Melinda Briggs photo
Every once in awhile, Mother Nature will make you happy you live in Ohio. If you haven’t been out enjoying Cincinnati’s early fall weather recently, you’ve really missed out. Low humidity and crystal clear skies have made for some great days to get outside and get those flower beds or vegetable gardens ready for the cooler months ahead.
If you grew cucumbers this year, chances are you’ve been overrun with nature’s bounty. I grew two plants from seed this year that have yielded more than 50 lbs. of cucumbers! Not wanting to look a gift cuke in the mouth, I challenged myself to find a way to use all of them. That meant handing some off to friends and co-workers, slicing some up for snacks and sandwiches, and taking my first crack at making homemade pickles. I found a great recipe for bread and butter pickles that’s easy and delicious.
Be mindful that these are not “shelf” pickles that can be saved over winter; they must be kept refrigerated. And also note that I found a set of a dozen canning jars with lids at Kroger’s for just a few dollars and the kosher salt in the spice aisle.
Bread & Butter Pickles
(Better Homes & Gardens, August 2009)
12 cups ¼-inch slices small pickling cucumbers (about 4 lb.)
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 Tbsp. kosher salt
4 to 5 cups crushed ice
3 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
2 tsp. celery seeds
4 ¼-inch slices unpeeled fresh ginger (optional)
In a large bowl gently toss the cucumbers, onions and kosher salt. Transfer to colander set in extra-large bowl, layering with ice and finishing with a layer of ice. Weight with heavy plate. Chill overnight, up to 24 hours.
Meanwhile, for pickling syrup, in large nonreactive (stainless, enamel or nonstick) saucepan, combine sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and ginger. Bring to boiling; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to proceed with recipe.
After cucumbers have chilled, remove any unmelted ice and discard any liquid in bowl. Transfer cucumber mixture to nonreactive Dutch oven.
Strain syrup through a large sieve lined with cheesecloth over cucumbers. Bring mixture just to low boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
With large slotted spoon transfer cucumbers to hot sterilized pint canning jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Bring syrup in Dutch oven to boiling. Ladle hot syrup over pickles to cover. Wipe jar rims with damp cloth. Put on lids and screw bands. To seal, invert jars until cool. Store in refrigerator. Makes 5 pints.
Try dill pickles, too!