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10/09/2017

~ Quick & Easy Bread & Butter Refrigerator Pickles ~

IMG_4660When I was a kid, during the late Summer and Fall, my grandmother, my great aunt, and my mother used to can -- a lot.  There were days when one of their respective kitchens was filled with boxes of fresh fruits or vegetables and huge pots, and, the dining room table was lined with neat rows of freshly-sterilized mason jars -- dozens and dozens of them.  They'd start at sunrise and wouldn't stop until each one of those jars was filled.  I enjoyed those nights, snuggled in my bed, forcing myself to stay awake to hear "the pop" of each jar lid (the indicator of a proper seal).

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09671996970d PICT0196As a kid, those were fun times for me.  I found the process fascinating, but, I wasn't the one doing the work.

As an adult, while I do can a few fruits and vegetables in the traditional manner (peaches and red beets to name two), I honestly do not love the exhausting, time-consuming process -- I also do not have a sister and/or a daughter to stand by my side and help.  I much prefer quick-pickling in small batches or freezing in large quantities, if or when either process can be applied without compromise (peaches do not freeze well, and beets are best pickled or canned in the traditional manner).

What's the difference between pickling & quick-pickling?

IMG_4654Pickle comes from the Dutch=Deutsch=German word "pekel", which means "brine" (not "cucumber" as is easy enough to assume).  A brine is nothing more than a mixture of vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and usually, some dry spices or fresh herbs. Depending upon the solution, pickled foods can take on all sorts of colors and flavors.  Pickled foods can be sweet, sour, sweet and sour, or spicy.  At the the whim of the cook, any of them can be piquant or pedestrian.

Pickling per se is canning.  It's easy but time consuming.  Get out the big canning pot and special utensils, boil the mason jars to sterilize them, add the appropriately-prepped fruit, vegetables or food to the jars, add the brine, immerse jars in boiling water for a designated amount of time, then, remove from the water bath and let cool until the lids "pop", which means they are properly sealed.  In the case of water-bath-canned anything, if stored in a cool, dry place, the food can last for a year or two. Pickling/canning dates back to medieval times and is how our ancestors preserved all types of food prior to refrigeration. Without refrigeration, food spoiled quickly and pickling was a means of preserving it for out-of-season use or transporting it for a long journey.

Quick-Pickling is considerably easier than traditional pickling and almost any raw or blanched vegetable can be quick-pickled.  All that's needed is a saucepan, any type of clean jars, vinegar, sugar and a few herbs and/or dry spices.  The prepped vegetables get placed in the jars, the seasoned vinegar-sugar mixture gets simmered in the saucepan for a few short minutes, then the solution (sometimes boiling hot, sometimes completely cooled, so follow the recipe on this point) gets ladled over the veggies in the jars.  The lids get placed on the jars and the quick-pickled food gets stored in the refrigerator until they get eaten or up to two weeks.  Because the shelf-life is short and the jars take up refrigerator space, quick-pickles are usually made in small batches.

What are bread & butter pickles?

IMG_4640Bread and butter pickles, also known as sweet and sour pickles are on the sweet end of the pickle spectrum, but not quite as sweet as sweet pickles, and, decidedly different than the sharp bite of dill pickles.  They're typically crinkle-cut sliced, which makes them ideal for topping hamburgers and a variety of sandwiches.  I often serve them as a side-dish, and, occasionally, dice them to add to salads or mince them to add to relishes.  Interestingly enough, my family never made homemade bread and butter pickles.

We lived in Eastern Pennsylvania, the land of the Pennsylvania Deutsch (the German-speaking people who immigrated to PA and surrounding areas, along with their many, many, pickle recipes).

Ihwx.5431a462-d5ca-41c9-b47c-74fa6bfd7bc9.500.500In the tradition of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, the Wos-Wit brand has been canning delicious relishes, dressings, preserves and various garden vegetables. Beginning in the 1940's, as a small farm producing Pennsylvania Dutch products by canning the excessive vegetable bounty, the Pennsylvania Dutch label "WOS-WIT" ("what do you want") has a rich and extensive history. Originally owned by John and Dorothy Kresge, in 1983 the business was sold to Paul Zukovich, a long time farmer who now operates the canning facility on his 80 acre farm: Grouse Hunt Farms. His family continues to use all of the Kresge's original recipes. 

Wos-Wit Bread & Butter Pickles contain all the traditional ingredients and no artificial preservatives:  sliced cucumbers, vinegar, sugar, onions, red peppers, salt, tumeric and spices.

IMG_4626

For the brine mixture:

1  cup distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)

1  cup distilled apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)

2  cups granulated sugar

1/4  cup pickling or Kosher salt

1  tablespoon mustard seeds

1/2  teaspoon each:  celery seeds, dry mustard, red pepper flakes and ground turmeric

8  whole allspice berries

8 whole cloves

IMG_4631 IMG_4635Step 1.  To prepare brine, stir all ingredients together in a 2-quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, adjust heat to a steady simmer and cook 3 full minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly while prepping vegetables:

IMG_4643For the cucumber mixture:

3  pounds cucumbers, 1/4"-thick sliced into coins, preferably crinkle cut

1/2  pound small-diced yellow or sweet onion

1  cup small-diced red bell pepper

~ Step 2.  Prep vegetables as directed placing them in a large bowl as you work.  Add all the warm-hot brine and stir.  Refrigerate for 6-8 hours, stirring frequently.

~ Step 3.  Remove bread and butter pickles from the refrigerator.  Using a slotted spoon transfer pickles to desired-sized, mason-type jars (although any type of lidded jar will work just fine), lightly-packing them into each.  Using a small ladle, add brine to the neck of each jar of pickles.  

Seal jars & keep stored in refrigerator for 7-10 days:

IMG_4662Quick & Easy Bread & Butter Refrigerator Pickles:  Recipe yields enough pickles to fill 40 total ounces/8, 5-ounce mason jars were filled today.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; 2-quart saucepan; large spoon; large slotted spoon; small ladle; desired sized mason-type jars with tight-fitting lids

6a0120a8551282970b01901ee05043970bCook's Note:  When I was growing up, there was almost always a jar of pickled eggs in our refrigerator.  If there wasn't, it was time to make more.  To this day, my mother's recipe for   ~ Pretty in Pink: Pennsylvania Dutch Pickled Eggs ~, is one of my favorite snacks. They are made via the quick-pickling method too, and, here in my Happy Valley kitchen, I make them with our own home-grown home-canned red beets.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

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