This small batch bread and butter pickles recipe is easy to make — no canning required — and serves up a sweet and tangy flavor. Refrigerator pickles like this are an easy way to extend the shelf life of fresh produce.
Fermentation is another great way to preserve produce; these fermented carrots are a favorite here!
Originally published May 2021; this post has been updated.
Pickles come in a variety of flavors, ingredients often varying depending on what’s in season. When cucumbers are abundant in the garden or at the farmers market, this recipe is a perfect way to use some.
Refrigerator Bread and Butter Pickles
It’s a funny name for a pickle, isn’t it? As the story goes, Omar and Cora Fanning farmed cucumbers and used them to make a family favorite pickle recipe. One hard season, Mrs. Fanning utilized the “cull” cukes to make jars of pickles to barter with.
They bartered for basics like (wait for it) bread and butter. The name stuck.
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Cucumbers — I like to use small pickling cucumbers as they will easily fit in the jars, and are the perfect size to use on sandwiches.
Onions — Onions pair so nicely with the cucumber and add a lot of flavor to the brine. You can use any type of bulb onion.
Sugar — Sugar is necessary for creating the pickling liquid so don’t be alarmed at the amount used. It’s what gives these refrigerator pickles their characteristic sweetness.
Apple Cider Vinegar — Be mindful of this little tidbit when buying apple cider vinegar.
This bread and butter pickle recipe begins with sliced cucumbers and onions. You’ll soak them in salt water for 1-3 hours in the fridge. This pulls some of the moisture out of the cukes, allowing them to more readily absorb the flavors of the pickle brine.
Drain, rinse, and then pack the cucumbers into clean jars. You can use quart size jars or pint size jars for this recipe, whichever is most convenient for you.
Heat the vinegar mixture over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Then pour the brine over the veggies in the jars while still warm.
Once jars are filled and the vegetables are covered with brine, secure a lid in place and refrigerate for a week or so before sampling.
More Refrigerator Pickles to Try
What type of jars should I use?
Good news – you don’t need to use canning jars here, since this easy recipe isn’t canned.. These aren’t processed in a water bath or under pressure to make a shelf-stable pickle, so you can absolutely re-use jars and lids. Even jars from store-bought items like pasta sauce are fair game.
What type of cucumbers should I use?
Pickling cucumbers are small and tender. You can also look for English or hothouse cucumbers in the store which generally have a thinner skin and fewer seeds. And of course, regular cucumbers will work just fine!
Why do I soak the cucumbers first?
It’s a good idea to soak your cucumbers in salted water first. It might seem counterintuitive, but there’s a great reason. The salt helps to pull excess moisture from the produce – yes, even while it is sitting IN water. This will allow it to then soak up all the tasty brine to turn the cucumbers into pickles.
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- 1 pound cucumbers, sliced 1/8-1/4" thick
- 2 small onions, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons sea salt (or kosher salt)
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- Combine cucumber slices, onions, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add water to cover and mix to combine. Refrigerate for 1-3 hours.
- Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is just simmering.
- While brine is heating, drain cucumber mixture and rinse well.
- Transfer cucumbers and onions to jars. This recipe will fill 2 quart sized jars or 4 pint sized jars.
- Pour hot brine over cucumbers to within one-half inch of rim. Seal jars with a lid and refrigerate for at least a week before sampling.
Since you won't be processing these jars of pickles to make them shelf stable, it's a perfect opportunity to re-use glass jars from the store. You can also reuse canning jar lids (which is not safe for canned items).
Nutrition Information:Yield: 32 Serving Size: 1/4 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 57Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 596mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 0gSugar: 13gProtein: 0g
History source: https://www.etsu.edu/cph/documents/bread_and_butter_pickles.pdf