(or at least as far as I remember; recipe included)
I was sent off to be an illegal farmer worker at the age of 12. Well, at least it would have been illegal by today’s standards. I worked for hours in the hot sun, making just a couple of dollars a day. Never mind that I loved the open air, was often singing, and was with friends. It was child abuse.
How can it be right to drop off a child in the first light of dawn to begin a day of bending her back over long rows to be picked? Ignore the fact that my parents were teaching me how to work well and I was happy to have work. There I was, carrying 5 gallon bucket after bucket of cucumbers, one on each arm, hour after hour, building stamina and leg muscles. I would be able to easily out run all the other kids at school come fall. But my parents should have known there was the possibility of long term adverse affects.
The damage was latent for years. Until one spring, I inexplicably planted cucumbers. The seed company must have some liability in all this. They did subject me to photos that triggered my condition. For someone who had never even bought a cucumber, buying seeds was a clear sign of problems to come. I had never even eaten pickles, although I do now remember gazing hypnotically at the jars while grocery shopping…
Next thing I knew, I was picking cucumbers and musing dreamily about what to do with them. My husband, unaware of the possible consequences, off-handedly suggested that he had had an aunt or grandma who make bread and butter pickles that he liked.
My old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook supplied me with a recipe for how to use this plant. I made my first batch of bread and butter pickles and the sleeping pickle-making maniac was awakened within me. Summer after summer now, I make pickles. Even if we have rows of pints down on the pantry shelves. On the occasional year that my cucumbers don’t produce, I grow depressed and agitated. I can moderate this some by counting jars of pickles.
Once a person has reached this stage of pickle making psychosis, the only real treatment is supervised pickle making. The people around can try to keep the atmosphere calm in the kitchen, while carefully suggesting things like, “Don’t we have some tomatoes to pick?” But pickle making will always be on the patient’s mind, so it is best not to try things like hiding the recipe or feeding all the cucumbers to the chickens.
In an effort to bring peace to others with this condition, I offer my bread and butter pickle recipe:
- a generous 4 quarts of sliced, cucumbers (I probably end up with 2-3 cups more than that, but there is plenty of pickling solution for it, cut them about ¼ inch thick, cucumber diameter roughly quarter to silver dollar size) (Slicing is easier with a mandolin, which I learned about later, video included)
- 3 large white onions (actually the recipe calls for 8 medium white onions, but I have never seen anything but very large ones for sale; sometimes I only have yellow onions available and I use them)
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved (if they are small or I am just in the mood, I might add a little more, but it is taken out later)
- ⅓ cup pickling salt
The cucumbers just need to be washed and have the spines rubbed off. No peeling necessary. Then, they are sliced and put in a large bowl (30+ cup capacity) with the onions, garlic, and salt. A lot of “cracked” ice (I just used the bagged ice from the grocery store because it is a good size) is mixed with this and then it is set aside for 3 hours. (The newer BH&G cookbook says cover and refrigerate 3 – 12 hours, but I have never done this in 15 years of bread and butter pickle making)
When the 3 hours are almost up, mix together in a large pot:
- 5 cups granulated sugar (the newer recipe says 4 cups, but I have never tried that)
- 3 cups cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons whole mustard seed
- 1.5 teaspoons tumeric (if you are wondering just what tumeric is, read 7 Ways Tumeric is Good forYour Health over at The Culinary Libertarian)
- 1.5 teaspoons celery seed
After the icing time is over, the cucumbers and onions are drained, while remaining ice chunks and all the garlic are removed. The cucumbers and onions are put in the pot with the other things and it is all heated to a boil, stirring occasionally.
There is now enough to easily fill 7 pints and have some left over for immediate munching. Do make sure to put enough liquid to cover the vegetables in each jar, leaving ½ inch of space at the top of the jar. Follow basic principles of canning, such as making sure the rims are clean and the lids have been held long enough in hot water to soften the rubber seal (3 minutes as far as I know)(If the water cools while the lids are in there, that seems to be okay)
Here in southwest Idaho, at nearly 3000 feet above sea level, I process my bread and butter pickles for 8 minutes at a rolling boil. After they have cooled for 24 hours, I make sure the jars are not sticky, washing them gently with warm, soapy water as necessary. Then, I label them and take them down to my stash, where I can take some time to arrange all the pickle jars.
I do now eat this kind of pickles, ever since the first batch. They are good on tuna sandwiches, hot dogs, and hamburgers. I also give jars of pickles as gifts. No one has stopped visiting yet. They even sometimes return the empty jars. My parents sometimes take some of my pickles home. I think they know they only have themselves to blame.