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Bread and Butter Pickles

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© 2013 Helana Brigman
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This recipe appeared as part of my September 5th, 2013 column with The Advocate.  To see the print-run version, click here.  For more pictures and tidbits about preparing Bread & Butter pickles at home, keep reading!


I love the crisp, subtle taste of fresh cucumbers, but the beginning of September means seeing less and less of this abundant warm-weather crop.

To preserve a little bit of summer, my family and I have always reserved the month of August for pickling. Not only is pickling a wonderful family activity, but it also teaches the importance of preservation by making use of excess garden produce.

But, for first time home cooks, pickling can be an intimidating business. There are important principles you’ll need to follow for your jars setup correctly, but don’t be overwhelmed. 


Pictured: Bread & Butter Pickles using my favorite family recipe.

First, make sure to sterilize your equipment properly. If you hope to store pickles outside of the refrigerator before opening, then you must always sterilize your jars, lids and screw tops. There are plenty of great “refrigerator” pickle recipes, but long-term pickling requires a few extra steps outlined below. Second, use the freshest cucumbers you have available (preferably pickling cucumbers, but English work as well).

Our family’s classic Bread and Butter Pickles recipe is simple and easy, pieced together from tried family favorites and some extra research from the USDA Home Canning Guide (available in full, online). In addition, we’ve adjusted the sugar level for modern tastes, dropping the original from five cups to four. The result is sweet, subtly tangy Bread and Butter Pickles that are crispy enough to add crunch to a sandwich and sweet enough to toss on a salad or eat with a fork.

Plus, homemade Bread and Butter Pickles means having a little bit of summer anytime of the year.


Pictured: 1-quart of pickles (this recipe yields 6 quarts, but feel free to use 12 (1-pint) jars for smaller serving sizes!).

Bread and Butter Pickles

Yield: 6 quarts (12 pints)

Many thanks to Gumbo Goddess Caroline Wolfe for pointing me in the direction of this excellent pickling & canning primer from the USDA Office!: The Official USDA Home Canning Guide: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html 


* 9 cups water

* 1 cup kosher salt

* 6 quarts (24 cups) cucumbers, washed, ends removed and sliced ¼-inch thick

* 4 cups onions, sliced

* 6 cups vinegar

* 4 cups sugar

* 1 Tbsp. turmeric

* 1 tsp. mustard seed

Special Equipment Needed:

* 6 (1-quart) mason jars or 12 (1-pint) jars

1.) Whisk together salt and water in a large bowl and add sliced cucumbers and onions. Soak for three hours, then rinse (thoroughly) and drain well.

2.) Bring vinegar, sugar, turmeric and mustard seed to a boil over medium-high heat and add cucumbers. Return to a boil and reduce heat to medium, cooking and stirring occasionally until the cucumbers turn color (do not overcook).

3.) Prepare mason jars: bring a canner (or large pot of water) to a boil and add clean jars, lids and screw tops. Reduce heat to medium and sterilize jars for at least ten to fifteen minutes in hot water bath. You may keep the jars in hot water bath while preparing the pickles.

4.) When ready to transfer pickles, drain jars and pack full, leaving 1-inch from the rim. Cover with 1/2-inch vinegar syrup. Wipe rims dry with clean paper towels before securing sterilized lid and metal screw band.

5.) To seal, place jars in hot water bath (preferably a canner, standing upright) for 10 minutes with 1-inch water above the lids (water should be heated between 180F and 185F). Remove jars from pot and cool to room temperature. Jars will self-seal, but if seals do not setup properly, they must be stored in a refrigerator. All sealed jars may be stored outside of the refrigerator.


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