The best for this summer’s glut
Say the words ‘bread and butter pickles' and I don't necessarily remember the actual look of the pickles or my mother making them without fail every summer.
Instead, the unforgettable combination of sugar, turmeric, mustard and vinegar floods my senses and I am compelled to find a jar, just to have another taste of one of the most enduring preserves of my childhood.
Bread and butter pickles are a standard item in my own larder, with one slight deviation from tradition (see the recipe, top right on the next page).
It doesn't matter whether you grow cucumbers or zucchini in your summer garden or not, there is always a big pile in the vege bins over summer. Many gardeners and recipients of fresh produce from the neighbours or rellies will instantly bring to mind the familiar bucket-loads of straight, curly or round cucumbers, zucchini in yellow and green, the ubiquitous marrow taking pride of place on the back step. These long green vegetables seem to magically pop out in the night.
“I'm sure there weren't any there yesterday,” I've heard people say, and now, suddenly, there are too many.
Too many in my kitchen isn't a problem. Too many is perfect for bread and butter pickles.
But I will say that I have stretched the boundaries of what is a true bread and butter pickle due to the abundance of cucumbers and zucchini in both my own garden and as gifts from people in my local community. For years, I was religiously faithful to my mother's recipe, only using the slightly larger pickling cucumbers that couldn't be turned into gherkins (as illustrated in the photos, just so you know I'm my mother's daughter).
Then a friend introduced me to bread and butter pickled zucchinis. These had a slightly different texture but with the same refreshing crunch and flavour of the cucumber variety. I discovered that zucchini works just fine for bread and butter pickles, but I also learned to give them only a very short blast in the simmering vinegar/sugar solution or they go soggy. The rule applies for ordinary varieties of cucumber too – you don't have to use pickling ones.
The second recipe I have included this month comes from another memory that relates not to taste but to ethics. The defining moment when I decided to become a vegetarian slips my mind, but it was definitely during my first two years at Waikato University and somehow related to me reading Peter Singer's book, Animal Liberation. It came as a bit of a shock to my dairy farming parents who were accustomed to our family consuming three meat meals a day. I ate bacon for breakfast every day for nearly16 years. When my father heard, he shook his head, as if it to say 'it's just a phase'.
1Cucumber and zucchini (or courgette) are members of the same family – the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae – but are different genera (Cucumis and Cucurbita respectively).