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old fashioned bread and butter pickles

old fashioned bread and butter pickles

old fashioned bread and butter pickles

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old fashioned bread and butter pickles

Despite their name, they have neither bread nor butter in their list of ingredients.  So where did the name come from?   We don’t know for certain but some trace their origin back to the Great Depression when homemade bread and butter could be made inexpensively as were pickles made from homegrown cucumbers.  Slices of white bread were spread with butter and layered with pickles.  And so the term bread and butter pickles came about.

These old-fashioned bread and butter pickles have the perfect balance of sweet and sour and retain their crunch beautifully if you store them in the fridge.  If you decide to water bath can them they’ll retain some crunch but not as much and the crunch will continue to decrease over time.

These bread and butter pickles are a perfect balance of sweet and tangy flavors. Perfect for topping your favorite burgers or adding to salads.


  • 3 pounds pickling cucumber
  • 1 pound onions
  • 1/4 cup canning or pickling salt
  • 2 quarts crushed ice or ice cubes and water
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorn
  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar 5% acidity (or white vinegar)
old fashioned bread and butter pickles
old fashioned bread and butter pickles


Prepare your cucumbers and onions:

  • Wash cucumbers, cut into 1/4-inch slices discarding ends. Peel and thinly slice onions. Combine sliced cucumber and onions a large bowl.
  • Sprinkle canning salt over the top of the cucumbers and onions, cover with ice and water, and let stand for 3 hours.

Prepare your canning equipment:

  • Wash your jars, lids, screw bands, and canning tools in hot soapy water. Rinse thoroughly to remove all suds. Set aside to air dry on a clean kitchen towel.
  • Place the jar rack into water bath canner, place jars in the canner, and add water to cover. Bring the canner to a simmer (180˚F) for 10 minutes, and keep the jars hot.

Make your bread and butter pickles

  • In a large pot, combine sugar, mustard seed, celery seed, ground turmeric, peppercorns, and vinegar. Heat just to a boil.
  • Drain and rinse the cucumber and onions under fresh water. Add the drained cucumber and onion slices to the large pot and return to boil. Reduce heat and keep warm as you fill your jars.

Can your bread and butter pickles

Spread a kitchen towel on the counter. Use the jar lifter to remove a hot jar from the canner, drain, and place on the towel. Keep the remaining jars in the canner, so they stay warm.

Use your canning funnel and ladle to pack the hot cucumbers and onions loosely into the jar. Ladle the hot brine over the pickles, and maintaining a 1/2 inch headspace.

Run the bubble popper through the jar to release any trapped air bubbles. Make sure all the pickles are submerged under the brine. Remove any that stick out, and adjust the headspace again if needed.

Wipe the rim to remove any residue, center a lid on the jar, and screw on a band until it is fingertip tight. Use your jar lifter to place the jar back into the canner, and repeat with the remaining jars.

Once all the jars are in canner, adjust the water level so it is 2 inches above the jar tops.

Can your bread and butter pickles

Cover the canner and bring to boil over high heat. Once water boils vigorously, continue boiling and process pickles for 10 minutes at altitudes of less than 1,000 feet. Adjust processing time for your altitude if necessary (See Note).

When processing time is complete, turn off heat, remove the cover, and allow the canner to cool down and settle for about 5 minutes.

Spread a dry kitchen towel on the counter. Remove the cover by tilting lid away from you so that steam does not burn your face.

Use the jar lifter to remove the jars from canner and place on the towel. Keep the jars upright, and don’t tighten bands or check the seals yet. Let the jars sit undisturbed for 12 to 24-hours to cool.

After 12 to 24-hours, check to be sure jar lids have sealed by pushing on the center of the lid. The lid should not pop up. If the lid flexes up and down, it did not seal. Refrigerate jar and use up within a week.

Remove the screw on bands and wash the jars. Label and date the jars. Store in a cool, dark location. Allow 4-5 weeks for the pickles to develop their flavor. Use within a year. Yields about 5 pints depending on the size of your cucumbers.

old fashioned bread and butter pickles
old fashioned bread and butter pickles

Granny’s Bread and Butter Pickles

Old fashioned bread and butter pickles are easy to make and a great way to preserve the summer cucumber harvest.


  • 2 1/2 pounds cucumbers
  • 1 pound onion
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/4 cup canning salt
  • 1 1/4 cup white vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. mustard seed
  • 3/4 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric


  1. Slice the cucumbers, onions and peel the garlic
  2. Put cucumbers, onions, and peeled garlic in a big bowl.
  3. Sprinkle the canning salt over them and then covered them with a clean towel.
  4. Put ice on the towel.
  5. Let it sit for about 3 hours.
  6. After 3 hours make a brine out of the vinegar, cider vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, celery seed and turmeric. Bring to a boil in a large pot.
  7. Pour the now salted water off the cucumbers and rinse them just a bit.
  8. Put the cucumbers, onions and garlic in the pot with the brine and bring back to boil for 90 seconds.
  9. Ladle into hot jars and put on lids.
  10. Process for 10 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts in a water bath canner.

What Kind of Cucumbers Should I Use?

Look for “pickling cucumbers.”  These are small, thin-skinned cucumbers that are specifically meant for pickling, whether for pickling whole, as spears, or in slices.  Avoid the large waxed cucumbers as the skins are very thick and…well, waxy…and they have a lot of seeds.  If you grow your own cucumbers you can use regular cucumbers if they’re picked while small.

What Kind of Salt Should I Use?

Table salt contains additives like iodine and anti-caking agents that, while “safe” to use, will turn your pickles an unattractive grayish color and will turn your brine cloudy.  Use either pickling salt (also called canning salt) or kosher salt which do not contain additives.

What spices go into bread and butter pickles?

We use a combination of ground cloves, celery seed, mustard seeds and turmeric for this bread and butter pickle recipe. They blend perfectly for this recipe.

What makes bread and butter pickles different?

Dill pickles use a herb called Dill and have less sugar, making them a little more tart. Old-fashioned bread and butter pickles use a blend of spices, sugar and vinegar making them have a unique sweet and tangy flavor.

old fashioned bread and butter pickles
old fashioned bread and butter pickles


Keep in mind, an old fashioned bread and butter recipe can be made modern by substituting a few simple ingredients.


  • 6 pounds pickling cucumbers
  • 8 cups onions (roughly 3 pounds), sweet yellow or red onions thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt
  • 4 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric


 Jars: You can use any pint or pint-and-a-half (i.e., 24-ounce) jar for canning bread and butter pickles. (My favorite size jar for canning pickles is a 24-ounce wide mouth, straight side mason jar.)

We do not recommend canning bread and butter pickles in quart jars, because the processing time is much longer and it cooks the pickles too much, making them mushy.

 Lids & rings: Use new lids. Clean rings can be reused, but check for dents and rust as they can prevent the jar from sealing properly.

Canner: You will need a water-bath canner with a canning rack and a lid.

 Canning tools: There are lots of fancy canning tools these days, but the ones that you must have are (1) a funnel, and (2) a jar lifter for safely lowing and lifting the jars. in and out of the canner.

A lid lifter is nice to have. You can also get a bubble remover, but a chopstick will do the same job just as well.

Stockpot: You will need a stockpot that can hold at least 6 quarts (24 cups).

 Colander: You will need a colander large enough to hold all of the cut vegetables at once.


  1. Wash cucumbers well, soak cucumbers for 15 minutes in cold water to crisp softer cukes.
  2. Cut and discard the blossom end of the cucumber to slow the enzymes which cause foods to continue ripening.
  3. In a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl combine cucumbers and onions, add salt and mix well. Cover the salted cucumber slices with 2-inches of crushed or cubed ice. Place into the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours, add additional ice as needed.
  4. In a non-reactive pot combine the dried herbs, sugar, and vinegar. Bring the brine to a boil, allow to boil for 10 minutes.
  5. Drain the cucumbers and onions, add to the brine. Allow the mixture to return to a boil.
  6. Using a slotted spoon, add cucumbers and onions to clean, sterilized jars leaving a 1/2-inch headspace.
  7. Place jar funnel onto jar, using a ladle fill jars with the brine.
  8. Remove air bubbles, add additional brine as needed.
  9. Wipe the rims using a clean damp cloth, add warmed lids and rings finger tight.
  10. Processing time is based on the altitude in which you reside, see the chart below.

Allow the jars to rest for 4 to 5 weeks prior to consuming. This ensures the maximum flavor has been achieved.

old fashioned bread and butter pickles
old fashioned bread and butter pickles

How did Bread and Butter Pickles get their name?

These pickles are made with cucumbers. So, why are they called Bread and Butter Pickles?

No one knows the reason with certainty, however there are two explanations that both sound quite plausible.

The first version of the story is that these pickles were often eaten with bread and butter during the Great Depression.

Another version re-tells the story of cucumber farmers from Illinois in the US, Omar and Cora Fanning, who filed a patent for the name in 1923. When they found themselves struggling to make ends meet, they started pickling the cucumbers they would have otherwise thrown away, following an old family recipe. The pickles became popular, and they started exchanging the pickles for basics like… you guessed it, bread and butter.


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