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Preparing and Canning Pickled Vegetables

Bread-and-Butter Pickles

  • 6 lbs of 4- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
  • 8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 3 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup canning or pickling salt
  • 4 cups vinegar (5 percent)
  • 4-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp mustard seed
  • 1-1/2 tbsp celery seed
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1 cup pickling lime (optional- for use in variation below for making firmer pickles)

Yield: About 8 pints

Please read Using Boiling Water Canners before beginning. If this is your first time canning, it is recommended that you read Principles of Home Canning.

Procedure: Wash cucumbers. Cut 1/16-inch off blossom end and discard. Cut into 3/16-inch slices. Combine cucumbers and onions in a large bowl. Add salt. Cover with 2 inches crushed or cubed ice. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours, adding more ice as needed.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot. Boil 10 minutes. Drain and add cucumbers and onions and slowly reheat to boiling. Fill jars with slices and cooking syrup, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process according to the recommendations in for more information see Table 1 or use low-temperature pasteurization treatment. The following treatment results in a better product texture but must be carefully managed to avoid possible spoilage. Place jars in a canner filled half way with warm (120º to 140ºF) water. Then, add hot water to a level 1 inch above jars. Heat the water enough to maintain 180 to 185ºF water temperature for 30 minutes for pint or quart jars. Check with a candy or jelly thermometer to be certain that the water temperature is at least 180ºF during the entire 30 minutes. Temperatures higher than 185ºF may cause unnecessary softening of pickles.

Variation for firmer pickles: Wash cucumbers. Cut 1/16-inch off blossom end and discard. Cut into 3/16-inch slices. Mix 1 cup pickling lime and 1/2 cup salt to 1 gallon water in a 2- to 3-gallon crock or enamelware container. Avoid inhaling lime dust while mixing the lime-water solution. Soak cucumber slices in lime water for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove from lime solution, rinse, and resoak 1 hour in fresh cold water. Repeat the rinsing and soaking steps two more times. Handle carefully, as slices will be brittle. Drain well. With this option, the onions are not limed.

Storage: After processing and cooling, jars should be stored 4 to 5 weeks to develop ideal flavor.

Variation: Squash bread-and-butter pickles. Substitute slender (1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter) zucchini or yellow summer squash for cucumbers. Do not use the liming variation.

Table 1. Recommended process time for Bread-and-Butter Pickles in a boiling-water canner.
  Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot Pints or Quarts 10 min 15 20


This document was adapted from the "Complete Guide to Home Canning," Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA, revised 2009.

Reviewed July 2014.

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