With a touch of agave, these homemade sweet pickles (aka bread and butter pickles) will complete every home pantry for the year to come.
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Bread & Butter Sweet Pickles
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with pickles. Soaked in vinegar and spices, it didn’t matter if they were dill or sweet, full cucumbers or tiny gherkins, I wanted all of them. It’s no surprise then that pickles would be the first thing I ever taught myself to preserve in a water bath canner. Afterall, most store bought varieties have garlic and onion, and with my intolerances I couldn’t think of any other way to get my necessary pickle fix. My experimentations with dozens of recipes started from there.
Commonly called bread and butter pickles, sweet pickles like these are my favorite variety. After more attempts than I remember, this agave-sweetened recipe has evolved into my summer staple. Unlike the thick, cloying sweetness I’ve found with white sugar, brown sugar, and honey, agave is more subtle, melding smoothly with the various spices. Whether new to canning or a pickle connoisseur, I encourage you to make a batch of these sweet pickles to tide you through the chilly winter months.
The Right Kind of Cucumber
To get the best pickles, you need to use the right kind of cucumber. There are two distinct varieties – slicing cucumbers and pickling cucumbers. Large, thin skinned, and very fleshy, slicing cucumbers are best eaten fresh. By contrast, pickling cucumbers are typically smaller, with thicker skin and firmer flesh. Farmer’s markets are a great place to find vegetables specifically labeled ‘pickling cucumbers’, but grocery stores rarely make a distinction. While I’ve often found suitable pickles in regular supermarkets, it takes some detective work to pick them out for yourself. If you aren’t sure, err towards cucumbers that are small, firm, and covered in lots of little bumps for your best pickles. If all the store has are giant, perfectly smooth slicing pickles, it might not be the best day to make a batch.
Almost FODMAP Friendly
Omitting the onion and garlic found in most store-bought bread and butter pickles, this recipe may be suitable for some people on a modified low-FODMAP diet. However, I’m hesitant to advertise this recipe as specifically Low FODMAP in the description. Pickles in general have not been evaluated officially yet by the right scientific parties. For me, it comes close – Onions, garlic, and other high-FODMAP ingredients have all been excluded, but like many sweeteners, agave is considered high FODMAP in amounts larger than 1 teaspoon.
It’s hard to say just how much agave is in a single serving without scientific testing. With only 2 cups of agave among a total of 6 pints, I doubt that a few pickle chips would break this threshold. That being said, if you are on a FODMAP friendly diet or are sensitive to agave in particular, I urge you to monitor your portion sizes and consume these pickles at your own risk and discretion.
Homemade Agave Sweet Pickles
- 4 pounds pickling cucumbers
- 5 cups apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups agave
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon allspice berries
- 1 tablespoon celery seeds
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Prepare the jars and lids as per proper water bath canning procedures. Arrange the clean jars on a folded kitchen towel near your workspace.
- Using a mandolin with a crinkle cut blade (or careful knife skills), thinly slice the cucumbers into chips about 1/8 inch thick. Discard the ends of each cucumber.
- To make the brine, combine the apple cider vinegar with the agave, salt, and whole spices in a large non-reactive pot capable of holding all the cucumber slices. Stir together and bring the brine to a hard boil over medium high heat.
- Stir the sliced cucumbers into the brine. Don’t worry if you brine doesn’t completely cover the fresh cucumbers – they will reduce slightly as they cook. Stir frequently to ensure all the slices have a chance to submerge. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the cucumber slices are just softened.
- Turn down the heat and remove the cucumber slices from the brine with a slotted spoon. Distribute the slices evenly among the prepared pint jars.
- Bring the remaining brine to a hard boil over high heat, letting is reduce and thicken by one third.
- Carefully ladle the brine into the jars over the pickle slices, leaving ½ inch headspace. Clean the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process the pickles in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove the jars to a clean kitchen towel and let them sit for at least 24 hours to allow the lids to seal properly. If any do not seal, store in the fridge and eat first. Store all sealed jars in a cool, dark place and let the pickles cure for at least 2 weeks before consuming to let the flavors mingle.
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