I wondered why these sweet and tangy pickles are known as “bread and butter pickles.”
And discovered that these tangy/sweet pickles were a Depression-era specialty – a cheap and easy sandwich filling. It’s true that a pile of them pickles on top of buttered bread makes a satisfying snack. Try it with good rye bread and unsalted butter. Just delicious.
They’re a crunchy, piquant relish, good to eat with hot dogs, hamburgers, any grilled meat. Their briny flavor also offsets fried foods like shnitzel. Put a bowl of them on the table at your next barbeque. They’re irresistible. People will keep forking out a few more… a few more cucumbers and onions… until they’re gone.
This is an American recipe, but I like to give it a little Middle Eastern heat with one tiny, dried Sudanese (shatach) pepper. One pepper. More than one will blow the top of your head off. Amazing how much heat is packed into those little red peppers. One pepper, the smallest one, gives all the heat I want for a whole big Mason jar.
It’s optional. The pickles will taste great without the heat. But if you enjoy your relish spicy and shatach peppers aren’t on your horizon, use any chili pepper you like instead. Judge the heat level by your experience, and remember, a little too little is a lot better than a little too much.
The black dots you see in the photographs are black mustard seeds. I was out of yellow mustard seeds, but had some black ones left over from an Indian dinner I cooked recently. So I used those, and no one has objected, nor even noticed. Black mustard seeds are more pungent than yellow, but with the onion, dry spices, and the sweet/sour power of vinegar and sugar, these pickles are pungent anyway.
Sorry about the alliteration. (Actually, I’m not; just being polite. Passionate about pungent, piquant pickles with sour power!).
Bread and butter pickles are convenient because they’re not only easy to make, they’re ready to eat the next day. No special equipment needed, just a large pot for the pickling brine, and a large jar to store them in. They need only a few minutes of cooking.
Don’t overcook them, or they’ll lose their crunchiness. And remove the cinnamon sticks after the first 24 hours, or the pickles will taste too cinnamony.
Choose the freshest cucumbers in the market. They can be any variety, but you’ll get the best flavor and crisp texture from cucumbers with all their fresh character.
Store your bread and butter pickles in the refrigerator. If you keep them refrigerated and covered in their brine, they’ll last a year. Although if you have a pickle lover in the house, they’ll be gone long before that.
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