Archive for August 30, 2015

Give Us This Day Our Bread & Butter Pickles

home pickling

Cucumbers. It’s August and all I have on my mind is how to use up all the cucumbers. Even though my garden didn’t produce all that many (something about a powdery mildew), my parents’ garden back on the farm in Wisconsin is churning out cucumbers — about 25 a day.


So far, we’ve eaten each our own fair share of cucumbers raw, on a salad, in a cucumber & vinegar salad, and juiced.


We’ve spent a day pickling them into dill pickles. And, when there is not enough time, energy and sterile jars, we’ve turned them into Refrigerator Dill Pickles or Bread and Butter Pickles.



First Up — Refrigerator Dill Pickles.

My Grandpa “Doc” (blissfully married to his grade school sweetheart – my Grandma Barb), is credited with this family gem of a recipe.


You’ll need a plastic pail (traditionally we use an ice cream pail, but I’ve started bringing home the big plastic Folgers Coffee containers from work – couldn’t see throwing them away!). To the pail, add a few heads of Dill, 3-4 cloves of garlic, a chunk or two of an onion quartered. Then, cut several (6-8) cucumbers into spears (or “chips”…however you’d like them cut). Toss them in the bucket with the dill, garlic and onion. In a pot on the stove, bring to a boil 6 cups of water, 2 cups of white vinegar, 1/2 cup canning salt (or a little less if that seems like a lot to you), and 1-2T pickling spices (I love the Watkins brand for pickling spices). Once the pot comes to a full rolling boil, pour it into the bucket of cucumbers. Put the lid on and put them in the refrigerator for a day or two before eating. They keep very well for a long time in the bucket, in the refrigerator.


You can tell the recipe is not an exact science. No two buckets turn out tasting the same. Some batches are too salty, some are a little bland, but…when you get the perfect batch – stand back!


So, you still have cucumbers left? No worries.


Bread and Butter Pickles

Cut up several cucumbers into thin slices. Place them in a stove top pan along with 1 tsp. salt, 1 thinly sliced onion, ½ tsp. mustard seeds, 1 C white sugar, ½ C distilled white vinegar, ¼ tsp. celery seed, ¼ tsp. ground turmeric.


Cook all together until cucumbers are tender and the onion is translucent. Transfer to sterile containers. Seal and chill in the refrigerator until serving.


These last a very long time in the refrigerator, but you can also preserve them in a canner if preferred. I’m not sure how long a very long time is; we end up eating them up until Thanksgiving-time and then they are usually devoured completely while waiting for the turkey to cook that day.

bb pickles

Of Course, I Can!

Of Course I Can

At the height of summer, produce from the 20 million Victory Gardens planted yielded 9-10 million tons of harvest. Everything needed to be canned and stored. The average homemaker covering a factory position put in 12 hours, six days a week and still had hours of canning when she got home.

Canning, preserving, processing, “putting up”, was becoming a lost art compared to what was done in the first World War, on farms, and through the 1930’s. The 1940’s home maker was often referring back to instructions and methods used by her grandmother. Canning almost skipped a generation back then; it surely has skipped several generations in present day. Convenience wins out. And, I think some of us are scared off by the warnings about what happens when it’s done wrong.

I turned to my Aunt Carol to teach me the right (safe) way of water bath canning. My mom was there too picking up the routine. The biggest lesson learned was about streamlining the process. An unorganized operation will not work.

Starting out with cucumbers and dill, we went about making dill pickles. Carol’s recipe is from Oscar, her dear friend. We’ve held on tight to Grandma Crook’s Liberty Pickle and Sunshine Pickle recipes, but for our favorite — it’s Oscar’s recipe.


We lined up a bushel of pickling cucumbers through an Amish neighbor. One bushel weighs 48 pounds and is equal to 16-24 quarts of pickles in jars.

My mom and Carol spent hours scrubbing the cucumbers clean. The jars were sterilized in the dishwasher, the lids and bands were placed in boiling water on the stove, and our canning kettle with water boiling, all waiting.



On a table, we lined up tubs: one for sugar, one for canning salt, one for alum. We had vinegar, garlic cloves ready, onion chunks, and dill waiting.

Step one: Place two sprigs of dill, one chunk of onion and two cloves of garlic in each jar.



Step two: Pack the jars as full as possible with the cucumbers.

IMG_20150807_132932020 Step three: Add to each jar 1 T canning salt, 1 T sugar, 1/2 tsp. alum, and 1/2 C white vinegar.

Step four: Fill the remaining jar space up to 1/4″ from the rim with water.

Step five: With a damp cloth, trace the rim of each jar and then place a lid on each. Put a band on each, but do not tighten the bands.

Step six: Place jars in the canning kettle, with about 1″ water over the tops of the jars. Let the jars boil in the kettle until the water in the jars start to bubble. About 20-25 minutes.


Step seven: Take the jars out of the kettle and tighten the band.

As the jars cool, you’ll hear that wonderful “pop” that tells you things are going well. If the jars don’t make that pop, they aren’t sealed and then you have to eat up! You won’t be able to store unsealed pickles for more than two weeks. Ideally, the first jar can be opened after two months of storage, but pace yourself – what you put up in August has to make it until next August!


I added a couple of jars of horseradish and beets to this picture. We’ll see how that experiment ends the next time I bake a ham. Stay tuned on that!

Beautiful shelves of canned fruits and vegetables were something to be proud of in WWII… and still are!