So there’s this friend, who shall remain nameless (Hi Juley!), who mentioned a long-while back that she used to enjoy a special kind of bread-and-butter pickle sold at her local farmer’s market.
Or maybe a neighbor made a batch for her.
Bare with me here … I’m trying to come up with a backstory. Many Dear Readers like to enjoy reading how a recipe can into being. If you normally skip to the recipe yet somehow are still reading, thank you BTW!
Nameless friend Juley said that her bread-and-butter pickles contained bits of ginger root, which gives the pickles a delicious flavor kick. Very yum! I happen to like ginger. Almost as much chocolate.
But I didn’t really know what a bread-and-butter pickle was. My experience with them was limited to walking past jars of the stuff on the Try-n-Save’s shelf while heading for the hamburger relish. The only jarred pickles I ever buy are of the whole, half-sour persuasion located several aisles over in the dairy case.
According to that authoritative source (for the realz this time) Food Timeline, the origin of the term "bread and butter pickle" is lost in the mist of time. Although one theory is that the "bread and butter" part refers to income from selling homemade food, usually from a roadside stand.
Pickles made with cucumbers are basically made from whole or sliced cucumbers (duh!), packed in a brine mixture of vinegar and spices. Bread-and-butter pickles also use turmeric, tinting the pickles with an yellowish orangey hue. And some recipes use apple cider vinegar (this one doesn't because it doesn't need it), which can also impart its own cideryish color. So maybe the color is reminiscent of bread slathered with butter, another guess/theory. Who really knows?
Speaking of color, both photos are of freshly-made pickles. After a few days they will start to turn more turmericy colored as well as tasty. Try to wait ... totally worth it.
Interestingly enough, there are very very few recipes for ginger-spiced bread-and-butter pickles out there on the interwebs. So please enjoy my contribution to that short list. You’re welcome!
Easy-Peasy Bread-and-Butter Ginger PicklesYield: 2 quarts
Time: 35 min if using a (mandoline) slicer, otherwise 45 mins if slicing by hand, plus a few days for the flavor to intensify
2 large unpeeled English cucumbers, sliced about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick
1 small yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1/8 inch thick)
1 Tbl. kosher salt
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
one large knob ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced (about 3 tablespoons)
2 Tbl. yellow mustard seeds
1 Tbl. ground turmeric
Set a large colander over a bowl (to catch any drips). Add cucumber and onion slices, then toss with salt; set aside for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a 2-quart pot, heat water, sugar, vinegar, ginger, mustard seeds and turmeric in a over medium-high heat until boiling, stirring often (even if boiling) until sugar completely dissolves.
Without rinsing, transfer cuke-onion mixture to a 2-quart mixing bowl, or 2 1-quart or 4 1-pint canning jars (or 8 … you get the picture).
Carefully pour hot pickling liquid over cucumber mixture, being sure to divide spices evenly amongst jars (if using)..
Cover tightly and refrigerate. Ready to serve the next day, but better after a few days. Keeps up to a few weeks (if they last that long, they are SO delish!).
Note: To reduce the chance of spoilage, it is very important to use a clean spoon or fork when fishing out a few pickles, NOT your fingers (even if you just washed them!).