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bread and butter pickles canning

Bread and Butter Pickles Canning

Bread and Butter Pickles Canning

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Bread and Butter Pickles Canning
Bread and Butter Pickles Canning



Canning is a method of food preservation in which food is processed and sealed in an airtight container (jars like Mason jars, and steel and tin cans).It provides a shelf life that typically ranges from one to five years, although under specific circumstances, it can be much longer. A freeze-dried canned product, such as canned dried lentils, could last as long as 30 years in an edible state.

In 1974, samples of canned food from the wreck of the Bertrand, a steamboat that sank in the Missouri River in 1865, were tested by the National Food Processors Association. Although appearance, smell, and vitamin content had deteriorated, there was no trace of microbial growth and the 109-year-old food was determined to be still safe to eat.

Canning and economic recession

Canned goods and canning supplies sell particularly well in times of recession due to the tendency of financially stressed individuals to engage in cocooning, a term used by retail analysts to describe the phenomenon in which people choose to stay at home instead of adding expenditures to their budget by dining out and socializing outside the home.

Also, some people may become preppers and proceed to stockpile canned food. A “doomer” prepper would also be interested in stockpiling canned food upon learning about a recession.

In February 2009 during a recession, the United States saw an 11.5% rise in sales of canning-related items.

Some communities in the US have county canning centers which are available for teaching canning, or shared community kitchens which can be rented for canning one’s own foods.


Every summer I make a huge batch of no sugar dill pickles with the tiniest cucumbers I can find.  I save the monster cucumbers that get lost on the vine for sweet dill pickle relish, but that leaves me a lot of dill in my canning pantry; and I searched for quite a while before stumbling across this bread and butter pickles canning recipe in my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

I think what got me excited the most is the history behind bread and butter pickles.  The story goes that a pair of Illinois cucumber farmers made it through the tough years by selling pickles to the local grocery in the 1920’s.  They became known as “bread and butter pickles” simply because the farmers traded them for their bread and butter.

This bread and butter pickle recipe is special because it turns oversized cucumbers into flavorful pickles without bitterness.  Generally, the best pickles come from the tiny sweet cucumbers, harvested before they’ve had time to fully develop seeds or bitterness.  But what’s a farmer to do with all the monster cucumbers that get lost on the vine?

This recipe leaches the bitterness from the cucumbers soaking the cucumber slices in salt and then straining the liquid before canning.  It’s the same process that’s used for removing the bitterness from other vegetables, like eggplant.

The actual canning brine is both sour and sweet.  Most pickle recipes use water and vinegar in the pickling brine, often in a 50/50 ratio.  Bread and butter pickles are all vinegar with no water in the brine, but that sourness is balanced out with a heavy helping of sugar.

Even with 2 cups of sugar spread out across 5 pints of pickles, these bread and butter pickles don’t come across as too sweet.  That’s because the sugar is balanced nicely by the vinegar, and any lasting bite the cucumbers still retain after a salt soak.

The spices are simple.  Just mustard seeds for a tiny bit of heat, celery seed for a little umami and turmeric for warmth and color.  Other recipe variations add horseradish and ginger to create spicy bread and butter pickles.  Or as the ball book of canning calls them “zesty.”

Tips for Canning Bread & Butter Pickles

These old-fashioned bread and butter pickles are made from cucumbers, onions and pickling spices. They are tangy, sweet, and crunchy—a perfect addition to any sandwich, hamburger, or hot dog. Here are tips for home canning bread and butter pickles:


Bread and Butter Pickles Canning
Bread and Butter Pickles Canning


Select crisp, freshly harvested pickling cucumbers

Pickling cucumbers are short, thin skinned cucumbers that are primarily used for processing or pickling. Skip the waxed cucumbers at the grocery store. The wax prevents the pickling liquid from penetrating the cucumber.

Use pickling salt

Table salt contains iodine and anti-caking agents that can darken pickles and cause cloudiness in your jars. Instead, use pickling salt, which is also called canning salt.

Use commercial vinegar with at least 5% acidity

  • Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apples. It will darken your pickles slightly, but adds a nice flavor.
  • White vinegar is clear vinegar made by distilling corn and rye. Choose an organic brand to avoid genetically modified corn.

What makes a bread and butter pickle unique?

I always ask myself: why do so many of us seek out a bread and butter pickle? I think it’s due to one main thing. Dill pickles have one main spice/herb that’s used: dill. They’re often on the sour side with a strong briny bite.

In contrast, bread and butter pickles use a blend of turmeric, clove, celery seed, and red pepper flakes for a rounded-out flavor. None of the spices stand out, but all blend together for a richer taste. The brine is heavy on vinegar but is balanced out with sugar to give a slight sweetness. This all creates a perfectly neutral pickle that both sour and sweet fans like.


  • 4 pounds pickling cucumbers known as Kirby’s, washed and scrubbed, ends trimmed, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 4 large white onions, sliced
  •  cup kosher salt, I use Diamond Crystal
  • 5 pieces of garlic, either whole cloves or cut in half
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 ½ teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper


    • In a large bowl, combine the sliced cucumbers, onion, and ½ cup salt. Mix to incorporate and pour into a large colander. Set inside a large bowl for 3 hours to drain excess water.
    • After 3 hours, discard the drained liquid. Rinse the cucumbers and onion well and allow to drain.
    • Prepare the water bath, 8 pint jars, lids, and rings.
    • In a 4-quart kettle, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric, cloves, celery seed, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, and 2 tsp salt. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer while preparing the cucumbers in jars.
  • Pack jars with rinsed and drained cucumbers and onions, leaving ½-inch headspace. Pour brine over prepared cucumbers and onions, still leaving that ½-inch headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth to remove any drips. Place on lids and rings, tightening to fingertip tightness.
  • Place jars in the boiling water bath. Bring back to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Check with the USDA canning guide and adjust the process time for altitude.
  • Remove from the water bath and cool for 12-24 hours. Remove rings to ensure a good seal and store for up to one year.


Bread and Butter Pickles Canning
Bread and Butter Pickles Canning



Serving: 0.5cup | Calories: 42kcal | Carbohydrates: 9.4g | Protein: 0.5g | Fat: 0.2g | Saturated Fat: 0g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 0mg | Sodium: 148.1mg | Potassium: 99.3mg | Fiber: 0.5g | Sugar: 7.6g | Vitamin A: 3.2IU | Vitamin C: 2.3mg | Calcium: 15.8mg | Iron: 0.3mg


As with any pickling recipe, there’s the original traditional way to make the pickles and then there’s all manner of homegrown variations.  So long as the vinegar, vegetables and processing time stay the same, you’re free to adjust just about anything else. 

That includes both the sugar and salt, neither of which is used as a preservative in this recipe.  Feel free to change up any of the spices to suit your preferences.  Try less sugar if you’d like, or add a hint more or less salt.  For sweet and spicy pickles, try adding red pepper flakes or black pepper.

The ball book of canning and preserving offers three variations that are commonly made in home kitchens.  The British version has makes a darker pickle brine, and the brown sugar and cider vinegar add richness and character. The zesty bread and butter pickle recipe adds horseradish and ginger to help balance out the sweetness.  The last variation, with garlic, just adds more flavor and umami to the pickles.

  • British Bread and Butter Pickles ~ Use cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, and brown sugar instead of white.  Add in 1 tsp ground ginger along with the rest of the spices.
  • Zesty Bread and Butter Pickles ~ Skip the celery seeds and turmeric and add in 2 tbsp prepared horseradish and 2 tbsp freshly grated ginger root instead.
  • Garlic Bread and Butter Pickles ~ The ball book of canning says to add in 1 clove of garlic to each jar, but personally, I’d add in 3 to 4 cloves if you really want them to have a good garlic flavor.

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