I used to be a self-proclaimed pickle-hater. As a child, my first order of business upon receiving a cheeseburger, especially from McDonalds, was to de-pickle. I would carefully inspect every inch making sure no pickle remnants remained and only then would I commence eating. If I skipped this crucial step and bit into a pickle, I acted as though I had been poisoned. My eyes would go wide, I’d grab my throat in horror and with my best nine-year-old imagination, I’d die. My hatred for pickles would even go so far that if a restaurant put a pickle on my plate and that pickle happen to touch my fries, the fries would be condemned, taken off my plate, and go uneaten; which in my mind was a real catastrophe.
I went about hating pickles through most of high school until one fateful night at a friend’s house. His mother had just finished making sweet pickles and was trying her best to convince me to eat one. I, still having a bit of my nine-year-old pickle-hating/dying mentality, refused. Luckily for me, even though I didn’t see this at the time, she chased me down and forced me to eat one.
It tasted like no other pickle had ever tasted before. The taste was sweet, salty, spicy, and tangy all at once. It was love at first bite. From there on out, bread and butter pickles were my thing.
This recipe I’m sharing with you today is special for many reasons. I feel like I missed out on so many years of eating these pickles even though I’m sure my mother didn’t object-she got all the pickles for herself. This recipe originally came from my great aunt and we assume the recipe was passed down to her from her mother and grandmother, dating back sometime in the 1800’s.
While I love the history behind the recipe, I love even more how we make these pickles. My family is not one for a lot of tradition or rituals. Holidays come and go without much fuss and most other things don’t really excite us.
Pickles have become our tradition using this recipe that has been passed down from one generation to the next. My mother and I head to my grandma’s and from there, we make pickles together. At first my grandmother would make the pickles, while my mother and I would join in where needed. Now, as time has passed, I do more of the pickle making while my mother and grandmother help when needed. Sure, I could just as easily make pickles by myself but really that’s not the point. It’s about being in the kitchen, together.
These are the memories I cherish.
Bread and Butter Pickles
- 8 medium cucumbers
- 2 green peppers
- 8 small white onions
- 1/2 cup salt
- 5 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 tsp celery seed
- 2 tablespoons mustard seed
- 5 cups apple cider vinegar
- Wash cucumbers, onions, and peppers well. Slice cucumber and onions thing (a mandolin works well for this) and cut peppers into fine shreds. Mix vegetables with salt and a few handfuls of ice cubes. Place in a stone crock, cover with plate, and let stand for three hours.
- Drain crock thoroughly, removing any pieces of ice still left. Mix sugar and spices with vinegar. Add cucumber mixture to a large roasting pan or pot and pour vinegar over. Place over low heat and stir occasionally. Heat mixture to scolding but do not boil.
- While mixture is heating, sanitize 8 pint jars. I do this by washing them with hot soapy water, pouring hot water in each, and then placing in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Place lids and rings in a separate pot with water and bring to a boil with funnel and ladle (sanitizing everything.) Pour hot pickle mixture into sanitized jars and seal. Let cool and jars will suction themselves.*