $N.I.N.E.!!! I promptly said nevermiiiiiiiind (like that Saturday Night Live comedian from long ago). I expect that nonsense at a farmer's market at the gourmet table … but, the hardware store?!!! I knew something had to be up … finding pickles at Ace Hardware.
Fast forward to a few minutes ago … opened my feedly page for the first time in eons & saw the words Bread and Butter Pickles. Joy! Adding the ingredients to my grocery list (need mustard and celery seeds). I love to cook; but, I have never canned or pickled anything. The closest I've come to it is when I replicated a spicy Asian cucumber salad … which was just four servings that didn't need to be preserved. Your recipe looks so simple. Thank youuuu!
Please tell me how to sterilize jars. I have a few mason jars & I know that you boil them; but, for how long?
Hi Deneen - I put my jars into the dishwasher on sterilize, then I keep them hot in the oven at 210 F. But you don't need to do that with these because you aren't actually canning them and trying to get them to have a stable shelf life. You're just jarring them to keep in your fridge. Of course, make sure the mason jars have been cleaned though, lol! ~ karen
Thanks for your prompt reply, Karen. I have some green beans in my freezer (bought them fresh & put them in the freezer in a freezer bag). I'm assuming that they wouldn't be good for this recipe because they won't be crunchy. Am I right?
I want to make your B & B recipe but you didn't say how long to boil the cukes....15 min ? Thanks, Robin
Hi Robin. The cucumbers don't get boiled. They just get brought to the boil and that's it. :) ~ karen!
I can use regular, big cukes? I don't have any pickling cukes, but have lots,of beautiful regular cukes. Will that work? Can you mix the zucchini, beans and the cukes in the same batch? This would be great news!! Thanks so much!
Hi Sue. Yup. You can definitely mix everything in the same batch. And the only thing I might do with regular cucumbers is get rid of the seeds of they're especially large before you pickle them. I show you how to easily do it in the video in this post. ~ karen! p.s. Get the chickens.
THANK YOU!!! Made these last weekend- everyone loves them including me. I even took some to work- they want more!! GE
I know!!! LOL. They're the best batch I've ever made so I figured I'd better get it down in writing so I didn't forget. It's a combination of a few recipes that I've tried. I wasn't kidding when I said I couldn't stop eating them! Next up ... dill. Once I perfect them. ~ karen!
I would really love to make these. But, I'm allergic to mustard. If I leave it out I'm sure they will be flat. Can you suggest a substitute for the mustard?
By the way, before the allergy I used to eat bread & butter pickles with a crisp juicy apple. Yum!
How can I use left over brine to add more cakes for bread & butter pickles?
Hi Vivian L! It isn't generally recommended that you reuse the brine because of bacteria etc. etc. If you were to use it over, I would boil it again, then add the cucumbers as you did for the first batch. ~ karen!
I did some pickling (canning?) for the first time last year and was instantly addicted, bread & butter pickles, garlic dill, dilly beans,,,,,they were all my favourite. However long they said you're supposed to wait before eating them,,,I never could. Cannot wait to start making some more in a couple of weeks (currently on bean watch here, not quite ready yet). Same as you, I formulated my own recipes from combining a few different ones, your b&b recipe sounds very much the same as how I did mine. They were the best! My dilly beans and garlic dills need some perfecting this year though….
Okay, here's a B&B pickle recipe that doesn't sound like it'll work, but it DOES! So easy. I don't like onions in my B&B pickle's so I just use more cukes and throw in some dried onion flakes.
Microwave Bread & Butter Pickles
makes 1 pint
2 cups cucumbers, sliced, thin
3⁄4 cup onion, thin sliced
1 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1⁄4 teaspoon celery seed
1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric
Mix all in a 2 quart bowl and microwave on High 8 to 9 minutes, stirring twice during cooking time.
Cukes will be crisp, onions translucent.
Just made these again the other day! They are so good! I used about 1 1/2 English cukes.
Again! :) Good for you. I still have a couple of jars in my fridge. You're right. They are good! ~ karen
Karen, you tried my microwave pickles? Or, do you mean you have a couple of jars of your recipe in the fridge?
Can I use English cucumber with this recipe?
Hi Helen! You can! They won't be as crispy as they would if you used pickling cucumbers, but they'll work and taste exactly the same. ~ karen!
Hi Karen, can these be made with sugar subs, for us Keto lifestyle folks? I am reduced to buying Mt. Olive brand sugar-free b&B pickles, but like most commercial condiments, they have other stuff in them I don't really want.
Hi Madeline! I can't imagine why not! I'd be leery about saying yes if you were canning them because you don't ever want to change a canning recipe (although you can usually change the sugar amounts with no problem). I'd actually love it if you gave it a shot and let me know! ~ karen
Has anyone else noticed a vinegar shortage? Very difficult to find in sufficient quantities for canning! (Covid-alternative cleaning solution?)
Anything related to home gardening has sold out across the country - freezers, seeds, vinegar and jars, tools, fertilizer, potting soil, mulch. You name it. It is hard to find and best grab several when you do see it. Home gardening has been the number one hobby for about a hundred years (probably wasn't considered a hobby before since everyone did it. Covid, shortages, economy, healthy food, etc., has us rethinking priorities.
I haven't noticed that but I have noticed a sealer (for jars) shortage! ~ karen!
I was all ready to be mad because I made pickles two days ago and thought I missed something but your recipe is almost identical to mine so I’m ok again, whew. I leave out the turmeric because for some reason it tastes medicinal to me. I do add dill seed (not leaf). I have made them sweet and spicy and also sweet, spicy and garlic-y. I process mine at the same point you put them in the fridge so I have them all year.