Homemade bread-and-butter pickles deliver plenty of flavor minus the carbs
If you search the internet for the best pickles, you'll find that crunchy, garlicky dill pickles almost always top that list. Now, I like a good dill pickle as much as anyone, however my all-time favorite is a sweet bread-and-butter pickle.
Here's my story.
Almost 20 years ago, I discovered a special recipe for bread-and-butter pickles that used the higher molasses content, dark brown sugar. I made a batch from this unique recipe (it had chunks of onion and green pepper) and found it to be really special. Plus, at that time, it satisfied both my palate and my desire for low-fat foods.
It's not just unique in flavor either; the liquid surrounding the pickles looks like brown gravy instead of being clear (when distilled vinegar is used) or nearly clear (if cider vinegar is used) and doesn't look like any bread-and-butter pickles anyone's ever seen. Part of the story behind these unique pickles: The restaurant that made them in-house would, on request, serve a small bowl of the pickle juice (gravy) on the side of a grilled cheese sandwich for dipping. True.
I loved my new pickles so much I sent a one-quart gift bottle of my first batch to my brother in Arizona. He opened the box, looked at the pickles floating in this murky brown "gravy" and thought they were spoiled. Without opening the bottle, he threw them out.
When I first made those pickles, I went to all the trouble and "hot" canned them so they could reside on my pantry shelf and not require refrigeration.
Today when I make those pickles, I skip that method and make what are called "refrigerator" pickles. That means that once cooked in the "syrup," they must always reside in the refrigerator.
Way back then, although I knew sugars were not good for me, I let the two cups (yes, two cups) of brown sugar slide. That was a slippery slope since that sugar delivered 4,000 more calories than my new no-added-sugar, bread-and-butter pickles do today.
I've made my pickles with stevia as a sugar substitute and that works really well.
Today, the hottest non-GMO natural sugar substitute is called allulose. Allulose has as many grams of sugar, measure-for-measure, as regular sugar, except that 90% of that is not absorbed, so the end math delivers a very low net-carb number.
I made a new batch of my bread-and-butter pickles using allulose instead of dark brown sugar. I substituted a small amount of molasses to carry that dark brown sugar flavor into my pickles. Since allulose isn't as sweet as regular sugar (only 70% as sweet) I was surprised that I had to use 50% more allulose than sugar to get it as sweet. Otherwise my new low-calorie, low-sugar bread-and-butter pickles were really good.
Since you can't buy them in the store, you'll have to make a batch at home. If you have an overabundance of Kirby cucumbers in your garden, you may be headed for a special treat.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at email@example.com.
Here are some of the ingredients needed to make bread-and-butter pickles.
- Courtesy of Don Mauer
Refrigerator No-Sugar-Added Bread-and-Butter Pickles
6 cups sliced pickling (Kirby) cucumbers (about 1½ pounds)
1 large yellow onion, peeled, ends trimmed and cut into ¾-inch chunks
1 sweet green pepper, core and seeds removed; cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons pure fine sea salt (or ¼ cup kosher salt)
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
3 cups allulose (or a sugar substitute the equivalent of 2 cups regular sugar)
2 cups cider vinegar (I used organic vinegar)
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
Wash the cucumbers well under cold water but do not peel. Trim the cucumber ends, cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices and add to a large mixing bowl along with the onion and sweet pepper. Toss to combine. Add salt and toss to combine. Set aside for at least one hour, stirring and tossing from time to time.
Transfer the cucumber mixture to a colander. Rinse well with cold water and drain thoroughly.
While the cucumber mixture drains, add all the syrup ingredients to a 6-quart saucepan and over medium-high heat bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Mix in the drained cucumber mixture and bring the syrup back up to a low simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.
Using a wide-mouthed funnel and a nonplastic kitchen spoon (turmeric will stain the plastic), transfer the pickle mixture and syrup into glass jars and screw on the lids; cool and then refrigerate. Makes 2 quarts. Should last at least four weeks when kept refrigerated.
Nutrition values per 1-ounce serving: 9 calories (0.1% from fat), 0.1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 10.24 g carbohydrates (1.2 g net carbs), 0.1 g sugars, 0.1 g fiber, 0.1 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 105 mg sodium.