Zesty with red bell pepper and onion, these homemade bread and butter pickles can be made as refrigerator pickles or canned for later.
I am a picklehead and recipes like my quick dill pickles and my homemade spicy garlic dill pickles profess my love. Growing up, everything I ate had to have a pickle on it. Tuna sandwiches weren’t complete without long slices of kosher dills and my after-school snack of Triscuits, liverwurst, mustard, and dill hamburger chips was my favorite treat.
It wasn’t until later that I experienced my first taste of spicy-sweet bread and butter pickles. Standing on the dirt floor of my husband’s grandmother’s root cellar with just a bare light bulb shining the light, we used a screwdriver to pry open a jar of her famous bread and butter pickles. We dipped in right then and there. Those zesty pickles changed me and inspired this version of Grandma Tilly’s recipe.
What’s in Bread and Butter Pickles?
As with any homemade pickle recipe, these bread and butter pickles require a variety of pickling spices to give them their unique flavor.
Here’s what you need for homemade bread and butter pickles:
- Cucumbers with a thick skin such as Kirby cucumbers
- Red bell peppers
- Cider vinegar
- Mustard seed
- Celery seed
- Whole cloves
- Ground turmeric
What Type of Cucumbers Should I Use?
You can use really any variety of cucumber for this bread and butter pickle recipe but those with a thick skin such as Kirby cucumbers work best.
How to Make Bread and Butter Pickles
- Slice the cucumbers and other veggies quite thinly. Don’t cut the cucumbers so thin they turn to mush in the hot brine, but thin enough to easily soak it up. If you have a mandoline, definitely use it to slice the cucumbers.
- Use red bell pepper and yellow onions for flavor. I don’t recommend using other kinds of bell pepper in this pickle recipe. The sweet red bell peppers perfectly complement the tangy pickle brine.
- Salt the vegetable mixture to keep the cucumbers crisp. Give the mixture a good stir and let it sit for three hours. Adding salt releases some of the cucumber’s water so they stay crisper in the hot brine.
- Drain the cucumber mixture and give a quick rinse in cold water.
Start the Pickling!
- In a separate Dutch oven or saucepan, add the vinegar, sugar, and spices and bring to a boil. Add the cucumber mixture to the boiling vinegar then remove from the heat just before they come back to a boil.
- Don’t overprocess the pickles. You don’t want to cook the pickles. Process just long enough for the cans to seal.
- Transfer the homemade bread and butter pickles to sterile jars and either refrigerate or can for later.
How to Can Pickles
- Fill a canning pot with water and bring to a boil. Allow enough room so that when the bottles are added the water doesn’t overflow.
- Wipe the rims of the jars and use tongs to place the sterilized lids and rings on top of the jars.
- Process in a canner water bath for 10 minutes.
- Remove the jars from the pot to the counter topped with a dish towel to cool.
- Make sure the lids pop down to show they are sealed. Refrigerate the jars of pickles that don’t pop and eat as refrigerator pickles.
Why are These Called Bread and Butter Pickles?
Contrary to the name, neither butter nor bread are ingredients you’ll find in these pickled cucumbers. Bread and butter pickles can be traced back to two Illinois farmers — Omar and Cora Fanning, who in 1923, filed for a patent for the name to use for their family pickles. The story goes, when Omar and Cora fell on hard times, they exchanged their pickles with their grocer for ding ding: bread and butter!
However, these pickles didn’t really begin to catch on until around the time of the Great Depression, when bread and butter pickles started appearing in American newspapers. Soon after, they could be found on the shelves of Piggly Wiggly Food Stores, and by 1943 they were recognized as an American pantry staple.
What is the Difference Between Bread and Butter Pickles and Dill Pickles?
Bread and butter pickles skip the dill and have a sweeter flavor profile than dill pickles. Dill pickles are usually thicker-cut rounds or spears, less sweet, tend to have a crispier bite, and boast flavors of garlic and (you guessed it) — dill. I love both, so don’t make me choose!
More Pickle Recipes to Make
- Killer Spicy Garlic Dill Pickles
- Sweet and Sour Asian Pickled Cucumbers
- Pickled Green Beans (Dilly Beans)
- Pickled Beets
- Spiralized Refrigerator Quick Dill Pickles
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