Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Homemade Bread & Butter Pickles

My buddy Anne's mom has a bounty of good things in her garden like zucchini and green peppers. So imagine my happiness the other day when Anne also brought me some cucumbers. I love cucumbers - I love them with sugar and vinegar, I love them plain and I love me some bread and butter pickles.

This was my first foray into canning pickles and I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by the prospect. So much so that I had to call my mother twice for reassurance.

These pickles were worth a little fear ...

Homemade Bread & Butter Pickles
Adapted from Mommy's Kitchen and conversations with my ma

2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp celery seed
1 Tbsp mustard seed
1-1/2 Tbsp mixed pickling spice (cinnamon stick, ginger, mustard seeds, cloves, peppercorns, chilies, etc.)
3-1/2 pounds cucumbers, cut into 1/4″ slices

Slice your cucumbers and place them in a large bowl with ice and pickling salt. I let mine sit out while I was measuring out the ingredients for brine. My mom says that this makes 'em crunchier. After your done soaking, rinse the pickles in a couple of changes of water to get the salt off of them.

In a 5-quart pot (non-aluminum), combine sugar, vinegar, water and spices. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cucumber slices. Return to a boil, stirring gently and trying to submerge slices as they cook. When the pot returns to a boil, boil for 90 seconds, then remove from heat. The slices should have changed from a bright cucumber green to a darker pickle green. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, fill hot jars with pickles slices, then fill each with pickling liquid, leaving 1/8″ head space. (You may have extra brine; you can refrigerate this up to a week if you are making another batch soon.) Wipe rims clean with a damp paper cloth and add lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath — 20 minutes for quarts, 10 minutes for pints. Begin timing when the water has returned to a boil after you submerge your jars.

A couple of notes - I used half-pint jars for my pickles (so five minutes processing time in the boiling water bath). My reasoning was this ... smaller jars in case my finished product tasted like ass; smaller jars so I could share my pickles with friends if finished product DIDN'T taste like ass (this was the case ...) and smaller jars because it takes me forever to finish a jar of pickles/olives, etc. Also - I didn't have a lot of cucumbers, so my 9 half pints would have translated to 4.5 pint jars. Nine jars sounds way cooler than four jars. Also, in my maiden canning voyage I think I could have packed more pickles into my jars - my friends and I have already tore through two of my nine jars. Also - I might experiment with cooking time because although the finished product is pretty damn tasty, I'd like crunchier pickles.

Another note - hot jars and hot lids ... I keep my lids in simmering water until right before I'm ready to can - then I take them out and put them on a clean towel. For hot jars, I usually put them in one of my cake pans, submerge in hot water and place in a 200-degree oven. It's important to keep the jars hot because if you don't, you risk breaking/cracking the jars when you put the hot veg/product in the jars.

It's kind of funny - there are a lot of people who are intimidated by canning and pickling. If you're one of those people, this is a darn good recipe to start off with.

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