Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bread and Butter Freezer Pickles

As I'm working on this post, I'm also chatting on Facebook with one of my parents' long-time friends, Marian, whom I haven't seen in more years than I can count.  When I was little, for a few years my parents, Marion and her husband, and another family all shared a large neighborhood garden.  It was quite large with lots of space for experiments - I remember the year they tried to grow peanuts! - and standbys.  Zucchini, anyone?

Among the standbys, there were always rows and rows of cucumbers.  And all three families turned cucumbers into pickles.  In fact I don't remember eating a store bought pickle until I was in college, there were so many pickles in storage in the basement.  Most of the pickles my mom made were tart, sour, vinegary dill pickles.  It was my job to wash all the cucumbers, and I still remember the pokey, but not unpleasant feel of the little black spines on pickling cucumbers.  My mom made dill pickles in a variety of whole, halves, and spears depending on the size of the cucumbers and how many jars she had available that year.

In addition to the dills, there were always a few batches of tiny little sweet pickles.  But those didn't get made until the season was nearly over.  Why waste perfectly good cucumbers by picking them when they were small?  And finally, there was always a batch or two of my favorite - bread and butter freezer pickles.

These were the "company's coming, need to take something to the church dinner, special occasion" pickles.  Mom always put them up in leftover yogurt or margarine tubs, and I'd get excited when I'd see her gather up her stash of plastic containers.  Occasionally she'd give in to my whining and instead of cracking open a jar of dill pickles on a Saturday afternoon, she'd plan ahead and get a container of these out of the freezer.  But not often.

Gardening became more and more difficult due to a variety of reasons and by the time I was in high school, if Mom did any canning, she was purchasing whatever vegetables that were available at farm stands.  So homemade pickles of any kind went by the way-side.

A few years ago, I asked my mom for her bread and butter freezer pickle recipe, and she finally managed to find it for me.  My friend Valeria gave me cucumbers from her garden recently, so I set out recreating a childhood favorite.  My mom's original recipe calls brining the cucumbers in a enamel kettle.  Basically you need to let them sit in a non-metal pot or bowl.  As you can see from the photo above, I used the crock of my slow cooker because that's what I had that was big enough.

I like these pickles very thin, so I cut the cucumbers and the onions on my mandolin.  If you think you'd prefer them thicker, you could cut them by hand.  But by their definition, bread and butters are supposed to be fairly thin.  My mother's recipe also says to hold for 2 weeks before eating, but she said that about anything she canned.  I'm not sure it really matters much for something that will be frozen.

Bread and Butter Freezer Pickles

2 quarts sliced unpeeled cucumbers
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar

Combine cucumbers, onion, salt, and celery seed in an enamel pot or other non-metal pan or bowl.  Let stand for 2 hours.

Bring sugar and vinegar to a boil.  Boil until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature (about an hour).

Drain water well from cucumber mixture.  Pour syrup over cucumbers.  Divide into 1 cup freezer containers.  Freeze for up to one year.  Keeps up to three weeks in the refrigerator.

Makes 7 one cup containers.

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