Bread and butter pickle
This crisp, sweet-and-sour cucumber pickle picked up its nickname ‘bread and butter pickles’ during the Great Depression years in America in the 1930s. Pickles were low-cost and a cheerful way to brighten up the monotony of eating bread and butter every day. It’s delicious with many foods – not just bread and butter. Vary the spice mix to your tastes, but do measure the turmeric carefully; too much will flood the pickle with yellow and overwhelm the other spices.
For this recipe you will need two 500ml/18fl oz sterilised jars (see Recipe Tips section for information on how to sterilise your jars easily).
Trim the ends of the cucumbers – there’s no need to peel them unless the skins are tough. Remove the seeds by running a teaspoon down the length of each cucumber half. Slice the cucumber halves into 4–5mm/¼in pieces. Put in a large bowl with the sliced onion and sprinkle with salt, tossing to coat. Cover the surface with baking paper and a large plate and leave in a cool place for at least 2 hours – anything up to 24 hours will be fine.
Tip the cucumber into a colander and rinse under very cold water. Drain well, tossing to remove as much excess water as possible.
Put the remaining ingredients into a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring all the time, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cucumber and onion slices and bring to simmering point, then cook for 3–4 minutes, or until the cucumbers are hot throughout and slightly translucent. Remove from the heat. Pack into the sterilised jars, filling to the brim and making sure the liquor completely covers the cucumber. Seal immediately. Invert the jars for a minute or so, to ensure the lids are sterilised, then turn the right way up and leave to cool.
This pickle can be eaten straight away once cool. Otherwise, store in a cool, dry, dark place for up to a year. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 4 weeks.
The salt draws out the excess moisture from the vegetables, which will help keep them crisp, intensify their flavour and improve their preservation by preventing the excess water diluting the vinegar.
Prepare your jars and lids shortly before you need them. You can do this by putting them through a hot (60C) dishwasher cycle shortly before you need them (don’t try to dry them with a tea towel, let them air dry) or wash them in hot water then place in an oven preheated to 140C/120C Fan/Gas 1 for 15 minutes (switch off the oven and leave the jars inside until needed). Alternatively, place the jars in a large stock pot with a clean folded cloth or trivet placed on the base, cover the jars completely with cold water and bring to simmering point (90C) for 10 minutes, next remove the pan from the heat and leave the jars in the hot water until you need them. When your preserve is ready, carefully remove the jars from the pan, tipping out the water as you do so – pair of bottling tongs makes this job easy, but otherwise use ordinary tongs.