Bread-N-Butter Pickles

I cannot imagine a Labor Day cookout without the pickles. Whether you put them on burgers and hot dogs or toss them in your potato salad, they are an integral part of the end-of-summer festivities.

Cucumbers belong to the same botanical family as watermelons and cantaloupes, that of squashes like zucchinis and pumpkins. Cucumbers are one of the most cultivated vegetables in the world and are known to have many health benefits. Cucumbers have most of the vitamins the body needs in a single day and are rich in vitamin A, B1, B6, C & D, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium. Cucumbers also contain lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol. These three lignans have a strong history of research in connection with reduced risk of several cancer types, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and prostate cancer.

Having grown up in a rural area, I rarely had a “store-bought” pickle. In fact, our closest neighbor, Inez, was known throughout the county for her home-canned, bread-n-butter pickles. While I was never a recipient of her famous pickle recipe, this variation is quite splendid.

  • 2 pounds (about 6 1/2 cups) Kirby cucumbers, cut into 1/4”-thick rounds
  • 1 (about 1 cup) medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt or kosher salt
  • 2 cups ice
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, cracked
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of ground clove

Rinse and cut cucumbers into preferred shapes making sure to remove at least 1/16th inch from the blossom end as the blossom end contains enzymes that can cause softening.  Trim and remove any blemishes and remove any extra or unwanted seeds. I used a crinkle cutter, but a mandolin would work well also.

In a medium bowl, combine the cucumbers, onion and salt and toss to mix well. Cover the mixture with ice. Let the cucumbers and onions stand at room temperature for two hours. The ice makes the cucumbers “crisp” and creates a brine that preserves them. Drain cucumbers and onions.

In a saucepan, bring the sugar, vinegar, water and spices to a boil. Add the cucumbers and onions to the vinegar mixture and bring almost back to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. You can store the pickles in an airtight container for up to three weeks in the fridge. They will begin tasting pickled in just a couple hours.

If you want to keep the pickles for a longer period, you can process them in a hot water bath. Using a slotted spoon fill hot sterilized jars with the pickles and onions and pack firmly.Ladle the pickling juice over the cucumbers, leaving about 1/2-inch below each jar's neck. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp cloth and cover tightly with sterilized lids and screw tops.

Place jars in a deep pot filled with hot water, being sure to keep jars upright at all times. Jars should be spaced about 1” apart and should not touch sides of pot. Cover the jars with water by 1 inch. Cover the pot, and bring to a boil and reduce heat to barely keep the water boiling for 10 minutes.

Carefully remove the jars from the canning water and set on a heat safe surface and let cool completely. Press down on each lid. If the lid pops back with a clicking noise, it's not sealed properly. Refrigerate any unsealed jars immediately and use within 1 month as above. Sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. We recommend writing the canning date on the jars with a Sharpie marker (which can be later removed with alcohol or a light scrubbing with a soapy sponge.