How did Bread & Butter pickles get their name?

calilooDecember 21, 2011

The Little Gourmand has decided he likes them and asked me why they were called Bread & Butter pickles. Can anyone help with an answer to that?



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I can't but I am shaking my head in disbelief, as my daughter asked the very same question last night! What are the odds?

    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 1:15PM
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According to some sources, they were used as a common sandwich filling served with bread and butter during the Depression. I take it that bread and butter were cheap and available at that time.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 1:25PM
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I agree with sushi.....but think the term originated earlier than the depression.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 1:37PM
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Bread and butter pickles are just a recipe for a sweet sour pickle. They got the name "bread and butter" during the great depression when fresh cucumbers were eaten for lunch with bread and butter, and a cheap source of what was considered a vegetable back in the day. Moms could grow the cukes, serve them fresh as long as they lasted without refrigeration, but then had to pickle them to make them last all the rest of the year. In the summer cucumber sandwiches were very popular, thin slices of cukes on bread with butter- very English. But what then to do with the leftover garden produce?? Pickle it!

While folks back then served what they could grow- and cucumbers were easy to grow in many climates- still the produce outstripped the consumption. Backyard gardens often produced more cucumbers than any family could eat in one season. So they picked and pickled them- adapting and using old recipes that would appeal to their children's pallets, (always a huge concern). While we know now that cooking destroys many of the vitamins in any food product- back then they did not know that. So they used the bread and butter pickle as a substitute for fresh cucumber sandwiches. Which they seriously thought were nutritious.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 1:37PM
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Never saw anyone eating Cucumbers and Bread.

I did see some eating Onions and Bread.

In the City everyone had a garden during the depression and during WW2.

Every patch of dirt had some sort of vegetable growing.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 2:00PM
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Thanks so much for the information. Of course I have had cucumber sandwiches and probably made dozens of them over the years, but it never occurred to me that Bread & Butter pickles would be used in the same manner.

Thank you again.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 2:25PM
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Bread, butter, & cucumber sandwiches are a hold over from our country's English heritage. They are still served all over the country as "tea sandwiches". White Flower Farms in Litchfield, Connecticut is famous for their annual spring sale featuring bread, butter, & cucumber sandwiches while people stroll the gardens.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 2:40PM
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We had elderly neighbors who always called cucumbers "pickles" whether they were pickled or not, so I would tend to go with the Depression Era origin for the name. But another thought, sweet pickles (aka bread and butter pickles) were always served on the table with a plate of sliced bread and butter. Those three things were always placed on the table no matter what else was being served. A fermented food was almost always served with a meal (sweet pickles, dill pickles, pickled beets, even sweet & sour sliced cucumbers in vinegar/sugar...).

We lived on raw cucumber sandwiches (bread/butter/cucumber slices and salt and pepper) for lunch, as well as tomato sandwiches (not BLT, just bread/butter/sliced tomatoes/salt and pepper) all summer long, growing up in Kansas. Bread was homemade, and 8-10-cents per loaf if bought from the store.

I always thought the cucumber sandwich was an English influence because my mother was from Canada and I don't remember other families in our neighborhood ever eating cucumber sandwiches like we did.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 3:56PM
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I do not think that cucumber sandwiches are served all over the country - but mainly in the parts where Anglos and the English settled. I've never seen them in Texas or the Southwest or Louisiana. I haven't seen them on the West Coast either, and so I think they are mainly an East Coast-Midwest-Southern type of dish.

If you go to a tea garden in California, it will be either Japanese or Chinese - not English! The tea garden in San Antonio was also originally Japanese. Historically, Germans and Italians have outnumbered the English in the number of immigrants who came here. After a certain time, the English started going to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and there weren't enough left to make that much of an influence here, except on the East Coast.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 6:21PM
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I always have Bread and Butter Pickles on hand but never made a sandwich with just the Pickles .

I have used them in a Sandwich and Hoagies but always with Lunchmeat and Cheese.

But there is something wrong with me ???


    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 6:34PM
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I was born & raised in California. I ate cucumber sandwiches frequently growing up.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 8:15PM
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I would assume that your mother made the cucumber sandwiches - I was referring to never having seen them on a menu. They may very well be common here, and I just never have happened to see them. I was always intrigued by them whenever I would hear about them while watching an English movie - I think they are mentioned in The Importance of Being Ernest, but I had always thought that cucumber or watercress sandwiches were something of a joke and not something that anyone actually ate! I used to grow watercress in my pond in Venice, but I never made sandwiches out of it, although I added it to sandwiches, as I did with arugula.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 8:56PM
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Never saw cucumber sandwiches on a menu.....but often on a sandwich tray or on a plate with a salad.
If you grew up in an Italian neighborhood in south Philly, likely you didn't ever see cucumber sandwiches...onion sandwiches were likely the thing. I remember an elderly neighbor when I was about 12 eating garlic sandwiches.

I just looked in a couple of old cookbooks....and in the Boston cookbook 1942 edition, there was a recipe for bread and butter pickles....but in another edition dated 1914 there wasn't such a recipe.
I think it unlikely that bread and butter pickles were a depression thing... and made it into a cook book that quickly.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 11:29PM
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Cucumber Sandwiches are very British. You will find them on the menu in restaurants or Tea Rooms serving Afternoon Tea.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 11:42PM
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I don't know the origins of the pickle name but cucumber sandwiches are alive and well in American tearooms. The topmost one is cucumber with watercress butter.

I've never made them with bread and butter pickles but have made cucumber sandwiches at home too.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 9:44AM
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Interesting discussion. And a question that DH asked me just last week,too. (cue the Twilight Zone music!)

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 2:39PM
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Posted by publickman (My Page) on Wed, Dec 21, 11 at 20:56
I think they are mentioned in The Importance of Being Ernest,

Yes they are! And that movie is what I always think of when I hear of cucumber sandwiches. He was hungry and ate them all up even though they were meant for his Aunt who was coming to visit. Then he made up some story (I can't remember) about why there weren't any cucumber sandwiches for her, but she saw right through his lies. I don't remember the exact dialog but I do remember it being pretty entertaining.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2011 at 3:41PM
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In an old Raggedy Ann book I have, RA and Andy encounter some pirate girls who have stolen Babette the French doll. The pirate girls at one point lay siege to RA and A, and taunt them by setting up a picnic outside and remarking loudly on the treats they are enjoying. "We have bread and butter and dill pickles!" they skite. As a child I thought it odd, but perhaps it was a treat back when the book was written.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 2:03AM
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I think they are right about naming Bread and Butter Pickles prior to WWII. I think probably during the depression which was directly prior to the war. Lots of gardens grown then also.

Without knowing any of this when I was young I like to make a sandwich of mayo, chedder cheese, and Bread and Butter Pickles.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 8:09PM
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I reread all of the posts this morning from this resurrected thread, and took out my old cookbooks and found recipes for Bread & Butter Pickles pre-depression, but not WWI era, so after a little searching on the internet found this bit of information:

In the early part of the [Ed: 20th] century Cora and Omar Fanning of Streator, IL found themselves short on cash. What they had going for them, however, was a reliable crop of cucumbers and Mrs. Fanning's great recipe for sweet & sour pickle chips. Mrs. Fanning worked out an agreement with a local grocer, who gave her groceries -- including bread 'n butter -- in exchange for the pickles. The name stuck, and has been used by many companies ... Although Mrs. Fanning's pickles began in the Midwest, they are not widely distributed there, but are more readily found in the Eastern, Southern and Western states." -- Feingold News. Feingold Association of the United States. Alexandria, Virginia. October 1996. Page 5.

You can read more at the link below.


Here is a link that might be useful: Cooks Info - bread and butter pickles

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 5:25AM
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I've eaten many cucumber sandwiches, also tomato sandwiches. Even lettuce sandwiches. Growing up, anything in the kitchen went on a sandwich for lunch, including leftover potatoes (sliced with mayo and mustard, salt and pepper, sort of tastes like potato salad) and even leftover pork and bean sandwiches.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 7:20AM
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DH grew up in Southern California, as did his parents, and grandparents. Bread and butter pickles were served before meals with bread and butter. When I lived in France, my cousins (deportation camp survivors originally from Germany) served bread and butter pickles, pickled beets, and other pickled vegetables with different kinds of French breads and butter as an appetizer before meals. Some restaurants did that, too, although I cannot recall ever hearing how they were named.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 9:30AM
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My favorite pickle. I eat them with sandwiches all the time, or just eat a couple of slices of pickle. I like the sharp contrast of a bread and butter pickle with whatever else I'm eating. It's like sauerkraut or cranberry sauce with Thanksgiving dinner.

I've read some books by Anne Perry recently, set during the Victorian reign, and "pickle" was always on the table. Most working people bought their meals from carts on the street - a piece of cheese, some bread, and "pickle"; or a meat sandwich or meat pie with "pickle". And then there is pickled eel??

A lot of foods were pickled, to preserve them. Pickles go back a long way.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 1:41PM
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The "pickle" in Victorian times was generally pickled onions, or a piccalilli type pickle.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 10:43PM
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bragu_DSM 5

Bread and butter was a staple at meals, kind of food extenders, to make the small amounts go further, add pickles to the mix, bread and butter and pickles. That's what my grandma always said, also because they were so easy to make, like bread, and butter. And yes, we had them with bread and butter when the pickles were freshly made, and the bottle opened warm, between two slices of bread and butter. nothing quite like them. Something, like bread and butter, to always have on hand.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 10:58PM
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I think that the pickles as we know them originate from India. I make piccalilli - so simple and so much better home-made.

Was brought up on cuke sarnies as a child in England. Always had to eat the savoury before the sweet at tea-time! What a lost culture. So few people enjoy tea any more - it's now really just tea-shops and very expensive high end hotels that do tea any more although I'm told that garden centres do a good tea these days!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 4:35AM
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