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Got cukes? Make them your bread and butter
Cora Fanning and I have a couple of things in common. At one point in our lives, we both had an excess of cucumbers and we both made pickles. That’s about where the commonality ends. She and her husband went on to start a lucrative pickle business, and I just have a lot of pickles.
The Fanning pickle story begins in the early 1920s. Omar and Cora Fanning grew cucumbers. They couldn’t sell the small ones, so, using an old family recipe, they made sweet and sour pickle chips. Cash was in short supply, so they took the pickles to the local grocery store and bartered for other commodities, foremost being bread and butter. The pickles grew in popularity, and in 1923, the Fannings trademarked the name “bread and butter pickles.”
Neither of my grandmothers made pickles, so I have no old family recipes. Fortunately, I have my “pickle bible.” Now in its third edition, Linda Ziedrich’s “The Joy of Pickling” will teach you step by step how to pickle every fruit and vegetable under the sun. Besides supplying 300 recipes, the book demystifies the pickling process by giving a scientific explanation for how it works. She also has a section to consult about why possible problems occur.
Below is Linda’s recipe for bread and butter pickles. To make the pickles, you need small (4- to 5-inch) cucumbers, sometimes called Kirbys. They are available in farmers markets and roadside stands. I would avoid cucumbers from the supermarket, as they are probably not very fresh and will not produce a good pickle.
Pickling salt is different from table salt, which contains iodine and anti-caking agents. Table salt will discolor your pickles and cause the liquid to be cloudy. Kosher salt is an adequate substitute. Just be sure to check the label to make sure salt is the only ingredient.
Bread and Butter Pickles
6 pounds pickling cucumbers (4 to 5 inches)
2 pounds small onions, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 cup pickling salt
41/2 cups cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
11/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon celery seeds
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
Gently wash the cucumbers and remove the blossom ends (the end opposite the stem). Slice the cucumbers crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers and onions with the salt. Cover the vegetables with ice cubes from 2 ice trays. Let the vegetables stand 3 to 4 hours.
Drain the vegetables, rinse well with cold water and drain again. In a large pot, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil. Add the vegetables, and slowly bring the contents almost to a boil.
Using a slotted spoon, pack the vegetables loosely in eight pint-sized or four quart-sized mason jars, leaving 1/2 an inch of headspace. Using a ladle, fill each jar with the remaining liquid, being careful to maintain the 1/2-inch headspace.
Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean cloth. Place a lid on the top and then the ring. Tighten the ring until fingertip tight.
Place the jars in a canner, and pasteurize for 30 minutes in water heated to 180 to 185 degrees. Remove the jars and let cool completely before storing.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.