I’ve been canning off and on for the past thirty years, and it seems each time I put something up, I learn something new. The other night I canned seven jars of bread and butter pickles using a recipe in Ball’s Blue Book guide to preserving (page 49). They didn’t specify whether to use white or cider vinegar so I started perusing the beginning pages (for “beginners” I thought). I read that white vinegar needed to be five percent acidity and not diluted with water. Interesting, but I didn’t think relevant. I checked my Heinz cider vinegar’s label – five percent. Then I grabbed the gallon of cheap white vinegar I bought last week. I think I saved a dollar on the big container – why would I try to save on the cheapest yet most useful commodity in the kitchen? I have no idea except I probably thought there was no difference. This label said “four percent acidity, diluted with water.”
Sometimes it doesn’t pay to save a buck. It was my choice which vinegar I used. Cider vinegar can color white vegetables in the canning process, but a lower acidity in the vinegar can run the risk of not preserving as well. So I decided to use a combo of both vinegars in this recipe. I also added some of our dried cayenne peppers from last year to the mix so there’s a little heat with the sweetness of the bread and butter mix.
Also, I was worried that I might not have quite enough cucumbers to make the seven-pint recipe so I added a medium-sized zucchini to the 18-20 cucumbers. The picture below shows the approximate size of the cucumbers (they’re sitting next to a pint jar).I sliced the cucumbers along with five medium onions. I added two whole cloves of garlic and five dried cayenne peppers. I mixed this with 1/2 cup of canning salt and covered the whole thing with ice cubes for three hours. I drained, rinsed, drained and then prepared the liquid.
2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. mustard seed
2 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. peppercorns
3 cups vinegar (I used half white and half cider)
Bring liquid to boil and add vegetables and bring to a boil again. Pack in hot sterilized jars and process for 10 minutes.
Last year all my pickles were a little soft. So I added lime (bought at the store with canning supplies) – 1/8 tsp. to each pint jar before adding pickles and liquid. Also I read that soft pickles can be caused from under processing. I lived in Florida at sea level for 30 years so I never thought the higher altitude of western Pennsylvania would make much difference. We’re at about 1,100 feet here so all the canning books say to add 2-5 minutes to processing time. I’ve been adding five minutes (Ball’s recommendation) which I did for this recipe.
I had a little bit of the mixture leftover so I put it in the frig and sampled the pickles this morning.
The result? Perfection! Crisp and flavorful bread and butter chips, with a hint of heat. Next – dill pickles!