Pickle juice runs in my veins as I descend from a long line of pickle enthusiasts from eastern European roots. We don’t know of a food variety we haven’t tried to pickle at one point in time or another. But bread-and-butter pickles are some of our favorites. RM doesn’t understand this addiction to pickling as he loathes the smell of hot vinegar so I have to warn him when I am going into pickling mode so he can stay out of the kitchen (out of the house is even better).
This type of pickling didn’t derive in the old country but rather from the Midwest.The bread-and-butter pickles that we know today date back to the early 1920’s when Omar and Cora Fanning trademarked their family recipe for “sweet and sour” pickles. From Streator, Illinois, the Fanning’s were farmers growing cucumbers. One season, the family fell on hard times, and Mr. Fanning made the decision to use the small cucumbers, which had been considered waste up until that point, to create an innovative side business. The resulting pickles were such a hit that Mrs. Fanning was able to barter with her local grocer, exchanging the pickles for household staples like bread and butter. The name stuck, and bread-and-butter pickles were an overnight success. They were simultaneously marketed as “old-fashioned” and the “latest thing,” and their popularity quickly spread from the Midwest to the South, where bread-and-butter pickles remain a staple.
Here is my personal favorite recipe for basic bread-and-butter pickles:
- 2 pounds Kirby cucumbers — they are selling them at Cowtown Farmer’s Market
- 2 cups small diced sweet onion
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- crushed ice
- 2 cups sugar
- 1T yellow mustard seed
- 1/2 t celery seed
- 1t tumeric — make the recipe so don’t leave it out
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 1 fresh bay leaf, torn to pieces
- 1/2 jalepeno or serrano pepper – I just threw a couple of serrano peppers in for contrast.
Sterilize your jars. Cut up the cucumbers into 1/8 inch slices. Layer the slices in a glass bowl with the onions, salt and the crushed ice. Keep them submerged and cover with a plate. Leave in the refrigerator over night. This step is how you get the mandatory CRUNCH of a great pickle so don’t skip it.
Next day, drain the cucumbers and onions and put them in a pot with the rest of the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for a bit.
Divide mixture into the jars and make sure liquid covers the top, leaving 1/4 inch gap at top. Allow to cool and then put in refrigerator for at least 1 week. They will keep for up to 6 months in fridge. If you open them, you need to eat them within a month. They will be ready just in time to celebrate National Pickle Day on November 14th.