Bread and butter pickles, also known as sweet and sour pickles, are on the sweeter end of the pickle spectrum, but not quite to the level of traditional sweet pickles. They are often sold in stores as crinkled-cut slices, ideal for topping hamburgers and other savory sandwiches. Bread and butter pickles may also be found in salad cube form for use in cold meat or pasta salads, or even as a finely chopped relish. Some pickle enthusiasts prefer their sweet, tart flavor over the sharp bite of dill pickles.
There are literally dozens of different recipes for bread and butter pickles available, but there are some basic ingredients and methods common to all of them. They begin as thinly-sliced cucumbers, preferably the smaller varieties bred especially for pickling. These cucumber slices are combined with sliced onions in a large metal container. Generous amounts of pickling salt and ice are then added on top to make the raw cucumber slices crisper. The entire batch is covered with an clean, absorbent cloth and is often weighted down to force more moisture out of the cucumbers. This initial brining and crisping process can take several hours to a day.
After the initial brining process has ended, the excess liquid is drained off and the soon-to-be pickles are rinsed off thoroughly. The sliced onions and cucumbers are then placed in a large pot containing sugar, vinegar, and spices such as turmeric, celery seed and mustard seed. Some recipes call for garlic as well, but this may be considered a personal preference. The cucumbers are steeped in this sugar, vinegar and spice solution until the mixture reaches a point just below boiling. After a few minutes, the bread and butter pickles are ready to be canned in jars.
The canning process is considered "hot canning." When the sugar and vinegar solution has cooled sufficiently for safe handling, the contents are poured into clean Mason jars, allowing for a small gap at the top. Once the jars have been filled, they are placed in a hot water bath for at least ten minutes to kill any remaining organisms, and then the lids are added. Bread and butter pickles, unlike some other varieties, can be eaten within a few days of canning, and they do not require a lengthy time on the shelf to intensify their flavor. These pickles are considered to be a good introduction to the world of pickling and canning, since the recipe is straightforward and the results are typically quite satisfying.