I’d like to begin by apologizing in advance to dill pickles for what I’m about to say.
Bread and butter just might have you beat.
Don’t get me wrong, my savory friend. I still love you. I’m a pickle girl. Always have been.
Not the kind that sneaks half a dozen ridged rounds straight from the jar while standing in front of an open fridge, though. I’m a pickle pairer.
This is probably not a real thing, but it’s what I’m going to start writing in the “occupation” box on the forms at my doctor’s office.
This is an article about zucchini preserved in a bread-and-butter-style brine, but the truth is that I’ve always had a thing for dill pickles, historically. They also seem to be what’s placed in front of me the most often when the craving strikes at a restaurant.
Even at home, the herbaceous variety is what you’ll likely find in my funky stockpile of fermented goods. For me, a juicy tuna sub stacked with shredded lettuce and onions isn’t complete without a chilled grassy spear, or a couple crunchy dilly green beans.
And a thin, expertly char-grilled smash burger simply doesn’t taste right sans the snap of a couple garlicky cucumber chips.
What I’m saying is that I like my pickles to serve a purpose, so I’ve never been one to eat them solo.
I obviously adore partnering savory pickles with flavors that beg to be cut with a touch of acidity, but when it comes to “sweet” pickles, it turns out that all I need is a free hand to hold the jar. Total game changer.
As for the vegetable that’s being pickled, who said cucumbers get to soak in all the fun? I’m constantly poking around in my produce drawer for other items to submerge into a salty solution, and zucchini happen to be the perfect subjects.
They’re crisp, refreshing, and fit just as snugly into sandwiches, burgers, and pitas as classic pickled cucumbers do.
If you were wondering about the overarching categorization of pickles, well, you and I should definitely be friends, as we clearly have similar interests. It turns out that bread and butter is more of a “style,” and these happen to be a subset of the sweet pickle class.
They’re considered old-fashioned, and they’re notoriously known for being made by grandmothers. In reality, however, the history goes as such:
Flashback to the early 1920s when Omar and Cora Fanning resourcefully turned to the smaller cucumbers in their garden to create a clever side hustle. The adept Mrs. Fanning bartered with her local grocer during hard times, and he agreed to give her staples (like bread and butter) in exchange for homemade pickles.
The tangy food remains a legend today. One taste of these zippy zucchini, and you’ll understand why.
Crisp onion slivers are a must, along with apple cider vinegar, whose sour bite is unmistakable.
To balance out the tanginess: enter brown sugar. Whole mustard and celery seeds almost always make an appearance in pickling spice blends, and their spicy, astringent burn and earthy flavor go a long way.
I’m an advocate for using warming spices in sweeter pickle brines, especially if I’m enjoying them on their own or as part of a meat and cheese platter. I dig the cozy, complex flavor of aromatic allspice and cloves, but you’re welcome to leave those out if you choose.
In my humble opinion, it’s the turmeric that steals the show, and it gives the golden brine its signature look. But no matter how you slice it, these tart zucchini rounds are the greatest thing since, well, sliced bread…
… and butter pickles.
I’ll show myself out.Print
Crisp zucchini slices are hit with a bright, bold, bread and butter-style brine in this take on old-fashioned sweet pickles.
- 1 pound zucchini (about 3–4 medium)
- 1 small sweet onion very thinly sliced into half-moons (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/4 cup plus one tablespoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt (not iodized), divided
- 1 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2–3 whole allspice berries (optional)
- 2–3 whole cloves (optional)
- Rinse the zucchini and then trim and discard the ends. Using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice the zucchini into 1/2-inch-thick chips.
- Place the zucchini and onions in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt, and toss to combine. Cover the veggies with a layer of ice and pour in enough water so it comes up about 1 inch above the surface of the topmost vegetables. Soak for 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water over medium heat to sterilize the canning jars. Carefully submerge the empty jars (without the lids and rings) right side up in the pot, making sure the water is about 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a boil, and continue to boil the jars for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, but don’t drain it – you can use the same water to process the filled jars.
- In a medium saucepot over medium heat, add the white vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup salt, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until dissolved, about 5 minutes. Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove it from the heat.
- Drain the zucchini and onions. Divide them evenly between the sterile canning jars, so they fit comfortably. Add the mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric, allspice berries, and cloves, also evenly distributed between the jars. Pour the brine into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at the top.
- Bring the large pot of water back to a boil. Tightly screw on the lids, and process the jars in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the pot (making sure that the lids have popped) and set them aside to cool completely before storing or refrigerating.
- Store the pickles in a cool, dry place like a pantry for up to 1 year. Once opened, refrigerate and consume within about 1 month for the best quality and flavor.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Category: Pickles
- Method: Pickling
- Cuisine: Condiments
Keywords: zucchini, pickle
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep the Zucchini and Onions
Thoroughly rinse the zucchini with cool water, and scrub them gently with a vegetable brush. Trim and discard the ends.
Thinly slice the onions into half-moons.
Step 2 – Salt the Veggies
Place the zucchini and onions in a large bowl, sprinkle with a tablespoon of salt, and toss to combine.
Cover the veggies with a layer of ice and then pour in enough water so it comes up about 1 inch above the surface of the topmost veg. Soak for 2 hours.
Salting vegetables prior to pickling helps to draw moisture out of them, which makes the finished product more crisp, and allows the pickles to stay crisp for a longer period of time.
Step 3 – Make the Brine and Sterilize the Jars
Add the white vinegar and apple cider vinegar to a medium-size saucepot, and place it over medium heat.
Whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup salt with the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Keep stirring until these have dissolved, for about 5 minutes. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then remove it immediately from the heat.
To sterilize the canning jars, heat a large pot of water over medium heat. Check your jars for any nicks or cracks, and discard any that are damaged. You may need to buy new jars, lids, and rings before you begin!
Carefully submerge the empty jars right side up in the pot, making sure the water is about 1 inch above the tops of the jars.
Bring the water to a boil, and continue to boil the jars for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, but don’t drain it – you’ll use the same water to process the filled jars.
The jars can stay in the hot water for up to an hour, to keep them clean so they don’t collect dirt or debris if they’re sitting out after they’ve been sterilized.
Remove the jars using jar lifters or tongs, drain any water that’s in them back into the pot, and set them aside to dry on a clean and sanitized surface.
Step 4 – Measure the Spices and Add the Brine
Drain the zucchini and onions. Distribute them evenly between two or three sterile canning jars, so they fit comfortably. Also keep in mind that you’ll need to leave some breathing room at the top.
Measure and evenly distribute the mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric, allspice berries, and cloves between the jars.
You can leave out the allspice and cloves if you like, or add your choice of warming spices like cinnamon sticks to enhance the sweet, aromatic flavors. You can also add whole black peppercorns or crushed red pepper flakes to add some peppery flavor and heat.
Pour the brine into the jars, leaving 1/2 an inch of headspace at the top.
Step 5 – Seal the Lids, Store, and Enjoy
Bring the large pot of water back to a boil.
Tightly screw on the lids, and process them in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Remove the jars from the pot, making sure the lids have popped, and set them aside to cool completely before storing or refrigerating.
Store the pickles in a cool, dry place like a pantry for up to one year. Once you’ve opened a jar, refrigerate it and consume the contents within about a month for the best quality and flavor.
That’s One Zesty Zucchini
Did you know that, depending on the time of year, you can often snag several pounds of zucchini from the store and pay less than you would for cukes?
If you’re a home gardener (which, if you are, you should be a regular at our sister site, Gardener’s Path), you know that this particular veggie happens to be an overachiever. So the next time you’re wondering what to do with that bounty of summer squash varieties that just won’t quit, this recipe can swoop in and save the day.
If you’re a novice who has just bought your first pair of gardening gloves, you can learn how to plant and grow zucchini here. When you can’t get even one more pickle down, I’m very proud of this recipe, which coerces crispy, panko-crusted zucchini chips into taking a dip in the fryer. Give it a try.
If it’s more fermented foods that you’re after, we’ve got plenty more recipes where this one came from:
- Homemade Lacto-Fermented Salsa
- Homemade Quick-Pickled Beets and Turnips
- Homemade Lacto-Fermented Garlic Dill Pickles
How will you show off these sweet and sour pickles? Share your bright and briny ideas in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by on August 21, 2014. Last updated on November 7, 2021.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”