Smoky burgers fresh off the grill. Savory BLTs with tomatoes fresh off the vine, still warm from the sun. Club sandwiches with crisp lettuce, salty bacon and creamy avocado. All of these things are mouthwatering all on their own. But to my mind, each of them needs a foil, a companion condiment to bring out their best: a pickle.
Specifically, I favor bread and butter pickles. They’re sufficiently acidic to cut through the richness of juicy meat or crunchy bacon, as well as pleasantly sweet. And as pickles go, they’re amazingly easy to make.
Bread and butter pickles are quick pickles, which is to say they do not need to be fermented like true dills. Fermenting is a process that takes days; quick pickles can be done in a couple hours. And though the flavor of these pickles will improve by sitting in the fridge for a few days, they’ll have that hallmark tangy-sweet bite as soon as they’ve cooled.
A quick treatment with salt makes the cukes and onions extra-crispy, and allows them better to absorb the tangy brine. Turmeric stains them an appetizing golden yellow color.
Come to think of it, who needs the sandwich?
Your Classic Bread-and-Butter Pickles
Reprinted with permission from Quick Pickles by Chris Schlesinger, John Willoughby and Dan George, Chronicle Books
3 pounds pickling cucumbers (less than 5 inches long)
1 large or 2 medium onions (about 1 pound)
3 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice (optional)
3 cups cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
Trim and discard the blossom ends of the cucumbers, then peel the onions and cut both into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. In a nonreactive bowl, toss them with the salt, then cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. Drain well, rinse, drain again and then set the cucumbers and onions aside.
In a nonreactive pot, combine all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring once or twice to dissolve the brown sugar. Reduce the heat to low, simmer for 3 minutes and then pour the liquid over the cucumbers and onions. The cucumbers should be amply covered or slightly afloat.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate. These pickles have good flavor as soon as they are cool, but the flavor will deepen if you let them sit for 24 hours. They will keep, covered and refrigerated, for a month or more.
Yield: About 8 cups
View our gallery for How to Make Quick Pickles for visual instructions.
More from Sean and Punk Domestics:
- Apricot Jam
- Maraschino Cherries
- Basic Strawberry Jam
- DIY Kimchi
- Pulled Pork with Carolina-style BBQ Sauce
- East Meets West: Yuzu Kosho
- Rany’s Tomato-Meyer Lemon Chutney
- Cranberryless Sauce
- Apple Habanero Jelly
- Pear Butter
- Zucchine Sott’Olio
- Fig Jam with Fennel Pollen
- Canning Tomatoes
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, DPaul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.