Recipes: Then and Now

Recipes from the past updated for today


Post #3 Bread and Butter Pickles

May 1, 2014

Use only ‘pickling’ cucumbers. They are smaller and less seedy than regular salad cukes. The large dark green, waxed salad cucumbers don’t work well at all. Pickling cucumbers are available at farmers markets and some grocery stores. The batch made for this article used 6 pounds of cucumbers and 3 large onions and they turned out delicious. I prefer my pickles without the green pepper, so I left them out.

The Indiana State Fair is just around the corner and my thoughts are turning to the beautiful jars of home canned foods one finds in the Home & Family Arts Building. In my mind I can see row after row of fruits, tomatoes, pickles and relishes, jams, jellies, marmalades and other assorted preserves: every one gleaming inside the old glass display cases. I have won a few ribbons for my entries over the years and it has been a while since I entered anything, but it is still fun to see ones own handiwork on display, with or without a ribbon.

Black Raspberry Jam, Tangerine Marmalade, Homemade Sweet Pickles and Ketchup that actually has flavor. These are among the treasures I have tried my luck with at the State Fair. Since the raspberries are done for the season and you can get store bought that is very nearly as good I will skip this one for now. The marmalade is a better choice for making in winter because the tangerines are plentiful at that time. And, as it is not quite time yet for the tomatoes to be coming on in enough abundance to talk of ketchup, I will cover pickles. Next time though, I will talk about the wonders of homemade ketchup.

Pickling is a very old method of preserving the seasonal crop of vegetables. Grandma made pickles of all kinds. Most of us today think only of pickled cucumbers, but most vegetables can be successfully pickled and Grandma knew it. There are many cookbooks, both old and new, available at the public library to help you find some new ways with pickling all kinds of veggies. Some of the pickling Grandma did involved brining and fermenting the cucumbers over a long period of time, a tricky business at best. So I will stay within the bounds of what most of us can get done in an afternoon.

My favorite is what are most often called bread & butter pickles. Crisp cucumber slices, bright yellow with turmeric, with lots of onion and maybe a touch of green pepper, too, all in a sweet, spicy brine. This is a touch of high summer for enjoying in the dead of winter.

And don’t throw out the pickle juice that is left over when the pickles have been eaten. I save some of the onions in the leftover brine and use it to make a wonderful hot bacon salad dressing. Just fry up three or four slices of bacon in a skillet till crisp and then crumble them up a bit. Then stir in some of the onions and about 2 tablespoons of the pickle juice and mix well. Pour over crisp lettuce and toss. Add a few croutons and a sprinkle of Swiss cheese and you have a wonderful salad you might even want to serve to guests.

Bread and Butter Pickles

4 quarts sliced unpeeled pickling cucumbers (about 6 pounds)

3 to 6 medium white onions, sliced (3 to 6 cups)

2 green peppers, sliced (1 2/3 cups), optional

1/3 cup pickling or kosher salt, (not iodized)

Cracked ice

5 cups sugar

3 cups cider vinegar

2 tablespoons mustard seed

1 ½ teaspoons turmeric

1 ½ teaspoons celery seed

Combine vegetables and salt. Cover with cracked ice; mix well. Let mixture stand 3 hours; drain well. Remove any large pieces of the ice that have not melted. Combine sugar, vinegar, mustard seed, turmeric, and celery seed in a large kettle and bring to a boil. Stir in the vegetable mixture. Bring again to boiling. Ladle into hot canning jars leaving ½ inch headspace. Clean the rims of the jars to ensure a good seal. Adjust the lids and screw down the ring bands to seal and place in a boiling water bath. Be sure the water covers the top of the jars by about 1 inch. Bring water back to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove from boiling water and cool in a draft free area. Remove ring bands and label. Makes 6 to 8 pints.