This easy and delicious recipe for bread & butter pickles is perfect for a beginner. Regardless of your skill level, you'll produce canned pickles that you'll be proud to serve. Because of the high acid level in pickled foods, you can process them in a pot of boiling water, rather than a pressure canner. And packing slices into jars is much simpler than organizing whole pickles like dills or sweet gherkins to fit neatly into a jar. These pickle slices are nice in sandwiches, chopped in tuna and pasta salads, or eaten on their own.
Look for cucumbers that are meant for pickling or that have been picked when they are no bigger around than 1-1/2 inches. If you are doing large-scale canning, ask your produce vendor if you can buy in bulk. This year, I found a 25-pound box of organic pickling cucumbers for $12. Even after discarding a number of bruised vegetables, that was enough to make over 14 quarts (28 pints) of pickles.
This recipe makes five pints.
You will need:
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp celery seed
1 Tbsp mustard seed
1-1/2 Tbsp mixed pickling spice (cinnamon stick, ginger, mustard seeds, cloves, peppercorns, chilies, etc.)
3-1/2 pounds cucumbers, cut into 1/4″ slices
Start heating your boiling water canner. This should be tall enough that your jars will be covered by at least one inch of boiling water and there must be additional room (2-3″) to avoid splashing during the boiling process. It should also have some sort of rack on the bottom on which to set the jars. Remember that your jars will displace water as you submerge them.
In a 5-quart pot (non-aluminum), combine sugar, vinegar, water and spices. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Add cucumber slices. Return to a boil, stirring gently and trying to submerge slices as they cook.
When the pot returns to a boil, boil for 90 seconds, then remove from heat. The slices should have changed from a bright cucumber green to a darker pickle green.
Using tongs or a slotted spoon, fill hot jars* with pickles slices, then fill each with pickling liquid, leaving 1/8″ headspace. (You may have extra brine; you can refrigerate this up to a week if you are making another batch soon.) Wipe rims clean with a damp paper towel and add lids and rings.
Process in a boiling water canner — 20 minutes for quarts, 10 minutes for pints. Begin timing when the water has returned to a boil after you submerge your jars.
Using a jar lifter, remove jars to a folded kitchen towel. Let cool 24 hours and make sure the jars have sealed. The lids should be sucked down in a such a way that they won't “pop” when you press on them. If not, you can add a new lid and process again, or store your pickles in the refrigerator. Sealed jars can be stored one year or more. Remove the rings for storage to avoid them rusting onto the jars. (I usually put a ring back on if I am giving as a gift, in order to avoid accidental opening during transport.)
*Hot foods should go into hot jars to avoid shocking and potentially cracking the glass. You can heat your jars before filling them by placing them in the boiling water bath as it heats up, or by running them through the dishwasher or using the dishwasher's dry cycle.