No, we’re not actually pickling bread and butter of any kind. This classic pickling recipe is so named because back in the olden days when times were tough, the sweet and sour pickles were tucked between two slices of buttered bread to make a hearty sandwich.
And you know what? It’s quite delicious! I like to take it a step further and press my sandwich in a panini maker with a rich layer of cheese (try Gruyere or havarti!). It’s a small yet satisfying sandwich perfect for a midday snack.
Unlike sweet pickles, bread and butter pickles have a tangy bite to them. Traditionally people have used pickling cucumbers in their recipes (the cute little cukes that are half the size of standard cukes), but I find that any cucumber works. Here, I used a combination of what I had on hand: Dragon’s Egg, Metki Painted Serpent, and Mexican Sour Gherkin.
(You might remember that Metki Painted Serpent is actually a melon, which means you can go wild and substitute any veggie in this recipe, such as a bell pepper, green bean, or baby zucchini. They’re all good!)
Bread and Butter Pickles
Makes 1 quart
Cucumbers, sliced (enough to fill a quart jar)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds (I used a mix of brown and yellow)
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
I like my cucumbers thickly sliced. If you succumbed to that impulsive buy at Bed Bath & Beyond and have one of those fancy criss-cut knives, you can finally break it out for this task and make some ridged cucumber slices! Très gourmet.
If you’re using Mexican Sour Gherkins, you don’t actually have to slice them in half like I did. They’re perfectly suitable for pickling whole, but since I like to layer my pickles in sandwiches, I prefer a flatter profile.
In a small bowl, liberally salt your cucumber slices with a handful of kosher salt. The salt will draw the moisture out of your cukes (improving flavor and texture), so let them sit for at least an hour or two.
After time is up, rinse and strain your cucumbers well to remove any excess salt.
Add your onion slices and combine all the ingredients.
To make your pickling brine, add the apple cider vinegar, sugar, and spices to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir the brine until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove from heat.
Pack a clean jar with your cucumber and onion slices.
Pour the hot pickling brine into your jar, making sure all the cucumbers and onions are submerged (though it’s okay if a few slices float to the top). Let the brine cool to room temperature, then seal with a lid and ring.
Refrigerate your pickles for at least a day to allow the “bread and butter” flavor to fully develop, though it’s best after three days.
If a straight-up bread and butter sandwich is not your thing, you can mix these pickles into a potato salad or tuna salad or even a pasta salad. You can top off a hot dog or hamburger with your very own bread and butter relish, or use them to spice up a boring ham sandwich. Enjoy!