25 January 2010

Family recipe Monday: bread and butter pickles

This is an interesting variation on an old favorite.  Bread and butter pickles are crisp sweet pickle slices, said to be good enough to use as the filling in a bread and butter sandwich with nothing else added. They were popular during the Depression, urban lore has it, for that reason.

Why I call it a variation: well, there are several reasons. First of all, the sweetener is honey, rather than sugar. I have to wonder if that goes back to the beekeepers of the family. This is my grandmother Johnson's handwriting, and she is a direct descendant, so it's not unlikely. Next, this is a refrigerator pickle recipe, with no processing or canning, which helps with the crispness. Finally, I have not seen another recipe that calls for pickling squash as well as cucumber slices. Maybe this will help with the late-summer zucchini overload.

My grandmother used gallon glass crocks for refrigerator and countertop pickling. Living near the prairie, I can get all my canning and pickling supplies at the farm and ranch feed/equipment store just down the street, in season. It's wonderful. It's like a time machine. Gallon glass crocks are hard to find these days, but canners and picklers are thick on the ground up here. Last year I managed to produce spiced local crabapples. This year, I'm trying this one.

Bread and butter pickles
4 cups vinegar
2 cups honey
1/3 cup pickling salt
1 ½ tsp. celery salt
1 ½ tsp. turmeric
1 ½ tsp. mustard seed
3 medium onions
1 gallon of slices of cucumber and squash

Let vinegar heat until sugar and spices dissolve and let cool before pouring over vegetables. Refrigerate.

--Vada Brooks Johnson

Mack and Vada Johnson, probably late 1920s

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