Every summer I make a huge batch of no sugar dill pickles with the tiniest cucumbers I can find. I save the monster cucumbers that get lost on the vine for sweet dill pickle relish, but that leaves me a lot of dill in my canning pantry. I searched for quite a while before stumbling across this bread and butter pickles canning recipe in my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
I think what got me excited the most is the history behind bread and butter pickles. The story goes that a pair of Illinois cucumber farmers made it through the tough years by selling pickles to the local grocery in the 1920’s. They became known as “bread and butter pickles” simply because the farmers traded them for their bread and butter.
This bread and butter pickle recipe is special because it turns oversized cucumbers into flavorful pickles without bitterness. Generally, the best pickles come from the tiny sweet cucumbers, harvested before they’ve had time to fully develop seeds or bitterness. But what’s a farmer to do with all the monster cucumbers that get lost on the vine?
This recipe leaches the bitterness from the cucumbers soaking the cucumber slices in salt and then straining the liquid before canning. It’s the same process that’s used for removing the bitterness from other vegetables, like eggplant.
The actual canning brine is both sour and sweet. Most pickle recipes use water and vinegar in the pickling brine, often in a 50/50 ratio. Bread and butter pickles are all vinegar with no water in the brine, but that sourness is balanced out with a heavy helping of sugar.
Even with 2 cups of sugar spread out across 5 pints of pickles, these bread and butter pickles don’t come across as too sweet. That’s because the sugar is balanced nicely by the vinegar, and any lasting bite the cucumbers still retain after a salt soak.
The spices are simple. Just mustard seeds for a tiny bit of heat, celery seed for a little umami and turmeric for warmth and color. Other recipe variations add horseradish and ginger to create spicy bread and butter pickles. Or as the ball book of canning calls them “zesty.”
Canning Bread and Butter Pickles
Start by slicing the cucumbers into uniform rounds, about 1/4 inch thick. Toss the cucumbers in salt, using 1/2 cup of pickling and canning salt for every 10 cups of cucumbers. Allow the cucumbers to soak in salt for 2 hours to pull out bitterness and extra liquid. This will result in sweeter cucumbers, and it also helps with texture.
Prepare a water bath canner along with canning lids and rings. In a separate pot, bring the bring ingredients including vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and turmeric to a boil. Note that the brine doesn’t include any salt, but the cucumbers will be quite salty after their soak. There’s no need to add more to the brine.
Bring the brine to a boil, and while it’s heating, prepare the cucumbers by washing them in a colander. Remove as much of the salt and cucumber liquid as possible, and then add the cucumber slices and sliced onions into the boiling brine.
Allow the cucumbers to heat in the brine until the brine returns to a boil. Working quickly, pack the cucumber slices into jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Top with pickling brine, still leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.
Seal the jars with 2 part canning lids to finger tight and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes for pint jars (15 for quarts). Turn off the heat, but allow the jars to sit in the canner for another 5 minutes before removing them to cool.
Check the jar seals, and store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator. Home canned bread and butter pickles should last 18 months or more. Be sure to wait at least 2 weeks for the flavors to marry before trying your pickles.
Bread and Butter Pickle Variations
As with any pickling recipe, there’s the original traditional way to make the pickles and then there’s all manner of homegrown variations. So long as the vinegar, vegetables and processing time stay the same, you’re free to adjust just about anything else.
That includes both the sugar and salt, neither of which is used as a preservative in this recipe. Feel free to change up any of the spices to suit your preferences. Try less sugar if you’d like, or add a hint more or less salt. For sweet and spicy pickles, try adding red pepper flakes or black pepper.
The ball book of canning and preserving offers three variations that are commonly made in home kitchens. The British version has makes a darker pickle brine, and the brown sugar and cider vinegar add richness and character. The zesty bread and butter pickle recipe adds horseradish and ginger to help balance out the sweetness. The last variation, with garlic, just adds more flavor and umami to the pickles.
- British Bread and Butter Pickles ~ Use cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, and brown sugar instead of white. Add in 1 tsp ground ginger along with the rest of the spices.
- Zesty Bread and Butter Pickles ~ Skip the celery seeds and turmeric and add in 2 tbsp prepared horseradish and 2 tbsp freshly grated ginger root instead.
- Garlic Bread and Butter Pickles ~ The ball book of canning says to add in 1 clove of garlic to each jar, but personally, I’d add in 3 to 4 cloves if you really want them to have a good garlic flavor.
Traditional Bread and Butter Pickles
This traditional bread and butter pickles recipe comes from the ball book of home preserving. It should yield 5 one pint jars of bread and butter pickles.
- 10 cups pickling cucumber, trimmed and sliced in 1/4 inch slices
- 4 cups medium onions, thin sliced
- 1/2 cup pickling or canning salt, for soaking cucumbers
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp celery seed
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- Start by combining cucumber, onions and salt in a non-reactive glass or stainless steel bowl. Toss the vegetables in the salt to fully coat and let them sit for 2 hours.
- Prepare a water bath canner, jars and lids while the cucumbers are soaking in salt.
- In a stainless steel saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients including vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, celery seed and ground turmeric. Note that all the salt in the recipe is used to soaking the cucumbers and is not added to the pickling brine.
- Bring the pickling brine to a boil.
- Strain the cucumbers and onions, and rinse them in the sink to remove most of the salt. Drain them thoroughly.
- Add the strained vegetables to the boiling brine and allow the mixture to return to a boil.
- Once the mixture has boiled, scoop the cucumbers and onions out of the brine and pack them into prepared canning jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Fill the canning jars with hot brine, still leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
- Wipe rims, remove air bubbles and seal the jars with 2 part lids to finger tight.
- Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes and then turn off the heat and leave them to sit for another 5 minutes before removing the jars from the canner.
- Allow the jars to cool completely before checking seals and removing canning bands for storage.
When canning pickles, it's best to use pint jars because they require less cook time and result in crisper pickles. If you choose to use quart jars, add 5 minutes to the process time.
Serving Size:1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Unsaturated Fat: 0g
JUST GETTING STARTED CANNING?
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I made this and added horseradish to it, so tasty! Gave me that spicy kick I wanted but it didn’t dominate the flavor, so glad I found this recipe – thanks for sharing!
how much horseradish did you add…..this is a recipe I have been making for year and they are fantastic…..
Hi Jill, Glad you enjoy this recipe. The “zesty bread and butter pickles” variation has 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (along with the same amount of ginger) across 5 jars. That’s just a bit more than a teaspoon per jar of each, which is quite a bit with such strong spices. They’ll be zesty alright…
Scott R. Sells
Love this recipe. I added two fresh sliced jalapenos to get my kick. That puts about two rings in each jar. Great recipe.
Thank you! I’m so glad you liked it!
Can I use ground celery seed
Yes, ground celery seed will work just fine.
I have organic cane sugar instead of the white granulated sugar. Will this substitute okay??
Yes, that’s what I usually use actually.
Thank you for the reply! Another question… I am using a large stockpot for water bath. During the 10 minutes of canning time, do I keep the water at full boil while the cans are in the pot or at a simmer? Thank you.
For a 10 minute canning time, you keep the heat all the way cranked up and boil it. Alternately, you can do a canning technique called low-temperature pasteurization, where you keep it at 180 to 185 F for 30 minutes instead. That looks like a very low simmer when you’re watching the pot. Supposedly the pickles are crisper that way, but I honestly haven’t seen a huge difference using that method lately. More info on that here: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/low_temp_pasteur.html
So excited to try this recipe this weekend! I have a lot of cucumbers to do something with lol. Does the jars need to be hot before packing them or can they be packed at room temperature? Thank you!
The jars themselves are room temperature, but the cucumbers are heated in the brine and hot packed.
These are wonderful! I have to ask though, my mom never processed them once they were done. She brought the pickles to a boil and packed them in hot jars with heat seals. They always sealed properly and lasted for yrs.
Is processing them in the canner needed or just a safety precaution?
That’s honestly debatable. These days, the national center for food preservation says that, with no exception, all pickles must go through a water bath canner. Many people have first-hand experience to the contrary and have been doing it that way for years. It is a safety precaution for sure, but it’s hard to say if it’s really strictly necessary for something swimming in that much vinegar and salt. Personally, I water bath them because they’re not going to be crispy anyway, bred and butter slices from gigantic cucumbers aren’t really meant to have a crunch.
The thing is, it’s your family and your safety, and you have to educate yourself and weigh the risks and benefits. If someone handed me a 3-year-old jar of your mom’s pickles, from a sealed jar, and I knew they weren’t water bath canned, would I eat them? You bet! That’s me personally.
I love this recipe for beginning then I add Bell pepper , garlic cloves, brown sugar, black peppercorns, apple cider vinegar and cinnamon Stick. This is in addition to everything in your recipe. My mama ( very hard to please) said they are wonderful as she was getting another spoon full to top her butter beans.
Awesome! I’m so glad your mama liked them! I love the idea of adding brown sugar and cinnamon. I’ll have to try that next!
Hi Donna! Can I ask how much brown sugar you added as I like my pickles a bit sweeter as well? The cinnamon stick, garlic cloves and bell pepper sound great as additions as well! I can’t wait to try this recipe as my first time canning!
I don’t have any turmeric can I safely leave that out . I will be canning them in the water bath.?
Yes, most certainly.
I have always done the method where you boil the produce and pack in hot jars. Never had a problem. Jars seal well. Good with beets also. Lot less trouble.
Been canning for 57 yrs. Never a problem this way. Works with fruit also. Boil in brine and pack on hot jars.
I only have 1/2 pint jars. How long of a water bath should I do?
Same as pint jars.
Hi, I’m a beginner canner & I’m wondering about the mustard seed. I couldn’t find it at the grocery store but I did find ground mustard. Is it ok to use that instead, if so, how much? I can’t wait to make these bread & butter pickles. One of my favs!
Thank you so much!
Whole mustard seed is often used in Indian cooking, and our coops and health food stores sell it. You can definitly use mustard powder, it’s the same thing just ground. Since there’s ground turmeric in there already you likely won’t even see a difference visually (since there’s already a yellow powder in the jar). I’d say maybe use half as much? That’s a guess, but that’s what I’d do. Good luck!
this is good but i only put 2 cups of onions instead of 4 which was just right amount and added sugar to all individual jars after they were sealed I like my bread n butter pickles sweet not salty/vinegary.. not enough sugar in the recipe but easy and quick recipe ty!
No problem. I don’t like them very sweet. To each their own!
Does it have to be granulated sugar? Can it be brown instead?
You can absolutely use brown sugar instead.
What is pickling salt? kosher salt?
Pickling salt is a salt made especially for pickling and can be found in the canning section of most stores.
I’ve been using this recipe for two years but I have so many cucumbers I need to find other “flavors” to add. If you want them sweeter can you just add more sugar? Also when you add garlic cloves do you put them in the brine or just drop them in the jars, wasn’t sure if they needed to be “cooked”
Donna commented above and shared that she adds brown sugar and cinnamon to the recipe. That might be an interesting combination if you are wanting something with a sweeter flavor. The garlic cloves are just added raw, no need to cook them beforehand.
Hi Ashley. I have been canning for the last 15 years and this is how I usually roll…We prep all our veggies, make the brine we are using, put the amount of jars we are using into the canning water to sterilize and heat up. We then add our veggies to the jars along with any add in like pearl onions, pepper strips, garlic, etc…and then we fill them with the hot brine…add lids, rings and process 10 mins for pints and 15 for quarts. We have only had 1 failed seal in all that time and we have some pickles still sealed from 4 years ago. I have never heard of boiling the veggies in the brine and then adding to the jars, though I am sure it works just as well. Do you think my process is inferior or just more labor intensive? Also, doing it the boil it all method, do you put your add ins in there as well or add to the jars individually?
Just really curious as I have not come across this method.
Thank you for your time and a great recipe.
P.S. I was born in Rutland….Miss VT
The process you are describing is a raw pack whereas the process described in this post is for hot pack. The hot pack method is preferred when vegetables are processed with a water bath canner and raw pack is used more for pressure canning vegetables. The hot pack helps by removing air from food tissues, shrinking food, keeping food from floating in jars, and improving shelf-life.
Good recipe. Clear instructions. Thanks for posting!
Thank you. So glad you enjoyed the recipe.
I don’t have a water bath canner I only have a pressure canner. How long would I process at how many pounds of pressure. I’m eager to try this recipe. Sounds delicious!
You can just use your pressure canner as a water bath canner. Just don’t latch the lid or let the pressure build up.
Thank you for taking the time to create this page and forum for fellow gardener/homesteader/newbie. I am a seasoned food preserver and always looking to learn.
What is the science or reason in your particular process you leave the jars for an additional 8 min after the bath with the stove off? I have a lot of cukes to process and this step will add time, so just trying to justify this step to myself. I always bath pints for 10min and quarts for 15min. In prior experiences any longer the cukes sit in the bathing process the less crunchy they become. There is a crunch to B&B pickles just slightly different than their Dill counter parts.
Usually if any of my canning processes fail I convert them to refrigerator pickles which are just as yummy but do not store as long.
Thank you in advance.
The wait time is recommended to help the jars cool down more gradually. This helps ensure a good seal, helps decrease jar breakage due to thermal shock, helps the food to settle and can prevent siphoning in some recipes.
Alison E Hall
My family prefers pickle spears, do you foresee a problem cutting the pickles into quarters lengthwise rather than rounds?
Nope! Spears are great!
Should I peel the cucumbers
No need to peel them.
When I read the recipe at the top you talk about just the cucumbers sitting in the salt for 2 hours. Then when I see the printed out recipe it states cucumbers and onions sit in the salt. I just did the cukes but am wondering which is the correct version.
You can do either. The cucumbers need to be in the salt for texture, the onions are optional. I actually forgot to do the onions in the salt when I was photographing this recipe and writing it up, and the onions were the same in the finished pickles. They can go either way, it’s the cucumbers that matter.
I am going to dig some horse radish and use that How much would you put in should I grind it or use slices?
The “zesty bread and butter pickles” variation has 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (along with the same amount of ginger) across 5 jars. That’s just a bit more than a teaspoon per jar of each, which is quite a bit with such strong spices.
Newbie here! Any particular kind on onion to use? How would it change the taste if I omitted the onion?
Just regular white onions are fine but you could use any kind of onion. Omitting the onion will definitely change the flavor.
I have a lot of regular cucumbers. Can I use those instead of the pickling kind?
Using larger cucumbers for canning will usually result in a mushy pickle. You can try a refrigerator pickle for these.
Although I rinsed, rerinsed, and rinsed again my end result pickle was a little salty. Will that dissipate with time or have a ruined my bread and butter pickles?
I would let them sit for a few weeks and then try them again. Once the flavors come together they may taste different.
We had our cucumber plants in the garden explode with cucumbers. Found this recipe and being a canning novice was not sure about the result. I used the base pickle recipe and tried our first jar today. The pickles were divine!
That’s wonderful to hear. So glad you liked them.
If my elevation is 1285 ft do I. need to adjust my cooking time? I am using the quart jars- which require 15 minutes….
These look great and thank you!!!
The correct processing time for pickles at your altitude is 15 minutes for both pints and quarts.
I’ve been using this recipe for 4 years and love it. Wondering if you can use leftover brine if you have a lot left.
Do you mean the brine that is leftover in the jar after you have eaten the pickles or leftover brine that you didn’t use to can the pickles?
Can this recipe be used to make relish? I am looking for a bread n butter relish recipe. Thanks
As long as you use the same ingredients I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t make this into a relish.
For those who want to do larger batches in quart jars: I used 20 cups of sliced cucumbers and one medium onion, and got 6 quarts. I used 8 cups vinegar (4 white; 4 apple cider) and 3 cups sugar (2 brown; 1 one). I added the turmeric into the vinegar, but I put 1 tsp mustard and 1/2 tsp celery seed directly into each jar for even distribution, as well as pickle crisp (1/4 tsp each jar). I had about 1/2 cup of brine left when I was done filling the jars. I like using bigger jars to make the most of my time and had a ton of cucumbers to process this year. I processed for 20 minutes as per my altitude. I don’t car if the pickles are super crisp – I mean, you’re boiling cucumbers, how crisp do they need to be? Anyway, thanks for all the details in recipes on how to alter recipes to your preferences. One of the best resources I’ve found for safe canning.
Correction to above – just took jars out of canner and actually had 5 quart jars in there, not 6!
So, how do I tell the difference between regular cucumbers in the garden and pickling cucumbers in the garden? I planted both, but the sticks with their names got lost through the season.
Pickling cucumbers tend to have thinner skin, bumps or spines on the skin and tend to be shorter and fatter.
Our first attempt at canning pickles, they turned out perfect! Excellent instructions that were easy to follow. We used quart jars and the pickles were so crisp and flavorful! Thank you so much for sharing. P.S. We thought the amount of sugar was perfect!
You’re very welcome. So glad you enjoyed the recipe.
Made these a couple weeks ago and just opened the 1st jar. These are hands down my favorite bread and butter pickle recipe ever! I will definitely be making more of them. Thanks so much!
You’re very welcome. So glad you enjoyed the recipe.
Can I use onion flakes instead of onions cut up?
That should work just fine.
Sadly, we cannot use onions or garlic in our house due to food intolerances. Would I be able to omit the onion, possibly subbing with sweet red peppers? I realize the flavor would be different, but do you think it would be awful? I’m really struggling to find a decent pickle that doesn’t use onions, garlic or even dill (yes we have an intolerance to that, as well as celery). Any info would be great!
You can either leave them out or swap them for something else. I’m not sure what the flavor would be like with the red peppers but if you try it let us know.
I don’t like ginger but i do like horseradish and I like turmeric but never tried those 2 spices together. Is it ok to use turmeric with horseradish or are they terrible together?
I think turmeric and horseradish would be fine together.
Can I not use the onions? I know it’s not good to change the recipe sometimes, but I’m allergic.
Yes, it’s totally fine to omit the onions.
Thank you for the recipe. I’ve just made them and am excited to try them in a couple of weeks.
You’re very welcome.
I have the same Ball recipe in front of me, but your directions state at the beginning to have the cucumbers and salt together for a couple of hours. The Ball recipe says to add cold water to cover and let stand for two hours. Curious why you didn’t do the cold water? I’ve seen other recipes do what you do as well, just curious. Thanks.
I’m not sure why different recipes show one method or the other but this is a method that we use for other vegetables when we need to remove the bitterness.