Have you heard about this glut of tomatoes that we are currently experiencing? I read in the Wall Street Journal recently that tomatoes have gone from shortage to surplus and I therefore eagerly anticipated this week's Farmer's Market. I had a feeling it was a little early for perfectly ripe tomatoes here in this neck of the woods, but I hoped for some green tomatoes to use for pickling. (If you've never had a green tomato pickle before, you are truly missing out on something good!) Alas, not a tomato to be had- green or otherwise- but I did come home with a bucket of pickling cucumbers, among other things. This was not a bad consolation prize as I had a pretty fantastic recipe for bread and butter chips laying around.
The recipe is taken from my binder of culinary school recipes. I remember how delicious the pickles turned out when we made them in class, but there were a lot of holes in the directions that left me feeling confused. So I prepped all my veggies, covered them with ice, and headed on over to my father-in-law's for a crash course in canning. Vance Scarsella is an absolute pro when it comes to preserving and canning- his pantry is stocked with homemade jams, fresh tomato sauce, and jars and jars of veggies straight from his garden. After looking at my recipe, he tweaked it a little and filled in all those informational gaps, resulting in a pickle that was even more amazing than I remember. Plus, they weren't too hard to make either. This is definitely one I'm holding on to for future use!
*If you are interested in learning more about canning, my father-in-law recommends The Ball "Blue Book of Preserving." It is his go-to reference book for all things canning!
Bread and Butter Pickles
Yield: About 4 pints
3 pounds of 4- to 5- inch pickling cucumbers
1 1/2 pounds of thinly sliced onions
1/4 cup canning or pickling salt**
2 cups white vinegar
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbs. mustard seed
2 tsp. celery seed
1 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
**I've learned that pickling salt is somewhat hard to come by, and most people don't use it anyway. You need a salt that is free of additives. My father-in-law just uses Kosher salt, and I've read that others grind Kosher salt in a food processor to get the fine grain of pickling salt. Do not, however, use table salt- it won't work!
-Prep jars and canning equipment: Wash jars, caps, and bands in hot soapy water and rinse carefully. Have a large pot of water ready on the stove. Prior to canning, you will add the jars and lids to the water and bring to a simmer. The water should be kept simmering until jars and lids are needed.
-Wash cucumbers thoroughly and slice off ends. Cut cucumbers into 3/16-inch slices.
-Cut off the ends of each onion and peel. Cut onion in half and slice into thin slices.
-Combine cucumbers and onions in a large bowl and stir in pickling salt until thoroughly combined.
-Cover vegetables with a 2-inch layer of cubed or crushed ice. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours, adding more ice as needed to keep vegetables covered.
-Drain and rinse vegetables. Set aside until needed.
-Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
-Add the drained and rinsed vegetables to the pot and slowly reheat to boiling. As the vegetables will be quite cold, this will take some time. Once the mixture has reached a boil, remove from heat.
-Remove jars and lids from the pot of simmering water. Keep the water simmering and fill jars with vegetables and cooking syrup, leaving 1/4- inch headspace at the top of each jar.
-Use a nonmetallic spatula to remove any air bubbles from the jar and wipe the rim clean with a damp cloth. Place lid on the jar and tightly screw the band in place.
-Add jars to the simmering water and bring to a rolling boil. Once the water is boiling, process for 10 minutes.
-Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Then, check for a seal. Properly sealed jars can be stored in your pantry until ready to use.