Cucumbers are really easy to grow, and as long as you have pollinators (bees) around, there’s a very good chance that you’ll have a bumper crop. We planted a mixture of organic National Pickling and Homemade Pickles seeds in one of our 4′ x 8′ raised beds. Other than amending the soil with vermicompost, I’ve done nothing except regularly water the plants. I often see ladybugs and tree frogs on the leaves, so I think they’re playing a large part in keeping pests like cucumber beetles and aphids away (here’s a helpful article about cucumber beetles.) Also, major pollination has been going on because we have 2 beehives within 20 feet of the cucumber bed. The bees sound like little airplanes in the garden bed every time I water it. I give the bees all the credit for my bumper crop of cucumbers!
Just as cucumbers are easy to grow, pickles are easy to make. I love all types of pickles, but I think bread and butter are especially flavorful and taste best when they’re homemade! No matter what kind of pickles you make, there’s a huge feeling of satisfaction when you make them from the cucumbers you grow in your garden. Even better, there’s really nothing like enjoying your harvest throughout the winter!
This bread and butter pickles recipe is the one my grandma used, which she adapted from her Ball® brand recipe book. If you’re new to the water bath canning method, don’t fear, this is a great recipe to get started with! Here are the canning supplies you’ll need:
- Water bath canner with rack
- Canning tools (tongs, magnetic lid lifter, funnel, air bubble spatula)
- Wide mouth 16 oz. (pint) canning jars
- BPA-free jar lids (new Ball® brand lids are BPA-free)
- Candy thermometer
- Stock pot
- Food processor (optional, but makes life much easier when slicing cucumbers)
When you’re picking cucumbers to make bread and butter pickles, the best cucumbers are around 1″ to 1 1/2″ in diameter. Pickling cucumbers normally grow to 5″ to 6″ long, but for bread and butter pickles, they need to be picked before they reach their full size. It’s okay if they’re larger, but they’ll probably have more seeds and they won’t fit through the feed tube on the food processor.
- 6 to 8 wide mouth 16 oz. (pint) canning jars with lids and rings
- 4 to 6 pounds of organic pickling cucumbers, 1" to 1 1/2" diameter
- 1 1/2 pounds of a mixture of white onions and sweet (vidalia) onions
- 1/3 cup sea salt (we use this)
- Ice cubes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons organic yellow mustard seed
- 2 teaspoons organic celery seed
- 1 teaspoon organic ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons organic turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 2 cups organic unbleached whole cane sugar
- 3 cups organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- Wash and dry canning jars.
- Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Place jars on a baking sheet and bake in oven for at least 20 minutes to sterilize.
- Fill a small saucepan with water and add jar lids and rings. Place on the stovetop over low to medium heat and bring water to 180 degrees. A candy thermometer works best to watch the temperature.
- Wash cucumbers and slice into 1/4"-thick slices, using a food processor. Note that you may have to slice by hand if the cucumbers are curved or do not fit through the feed tube.
- Remove skin from onions and slice into 1/8"-thick slices.
- In a large mixing bowl, layer cucumber and onion slices, generously sprinkling each layer with salt.
- Cover layered mixture with ice cubes and allow to sit at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.
- In the meantime, fill the water bath pot and bring to a boil.
- Remove ice from the bowl of layered cucumbers and onions, then rinse under cold water and drain well.
- In a stock pot, combine mustard seed, celery seed, ginger, turmeric, pepper, sugar and apple cider vinegar. Bring to a light boil.
- Add cucumbers and onions and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove jars from the oven and set on a towel. Ladle the pickle mixture into the jars, leaving a 1/4" space at the top.
- Slide a knife or flat spatula around the edges of the filled jars to remove air bubbles.
- Using a damp washcloth, thoroughly wipe the tops of the jars clean (this helps the lids seal.)
- Using a magnetic lid lifter, lift lids and rings one by one out of the saucepan of water. Set lids on top of jars and finger-tighten rings (do not over-tighten or lids will not seal properly.)
- Add jars to the water bath rack and lower into the boiling water. There should be about 1" of water covering the jars. If there is too much, remove some with a ladle. Cover with lid.
- Process for 10 minutes, then lift jars out using tongs. Set them on a clean towel to cool. Lids will be slightly concave (curving down in the center) when they are sealed.
- For best flavor, store jars in a cool, dark spot for 4 to 6 weeks before opening.
Unopened jars of pickles will last for 1 year, and opened jars will last in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.