July 30, 2020

Bread and Butter Pickles

Why hello there. How's everyone doing? I haven't updated this thing since, you know, the global pandemic changed every facet of life as we know it. I thought I'd ease us back in with something simple and rewarding—sweet, tangy, crunchy bread and butter pickles. 

True confession time: I used to hate bread and butter pickles. I was a dill pickle ride or die. My great aunt made sweet pickles and added green food coloring, so the brine turned a murky greenish-black. These are not that. Simple ingredients (but yes, a boatload of sugar), stained with turmeric, perfect for piling high on deli meat or pulled pork sandwiches, these pickles are a must-have for summer. 

First, navigate the farmers' market. Don't forget your mask, observe the new protocols like one-way aisles and frequent hand sanitizing. I got my 6 pounds of perfect pickling cukes from Snell Family Farm at the Portland Farmers' Market. I also picked up 4 white onions, which might seem like an afterthought, but share the spotlight with the cukes in this recipe. 

Then I used a crinkle cutting tool I picked up from LeRoux Kitchen in Scarborough. It's a pain in the ass to use—way slower than a knife—but I love the wavy texture it gives each piece. Next, the cukes and onions are mixed with salt and covered with ice. This step draws the water out of the cukes and helps them to stay crunchy after being cooked and canned. Muy necesito. 

After soaking for a few hours in the refrigerator, drain the cucumber-onion mixture, and prepare the syrup. I'd say brine, but it's just vinegar and sugar, making it more of a syrup. Turmeric, mustard seed, and celery seed (which I omitted) are added for flavor. Boil the mixture and then add the drained vegetables. Then bring the syrup and vegetables to a boil, stirring occasionally, and in the meantime, prepare your canning equipment. 

This recipe makes 8 pint jars, which I'm already realizing is not enough to properly share with friends and family. Fill the jars with the solids first, and then cover with syrup until there's 1/2-inch headspace. Remove any trapped air bubbles, wipe jar rims, add lids, and tighten screw bands until fingertip tight. 

Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. After they're canned, admire your handwork. Calculate how many jars you'd like to keep, how many you intend to share, and quickly realize that you'll be doing this all over again next weekend... 

If you are a first-time canner—as many of you are this year!—my UMaine Extension colleagues and I are producing weekly webinars on seasonal food preservation topics. These webinars are free (donation optional) and open to anyone, anywhere. We will also record the webinars and post them to the web afterward.

I recommend you watch the Quick-Pack Pickling webinar if you've never canned pickles before. While we wish we could be together preserving food this season, this is the next best thing—plus, you get to learn from the comfort of your home. Please reach out with your questions! 

Be well, stay safe, and wear a mask. 

Bread and Butter Pickles

6 lbs of 4- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 3 pounds)
1/2 cup canning or pickling salt
4 cups white vinegar (5 percent acidity)
4-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp mustard seed
1-1/2 tbsp celery seed
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1/8 tsp Ball Pickle Crisp crisping treatment (optional)

Wash cucumbers. Cut off 1/16-inch of blossom end (to aid with crispness) and discard. Cut into 1/4-inch slices, preferable using a crinkle cut slicer. Combine with onions in a large bowl. Mix in salt. Cover with 2-inches of ice and place in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours. 

Prepare canning equipment. Wash 8 pint jars and place them into boiling water bath canner. Fill canner to cover jars and place on the stove—bring to a simmer over medium heat. Wash lids and screw bands; set aside until needed. 

Prepare syrup: bring vinegar, sugar, and spices to a boil in a large stockpot. Drain the cucumber-onion mixture, and add to stockpot. Return to a boil, stirring occasionally. 

Add 1/8 tsp Pickle Crisp, if using, directly to each jar. Use a slotted spoon to distribute vegetables evenly among 8 pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Ladle hot syrup over vegetables, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims clean with a damp paper towel. Apply dome lid and screw band, tightening until fingertip tight. Place jars in canner, cover, and bring to a boil. 

Boil for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as needed (see Selecting the Correct Processing Time to learn more about adjusting for altitude). Remove jars, let cool for 12-24 hours. Check for seals, remove screw bands; label and date jars. Store in a cool, dark, dry place and use within 12 months for best quality. 

Yield: about 8 pints