Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Important Homesteading Skills, Part I

{Great Aunt Betty's Bread & Butter Pickles}

I've never tried my hand at pickling, but it's one of those Important Homesteading Skillz I've always wanted to learn, like milking a goat (done it, not good at it) or shoeing a horse (haven't had time to squeeze in farrier school). So it was with sheer delight that I received a box containing a mason jar of homemade pickles from my best cowgirl from Austin, Miss Ash. Ash is one part Annie Oakley to two parts Sissy Hankshaw (minus the big thumbs), baked, frosted, and served with a shot of whiskey.  When it comes to canning, she's a hardcore, no-frills Texan, and if she says anyone can make damn good pickles, then by god, anyone can make damn good pickles.  Here's her fail-proof recipe:



**Read directions thoroughly and then set up a pickling station - you don't have to do everything at lightening speed, but this works best when you can jar whilst everything's hot, so try to get an assembly line set up together so you don't waste time.

4 quarts cucumbers, sliced (leave the skin on, wash off any wax if they aren't farm fresh)
3 white onions, sliced
1/3 cup salt

Put ingredients in a bowl and cover with ice water - let stand at least 3 hrs or overnight

Drain well - DO NOT RINSE (rinsing takes off all the salt, which will keep your pickles crunchy)
Put them in a large pot

Make sure your jars and lids are clean and dry
Bake your glass jars in the oven (lowest heat) - you want these hot out of the oven when you pour your pickles in
Boil the flat lids (not the lid rims) in a small pot of water - you want to soften and heat the rubber around the edges to achieve a good seal

5 cups sugar
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 teas. turmeric (don't use a wooden or plastic spoon that you don't mind taking on the color of turmeric...I'm trying to avoid using the word 'STAIN,' which is a terrible word)
1 1/2 teas. celery seed
2 Tabl. mustard seed

Stir brine well to mix and then pour over sliced cucumbers and onions
Bring to a good, rolling boil (remember, a rolling boil can't be broken by stirring)
Put cucumbers and onions in jars and fill with brine, leaving ~ a quarter inch of space in the jar (I like to just pull a few out of the oven at a time, to make sure they are all hot when you fill them)
Wipe any moisture away from the lip of the jar
Screw lids on as tightly as possible; they should seal within a few minutes (most of the time, you'll hear them pop)

Bread and Butta pickles don't need 3 months to cure like dills, but I like to wait a while so they've got a little more flavor. They are best chilled, so put them in the fridge before you open them.


A little disclaimer (not for the squeamish): While photographing Ash's pickles I realized that macro shots of anything that has been brined and canned in glass has the potential to look utterly unappealing. This brought back a distinct childhood memory of the monstrous jar of pickled pig's feet at Hickock's Boat Livery & General Store on Saranac Lake in upstate New York. The fact that Ole Hickock kept said jar-o-hooves in the refrigerated shelving next to the live bait only compounded the horror.  *Shutter* I decided that anything that once had a mother is NOT OK to pickle, i.e. eggs, hog hocks, pig lips, chicken feet or cow tongue. (An NPR correspondent seems to be equally fascinated with the subject of non-veg pickling.) If pickled hocks is your thing, then go for it-  I'm impressed, but I think I'll keep my pickles vegetable-based for now.  Happy pickling!


  1. yay ASH! yay pickles! i love you lulu!!!

  2. Lily - Thanks for stopping by my blog and saying nice things! I do like yours so much too. I found your post about your horse today. I blubbed like a baby. I seemed to have traded a small white fluffy dog for my husband. As G. Harrison said, all things must pass, none of life's dreams last. (I should have saved that for a post.) But we can still have a good cry from time to time. I'll be stopping in again and be in touch! Nice to meet you! Lovely paintings. Now pickles....a whole other conversation!

  3. That sounds like a very sensible pickling rule: nothing that's had a mother. Speaking of mother's, my mother-in-law makes fabulous pickles. I am very spoiled, especially since pickling is one of the few culinary arts that I don't enjoy. These pickles you've got here look mighty tasty. I think I'd like to meet Miss Ash! xoxo Gigi

  4. Thank you for sharing! I've made jam but I've never tried pickling!

  5. I pickled a LOT last year, and give major props to anyone who can rock such a crazy undertaking. WOOT.


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