Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bread & Butter Pickles – One of the Great Depression’s Greatest Hits

During the Great Depression, sandwiches weren’t quite what they are today. Forget about choice of aioli, or did you want roast tri tip or smoked turkey; back then it was more like, “Did you want cucumbers in your sandwich, or nothing in your sandwich?” Okay, cucumbers it is.

At the end of summer, the excess "cuc" crop was sliced, salted, pickled, and put up in jars for the cold, lean months ahead. If you thought summer Depression-era sandwiches sucked, it was much worse in winter, when you couldn’t even find a bland vegetable to slap between your slices of buttered bread.

I can just imagine what a treat it must have been to fill a sandwich with these sweet crunchy coins, or "bread and butter pickles," as they came to be known. I’m sure it was a wonderful break from what must have been a fairly flavorless existence. Happily, times are a bit better now, and we only make these because they taste really good.

So, make a batch, experience a little piece of American culinary history, and as you’re tossing them on that burger, think back to what those days must have been like. I mean, especially with no YouTube! I hope you give these bread & butter pickles  a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 2 pints:
2 lbs pickling or other firm, little cucumbers
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
2 red jalapeno pepper, sliced
3 tbsp kosher salt
2 cups sugar
2 cups white distilled vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, sliced

22 comments:

T Gent said...

Weirdly enough, although I don't particularly love cucumbers, and as an Italian I find butter + raw veg a weird combination, I LOVE a simple cucumber sandwich. I don't know why but it is delicious. But this seems amazing - exactly the kind of pickle I love.

Julie said...

The garlic isn't in the list of ingredients. Is it just one clove?

Oli Taylor said...

You're not going to like me for this but are the jalepeno chillis necessary

philogaia said...

I used to make these every single year. My mother also made them. I grew up on them. Not sure what my grandmother thought (her being the depression era ancestor.)

A couple of years ago I was into the heat of my affair with lacto-fermenting everything. I tried to do the same with the BnBs. Ummm. Not my finest experiment. I think all the sugar gets eaten up by the bacteria and seems to soften the pickles too much. Last year I didn't do any at all.

You have inspired me. I do love these pickles and like so many recipes of this kind they just don't taste the same store-bought.

Chef John said...

Oli, for me yes, for you, I'm not sure!

Julie, just added! 2 cloves.

Rob D said...

Hey Chef John can't wait to try these, but did your grill break ? It's been almost 2 months since your last grill post and I'm dying over here to try another one of your fantastic BBQ recipes.

Ricardo Paiágua said...

Hey!

I am not too kin on the sweeter pickles. Am I able to use half of it, or is it an integral part for this process to work?

Thanks for all the amazing recipes o/

Bear said...

I love canning -- I must try these!

Two questions: how many quarts does this particular recipe yield?

And, is there a variation for pickles that would end up less sweet?

Joshua M said...

That brine would work good for pickled eggs too. 3/4 less sugar though. Some of the simplest things are some of the best tasting.

Joshua M said...

Oh, I wanted to ask you Chef. Since these pickles are going to be in the fridge, is it necessary to sterilize the mason jars I am going to use or would soap and water followed by a rinse be sufficient? Thanks.

philogaia said...

Ricardo, I'm not a sweet pickle person either. These are lightly sweet but yes, you certainly can cut down on the sugar. Actually I do. It will make them sharper which suits me well. You probably do want to put some sugar in. This is kind of a sweet sour sort of flavor. You would lose the breadth of flavor without some sugar (and this coming from a person who is on a very low sugar diet.)

philogaia said...

Ricardo, I'm not a sweet pickle person either. These are lightly sweet but yes, you certainly can cut down on the sugar. Actually I do. It will make them sharper which suits me well. You probably do want to put some sugar in. This is kind of a sweet sour sort of flavor. You would lose the breadth of flavor without some sugar (and this coming from a person who is on a very low sugar diet.)

Chef John said...

Yes, what he said! :)

Roz said...

I made these last night, my first attempt to make pickles. They are deliciously wonderful. Thanks again for another recipe that turned out perfectly. One note, it made more than you said, maybe because I added four hot (but not jalapeño) long yellow peppers. Mine made 3 1/2 pints. My thinking is that the peppers will be good as a condiment.

Chef John said...

Just soap and water is fine! Enjoy!

Cheap Seat said...

If I were to make home made giardiniera vegetables (for Italian beef sandwiches) with the pickling technique, would you foresee any problems? I'd be using more heat then your bread & butter ensemble.

KAJ said...

Out of curiosity, we ate bread and butter pickle sandwiches today for lunch. They were delicious. And they also made us feel like we were experiencing a part of American history. Thanks for the idea. Good recipe! Works decent with not so tender-skinned cucumbers too. Mine were bitter and very thick skinned, but still made delicious crunchy pickles!

rain.drop said...

Chef John, these pickles, mmmmmmmh.... they're just amazing! So crunchy and so delicious! Thank you for the recipe. Luckily, the Great Depression era is (hopefully forever) gone, but we still can enjoy the great pickles - and they're a part of history too.
P.S. I did not have celery seeds. I went for one celery stalk instead. Yum!

Veronique Wu said...

Chef John, this is so far the best best best pickle I ever had in my life. After the first batch, I ran to Canadian Tire and bought a dozen big jars to make more!!

Me said...

So I just made these last night. They were pretty darn good. I found I could really taste the peppercorns, a bit too much so next time I'm going to reduce that a bit but otherwise it's pretty awesome!

Ruslan said...

Great recipe, thanks, I've tried it and it end up a terrific snack! Can you please advise how long it can be kept in a fridge (i.e. without hot-bath canning)?

Richard Shaulis said...

The pickles were great lost a pint to a family picnic. The brine seemed too good to throw away so I'm trying a trick I learned from my mother I added two cans of sliced beets to the brine after the pickles were gone hopefully in a week or two I'll have a nice retread. Thanks for a great receipe.