Fresh Ideas: Don’t get in pickle for cucumbers

Photo by Helana Brigman  --  Preserve summer by turning cucumbers into crisp Bread and Butter Pickles.
Photo by Helana Brigman -- Preserve summer by turning cucumbers into crisp Bread and Butter Pickles.

BY HELANA BRIGMAN

Special to EatPlayLive

I love the crisp, subtle taste of fresh cucumbers, but the beginning of September means seeing less and less of this abundant warm-weather crop. To preserve a little bit of summer, my family and I have always reserved the month of August for pickling. Not only is pickling a wonderful family activity, but it also teaches the importance of preservation by making use of excess garden produce.

But, for first-time home cooks, pickling can be an intimidating business. There are important principles you’ll need to follow for your jars to set up correctly, but don’t be overwhelmed.

First, make sure to sterilize your equipment properly. If you hope to store pickles outside of the refrigerator before opening, then you must always sterilize your jars, lids and screw tops. There are plenty of great “refrigerator” pickle recipes, but long-term pickling requires a few extra steps.

Second, use the freshest cucumbers you have available (preferably pickling cucumbers, but English work as well).

Our family’s classic Bread and Butter Pickles recipe is simple and easy, pieced together from tried family favorites and some extra research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Home Canning Guide. In addition, we’ve adjusted the sugar level for modern tastes, dropping the original from five cups to four.

The result is sweet, subtly tangy Bread and Butter Pickles that are crispy enough to add crunch to a sandwich and sweet enough to toss on a salad or eat with a fork.

Plus, homemade Bread and Butter Pickles mean having a little bit of summer anytime of the year.

Helana Brigman is a food writer, photographer and cookbook author. She can be reached with daily recipes at http://clearlydeliciousfoodblog.com or via email at hbrigm1@tigers.lsu.edu