Bread and Butter Pickles

Homemade picklesOne of my childhood memories is waking up on a summer morning to the smell of hot pickling liquid. My mom canned pickles, relish, jams and jellies throughout the summer. We would enjoy the result months later, as would family and friends who received tasty treats in the winter.

A couple of years ago I asked my mom for her bread & butter pickle recipe. She laughed and pointed me toward a worn copy of the Ball Blue Book that she had used for 40 years. My recipe is an adaptation of that one with a bit more instruction.

Pickling is easy and doesn’t take a lot of special equipment. It’s a fine way to spend a summer afternoon, especially if the weather isn’t super-duper. The taste of a homemade pickle, in deepest winter, will brighten your day.

Bread and Butter Pickles
Servings: ~7 pints
Prep time: 2 hours
Total time: 4 hours (plus 6 weeks)


  • 4 lbs. pickling cucumbers, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 lb. onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1 5-lb. bag ice
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp. celery seeds
  • 2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3 cups white vinegar

Special Equipment:

  • 2 large pots
  • stainless steel ladle
  • jar lifter, such as this one
  • silicone spatula
  • long tongs
  • pint or quart jars, fresh lids and screw-on bands.


  1. Combine cucumber slices, onions and salt in a large bowl. Toss to distribute salt. Cover with ice. Refrigerate for at least 1.5 hours.
  2. Drain cucumber/onion mixture, rinse, drain, rinse, drain.
  3. Fill one large pot with enough water so that when filled with jars there will be at least 1″ of water above the jars. Bring to a boil.
  4. Once water is boiling submerge all the jars, screw on bands, the ladle, jar lifter, and spatula in the pot. Return to a bare simmer.
  5. In the second pot combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Add drained cucumbers/onions; bring back up to a boil.
  6. Carefully remove tools from the boiling water and layout on a clean cutting board. Remove a jar from the water with the jar lifter; pour out the water.
  7. Pack hot pickles into the jar, using the spatula to eliminate any air pockets. Fill the jar to within a 1/2″ of the top. Wipe the jar rim with a paper towel.
  8. Using the tongs grab a lid, hold it in the boiling water for 30-seconds and then place it on the jar. Use the jar lifter to grab a screw-on band and place that on the jar. Use a clean towel to screw the band into place. Set aside.
  9. Repeat process until all of the pickles are canned.
  10. Return jars to boiling water. Process (aka let sit in the water) for 10 minutes.
  11. Transfer jars to a cooling rack. Within 5-10 minutes you should hear a soft pop from each jar. This indicates that the seal has been created.
  12. Once jars have cooled give the center of the lid a little push. If the lid flexes then the seal didn’t take. See note for what to do.
  13. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark spot for at least 6 weeks before enjoying your creation.

If the seal doesn’t take you can bring the pickles and liquid back up to boil, resanitize the jar and recan with a new lid. Or enjoy the lightly pickled cucumbers from the fridge; best to use them up within 2 weeks.

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