Of the three kinds of cucumber pickles I experimented with since the summer, the most successful were the “bread and butter” pickles. Because of their sweetness, these usually aren’t on my crave list. When I think of bread and butter pickles, I think of almost-neon manufactured, sickly sweet, acidic spears that seem to last indefinitely on supermarket shelves not because of their pickled state, but because of a long, unpronounceable list of artificial preservatives and colors. I’ll eat them every once in a while, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a hankering for one.
Fate, however, decided it was time I learned how good a well made bread and butter pickle could be. My two attempts at various sour garlic dills were mediocre at best (utter failures at worst – I’ll write more about these in future posts). Jen kept begging that we try something with vinegar. As luck would have it, a few days before I had planned another round of pickling experiments, I happened to catch an episode of Tyler Florence’s Food network show in which he made bread and butter pickles. They looked quick, fairly simple, and much tastier than the same sort of pickles in my imagination.
These surpassed my expectations considerably. In fact, they beat the pants off of the two other jars I made that same day (sour and half sour garlic-dills). They were a success and we ate them on burgers, sandwiches, sloppy joes (as Tyler suggested) and on their own. They kept their crunch and had an unexpectedly complex and pleasant flavor. They were slightly sweet, tangy and took on all of the spice notes in a way that the dills I had tried did not.
Because I’m me, I of course modified and substituted. I have no idea if what I ended up making can truly be called a bread and butter pickle, but the veil has been lifted from my eyes and I think I’ll be a little less judgmental about sweeter vinegar pickles in the future. If you tend to think about pickles as I used to, give these a try and let me know what you think.
Recipe: Modified Tyler Florence Bread and Butter Pickles
Makes a 1 quart jar of pickles
- 5 pickling cucumbers (about 4 inches long) or 2-3 larger cucumbers for a bigger chip
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 cups water
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/2 tbs coriander
- 1/2 tbs anise seeds
- 1 tsp ground allspice or 1/2 tablespoon whole allspice berries
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- Dash of freshly ground black pepper
- A 1-quart glass jar, sterilized by boiling in water
- Wash and cut cucumbers. Tyler used a mandolin with a crinkle-cut, I just chopped chips about 1/4 inch thick. I used longer, fatter cucumbers so that the chips would be about 1 3/4 inches in diameter. I’ve found that bigger cucumbers will also be easier to cut uniformly by hand.
- Add all of the rest of the ingredients to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, just until sugar and salt are dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature (stir to speed this process). Cooling the liquid before adding to the jar keeps the cucumbers from cooking and losing their crispness.
- Add cucumbers to the jar as tightly as you can. Pour in the cooled brine to cover all of the cucumbers. Save any extra brine to flavor another dish.
- Seal the jar. I didn’t use a mason jar, so to give it a seal that would allow any potential gasses to escape, I put a folded square of paper towel under the lid and screwed the lid on tightly.
- Put the jar in the refrigerator. The pickles will be ready to eat once cooled, but will taste even better if allowed to sit for at least 12 hours.
Note: These pickles are probably not meant to last indefinitely and should be kept refrigerated. They should be eaten within 6 weeks.