This morning I taught my first official canning class at the Charlottesville Cooking School. I’ve taught countless friends how to can so that part wasn’t new. I’ve assisted with numerous classes at the school over the years, so I felt comfortable in that space, but the part where I stand up in front of complete strangers and be credible about something? That part had me nervous. As did the part where I make sure the class was structured so that we got everything done in the amount of time scheduled for the class. Somehow I managed to pull it off though.
We canned tomatoes and zucchini bread & butter pickles. The class had been advertised offering cucumber pickles, but last week as I was walking around the farmer’s market, I had a heck of a time finding pickling cucumbers. It seems the heat this summer fried just about every farmer’s crop that I talked to, causing the lack of them at my local farmer’s market. I know from experience that regular cucumbers don’t pickle nearly as well as the pickling variety. They will still make a fairly decent bread and butter pickle, but you can’t rush the soaking step. As I couldn’t find a recipe with a soaking step shorter than 3 hours, the time allotted the class was 3 hours, well, I realized I was going to have to make a substitution if I was going to send my students home with a jar of pickles that I knew was going to be good. So, after reading up on pickles, zucchini pickles it was!
After all, I didn’t want their first pickle experience to have a sub-par result. I’ve made dill pickles that haven’t turned out and it stinks to put a bunch of work into something that you end up throwing out. They were all taking the class because they wanted to learn to can and I wanted to make sure they enjoyed it.
I promised my students that even though we didn’t make the cucumber pickles, I would share my recipe with them. The recipe I use is the one my mother used, from an old Ideals Family cookbook, published in the early 1970’s, although I have seen this recipe elsewhere as well.
Bread & Butter Cucumber Pickles
(from The Ideals Family Garden Cookbook)
1 gallon cucumbers
8 small white onions
2 green peppers, shredded
½ c. salt
5 c. sugar
1 ½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 Tablespoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon celery seed
5 cups cider vinegar
Wash but do not pare cucumbers. Slice crosswise in paper-thin slices. (You will be well paid for this seemingly tedious task. A slicer might be easier, but be sure the slices are paper-thin.) Slice the onions thin and cut the peppers in fine shreds. Mix the salt with the three vegetables and bury 1 quart of cracked ice in the mixture. Cover with a weighted lid and let stand for 3 hours, then drain very thoroughly.
Meanwhile, make a pickling syrup as follows: Mix the sugar, turmeric and cloves together. Add mustard and celery seeds and vinegar. Pour this syrup over the sliced pickles. Place over a low heat and paddle occasionally, using a wood spoon. Heat the mixture to scalding, but do not boil. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal by processing for 10 minutes.
Let stand at least 4-6 weeks before cracking open. The longer they sit, the better they get.
I don’t remember the yield on this recipe, it’s been a year or two since I made it and I don’t have it noted. I think it makes somewhere between 7 and 9 pint jars worth.