My mother-in-law Edna was a wonderful cook, reigning supreme in the kitchen. She excelled at making pickles (and pies, but that’s for another column at another time). Her recipes, handed down from her mother, are tried and true, and I’m the lucky recipient of many of them, all handwritten and tattered around the edges from decades of use.
One of my favorite, and among the easiest to make, is her recipe for bread and butter pickles. When winter rolls around, you will be happy to have a reminder of summer in your cupboards.
A great place to buy cucumbers is Duris Cucumber Farm on River Road, just south of Puyallup, as they have excellent cukes in three sizes — small, medium and large. The recipe below uses their medium size. Edna knew how many cucumbers she would need for a batch, so never bothered to include that information on her cards. Through trial and error, I’ve arrived at quantities of cucumbers and syrup that work.
This recipe is from 1943.
Grandma Edna’s Bread and Butter Pickles
(makes around 8 quarts)
Collect about 26 medium-size cucumbers, washed and with the ends cut off. Slice cucumbers about ⅛” thick, put into a roasting pan, lightly salt and let sit overnight at room temperature. Rinse well in the morning and then drain.
Fill a large roasting pan with water and heat to boiling. Add canning jars, rings and lids. Turn down heat to keep the water simmering while you prepare the syrup.
9 cups vinegar
3 cups water
9 cups sugar
6 tablespoons mustard seed
3 teaspoons celery seed
3 teaspoons turmeric powder
Bring syrup to a soft boil and continue boiling for three minutes.
Add sliced pickles to syrup and simmer (do not boil) for 15 minutes. Using sturdy tongs, carefully remove jars, lids and rings from the simmering water; fill sterilized jars with pickles and syrup. Carefully wipe the top of the jar before placing lids on top, and then screwing down the rings. Leave about one quarter of an inch space between pickles and the top of the jar.
Onions and red peppers may be added at the time you fill the jars. Three bottles of Mezzetta brand whole small onions work well for this recipe, along with 2 red peppers, seeded and sliced thin.
Let jars cool at room temperature, covering with a kitchen towel so they don’t cool too fast. As the jars cool, you will hear a little “pop” as the lid seals.
When jars are completely cool, check to make sure each lid is sealed (you may need to press lightly on the center of the lid to give it a little assist) and store in a cool place.
You may choose to use a water bath to further process the jars once they are filled and lids and rings are on but before they start to cool. There are many videos online about how to accomplish this step