Bread and Butter Pickles

As I whined last week, a co-worker arrived at the office prepared to rid himself of a reusable WalMart bag brimming with garden cucumbers plucked from his partner's parents' backyard. It seems said parents have vacationed to New Zealand, so he's been trusted to tend to their garden in the meantime, with free reign to do what he sees fit with the harvest. Basically, these cucumbers needed a dumping ground, and my beat of wishy-washy hesitation in answering his offer was just enough time for him to hastily pass the whole bag off to a semi-willing dope before darting outside for a smoke.

The weight of the bag falling into my hand surprised me - as did finding 22 of the damn things when I peered inside (7 pounds, if you were wondering). What was a cucumber hater going to do with 22 cucumbers?

Easy. Make the only wholly comprised of cucumbers item I find acceptable: pickles.

We'd been planning on taking the time this summer to learn how to preserve foods, and my cucumber surplus was certainly a cause for a baptism by fire. Even at that, they were so good I was picking at the molten-hot pickles while they were still in the brine, and the three co-workers (including the cucumber dumper) I brought jars to this morning finished them within a half hour of receiving them.

You will need:

5 pounds cucumbers
1 cup kosher salt (can also use pickling salt – do not use iodized salt)
5 cups cider vinegar
5 cups sugar
1-1/2 pounds onion
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled, smashed and chopped in half
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed
1 tablespoon celery seed
½ tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon black pepper

Dissolve the salt in a large pot with 6 quarts of water. Once the salt is dissolved, add the cucumber pieces and stir. Cover the pot and leave it somewhere cool overnight (or 8-12 hours). The refrigerator is preferable, but a dark basement or pantry would be fine also. 

The next day, combine the vinegar and sugar in a pot over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Slice the onion into very thin rings, and cut the rings in half (small enough to fit into your canning jars). Add to the vinegar mixture and stir. 

Add the mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric and black pepper to the pot.

Drain your cucumber pieces thoroughly (do not rinse!) and add them to the pot. 

Stir and allow the mixture to just barely boil, then turn off heat and allow the cucumbers to soak in the vinegar while you prepare your canning jars. 

Sterilize your canning jars, lids and bands in hot (not boiling) water for at least 10 minutes. 

When your pickles are ready to can, remove the bands for easier handling at room temperature, then remove the jars and lids one by one. Drop a few cloves of garlic into the bottom of the jar, and then using a wide-mouth canning funnel, pour the pickles and brine into the jars, leaving one half inch of headspace at the top of the jar. Wipe the rims of the jars to dry and wipe off the lids before placing on top of the jar, then seal the band finger-tight.

Drop the cans into a hot water bath (full rolling boil) for 10 minutes to kill any existing organisms. After 10 minutes, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the cooling water for 5 minutes. Remove the jars to a towel and leave undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. 

Check the seals on your lids after an hour or so – they should pop audibly when sealing shut, and shouldn’t flex when you apply pressure to the lid. If they do, immediately reprocess in the hot water bath. 

Yield: 4 pints (we packaged ours in half pints - easier to give away).


  1. Thanks for sharing this - it looks awesome :)

    I am gonig to have a go at making them as I love pickles to bits.

  2. It was quite a bit of work, but the end results were well worth it...have fun!