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Homemade pickles are so much more flavorful and fresh than store-bought pickles. This bread and butter pickle recipe is the perfect condiment for burgers, Nashville Hot Chicken and a Nashville Hot Honey Chicken and Biscuit Sandwich.
What are bread and butter pickles?
Bread and butter pickles are slices of small cucumbers brined with pickling spices, vinegar and sugars. They contain more sugar than dill pickles and more spices than traditional sweet pickles.
In the early 1920s, Omar and Cora Fanning created a homemade sweet and sour pickle recipe. It was so popular they were able to trade the pickles for staples like bread and butter. That’s how the pickles got their name.
In June 1924, they advertised in the Clinton Morning Journal, accepting orders for pickles. Later that year, they opened a pickle factory in Illinois. And by 1925, “Fanning’s Original” Bread and Butter Pickles were selling at 3 jars of pickles for $1.
You can still buy Mrs. Fanning’s Bread and Butter Pickles on Amazon. Four jars cost around $25. The ingredients include cucumbers, corn syrup, water, vinegar, salt, onion, ground turmeric, undisclosed spices, mustard seed, celery seed and calcium chloride.
Or better yet, try making your own following my bread and butter pickles recipe below.
- Pickling Cucumbers: Unlike the larger English cucumber, pickling cucumbers are smaller and more delicate. They usually come in a bag in the produce section of your grocery store and may be called Kirby cucumbers.
- Fresno Peppers: For color and flavor, my bread and butter pickles include a Fresno pepper. If you can’t find Fresno peppers, you can use any other red pepper. Bell peppers would be more mild, while a Serrano pepper will give you more heat.
- Garlic Cloves: Use two minced garlic cloves to add freshness.
- White and Apple Cider Vinegars: For the brine, I use a blend of white vinegar and apple cider vinegar. I like the sweetness you get from the apple cider vinegar.
- White and Brown Sugar: I use both white and brown sugar because I like the molasses sweetness the brown sugar delivers. You can use light brown sugar or dark brown sugar.
- Pickling Spice: I either make Homemade Pickling Spice or I use the blend from Spiceology. Both include a blend of cinnamon, bay leaves, chili flake, peppercorn, mustard seed, fennel, allspice berries, whole clove, and coriander seeds.
See the full recipe card below for servings and a full list of ingredients.
How to make pickles
The key to making pickles is creating a luscious pickling brine while still saving the integrity of the cucumber. This way you get a nice crisp pickle. I accomplish this in two ways.
The first is by slicing the pickles with a crinkle slicer. This creates fancy ridges that provide added texture. The second step involves pouring the brine on the cucumbers, instead of placing the cucumbers in the pot of brine.
- STEP ONE: Wash cucumbers and slice them into 1/4-inch thick slices. I discard the tip of the cucumber. Mince the fresno pepper and garlic. If you like a little heat, leave the pepper seeds. If you like less heat, discard them.
- STEP TWO: Combine cucumber slices and minced pepper and garlic in a large bowl.
- STEP THREE: In a large pot, bring the vinegars, sugars and spices to a boil. Pour the pickling liquid over the bowl of cucumber slices and allow them to cool for 30 minutes on the counter.
PRO TIP: You may want to strain the brine before adding it to the cucumbers. This way, you don’t bite down on a whole clove or allspice berry. But personally, I leave the pickling spice in.
The spices will continue to flavor the pickles over time. I also like the way it looks.
As another alternative, you could wrap the spices in a piece of cheesecloth, so they stay separate, but still add flavor.
How to serve bread and butter pickles
When serving these homemade pickles, be careful not to serve the whole cloves or allspice berries. They’ll soften over time, but they’re still hard to chew. The rest of the seeds are fine to eat.
After the pickles have had a chance to absorb the brine, you can enjoy them right away. Or pour them into mason jars, let them rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Then, cover and place jars in the refrigerator.
For freshness and quality, refrigerator pickles should be eaten within 3 months.
Can the pickles in canning jars and a hot water bath, if you want to preserve them. Be sure to follow a water bath canning guide from a reputable, safe canning company. Properly canned pickles can last for up to a year in a dark place like the pantry.
GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips
- Start with smaller cucumbers that are about 6 inches long
- For crisp pickles, heat the pickling liquid then pour the hot brine on the cucumber mixture
- Store in the refrigerator or follow a proper canning process
Frequently Asked Questions
Omar and Cora Fanning had a pickle factory in Streator, Illinois, in the early 1920s where they made sweet and sour pickles using smaller cucumbers. They were so popular that Cora was able to barter and trade her pickles for staples like bread and butter.
Source: Streator Daily Free Press, Sept. 5, 1924
If you prepare bread and butter pickles properly in a water bath, they can be stored unopened in the pantry for up to a year. Once pickles are opened, they should be stored in the refrigerator. They can last in the fridge for up to 3 months.
No. Bread and butter pickles contain cucumbers, vinegar, sugars, spices and other fresh aromatics.
What to Serve with Bread and Butter Pickles
These delicious pickles are a perfect addition to nearly every kind of barbecue platter. The pickle juice is also great strained and mixed with the yolks in deviled eggs.
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Quick Bread and Butter Pickles
- 6 pickling cucumbers
- 1 fresno pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp pickling spice
- Slice the cucumbers and combine with the peppers and garlic. Place in a bowl and set aside.
- Add the vinegars, sugars and spices to a sauce pot and bring to a boil.
- Pour over the bowl of sliced cucumber*. Cool to room temp, then chill.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.