Food lore fascinates me – whether it’s a modern tale, such as emergency workers using Coca Cola to clean wreck scenes of blood, or ancient legends of native-Americans eating hot peppers to protect themselves from poison.
But I also dig the name game. And this week’s culinary mystery surrounds Bread & Butter Pickles. Where in the Sam Hill did these little partly-sour mostly sweet cukes get their name?
A quick search of the Internet will yield thousands of so-called authorities bringing up the Great Depression. As their stories go, people were broke and so they made sandwiches of bread, butter — and these pickles. Sounds good and it might’ve happened here and there. But that ain’t it.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that our friends across the pond deserve the credit. After all, the Brits were eating cucumbers on dainty little sandwiches long before the days of Downton Abbey or Howard’s End. Still … Sorry, England. Not your concoction.
Keep dredging and you’ll learn that a home-chef came up with the recipe that he sold at a roadside stand during the summer months. His profits for said pickles were his ‘bread and butter.’ Yeah, right.
In fact, Bread & Butter pickles have nothing to do with bread & butter – neither the food, nor the financial colloquialism. Sort of.
Though someone (somewhere) was preserving cucumbers with vinegar and sugar way back when, bread & butter pickles as we know them came from the Fannings. Yep. Those Fannings.
Cora and Omar Fanning were short on cash. (I can relate.) But this was back in the 1920s – when bartering was more common. As the story goes, Cora Fanning had one helluva recipe for sweet and sour cucumber chips. It had supposedly been in the family for generations. So what did they do? Why, they traded, of course — groceries for pickles. Her Bread and Butter pickles. Funny thing is, those pickles were crafted from the small (non-marketable) cukes that Omar grew for market.
Did you know? Mrs. Fanning’s Bread ‘n Butter Pickles in 2012 became a part of the B&G family of products (Trappey’s, B&M Baked Beans, Ortega). The company bounced around somewhat prior to that acquisition, including being owned by GFA Brands (Smart Balance Popcorn).
The Fannings’ trademark registration for Fanning’s Bread and Butter Pickles was finalized in March, 1924. The rest, as has been said, is history.
Classic Bread & Butter Pickles
Per pint —
2 TB – Plain salt
1/4 cup – Vinegar
1/4 cup – Water
1/4 cup – Sugar
1 TB – Pickling spice
1 tsp – Mustard seed
1/2 tsp – Turmeric
1/2 – Small onion, sliced
About 3 – Small pickling cucumbers, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 – Fresno pepper, seeded and sliced (optional)
Combine first seven ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.
In a pint-sized canning jar, place sliced cucumbers, onion and pepper (if using). Vegetables should not come past the lower part of the jar’s rim. Pour hot liquid mixture into jar. It should reach the bottom of the rim. If not, top with water.
Cap and seal accordingly. Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes. Pickles should be ready in about two weeks — and throughout winter. Tastes better cold.
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