How to Make Sweet Pickles

Old-Fashioned Bread and Butter Pickle Recipe

June 14, 2017
Painting of a Pickle Jar

Sweet pickles are the perfect summer snack, and this old-fashioned homemade recipe will have you wanting more!

Eastern Michigan University

Learn how to make sweet pickles the “old-fashioned” way. We guarantee you that making bread and butter pickles the slow way is the best way. This sweet pickle recipe is sure to please!

Sweet Pickles: Homemade Bread and Butter Pickles Recipe


  • 2 dozen 3-inch cucumbers
  • ½ cup pickling salt
  • 3-¼ cups apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 2-⅛ quarts water, divided
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spices


  • Put 2 dozen 3-inch cucumbers, freshly picked, in a crock or a jar. A crock can be anything from an unchipped enamel crock to a big glass jar that supermarkets buy their pickles in. Check out our cucumber plant page to find out how to grow your own cucumbers.

  • Cover with a brine of ½ cup pickling salt, ¼ cup vinegar, and 2 quarts water.

  • Weight down the cucumbers (a plate with a canning jar full of water on top of it will do nicely), and cover the crock.

  • The fermentation of the cucumbers will cause a white, scummy substance to form on top of the brine. Every day for 2 weeks, check on your cucumbers and just skim the scum off if it is present.

  • After 2 weeks, drain, cut into chunks, and let them stand for 24 hours in cold water, and then rinse.

  • Combine 3 cups vinegar with 6 cups of sugar and ½ cup (⅛ quart) water. Tie 2 tablespoons each whole cloves and mixed pickling spices in cheesecloth, add to vinegar solution, and bring to a boil. Pour over cucumbers and let stand for 24 hours. Drain, reheat vinegar solution, and repeat process 4 times (this is only a 5-minute task each day).

  • Remove spices and pack pickles in sterile jars. Bring vinegar solution to a boil and pour over pickles. Seal and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. 

Now you have tasty sweet pickles to enjoy all summer long! For a simpler sweet pickle recipe, see our Bread and Butter Pickles Recipe, and for more delicious pickled snacks, check out our pickling tips and recipes

Not in the mood for sweet pickles? Check out our page on how to make dill pickles. And if these recipes are a bit too complicated, try your hand at our easiest pickle recipe.


The Forgotten Arts, Book Five, 1982

Reader Comments

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Skimming off scum

Hi, my brine solution is now working after a couple of days, what's the best way to skim off the white scum? I have it in a big (3Gal) stainless pot...

Skimming Scum

The Editors's picture

A large spoon or batter spatula will work well for skimming the scum off the brine.

Thanks, working well so far!

Thanks for your comment about skimming scum. I actually used a new clean plastic scourer. Worked a treat!
I'm now up to the sugar/vinegar baths... That solution is thick! Is that correct?

2 weeks>?

really? this seems like a heck of a lot of work.. leave for 2 weeks yikes.
there must be an easier way

Sweet whole pickles?

Is there a variant of this recipe for whole pickles?
I adore sweet pickles, so I'm looking for a reasonably easy recipe where I can just prep the brine, pick and wash the cukes, and throw them in.

Sweet bread and butter pickles

I ran out of the syrup solution when putting pickles into the jars. Can I make a new batch of syrup, bring it to a boil , keep over night and then boil and use next day to finish the rest of the pickles ?

ran out of liquid when making pickles

The Editors's picture

The sooner the better, Linda. And make sure to process them for the appropriate amount of time.

Can I reduce the amount of sugar?

I'm not crazy about the idea of using six cups of sugar. Can this amount be reduced and still produce a great tasting pickle? Also, instead of slices or chunks, can I use this to successfully make spears? Thanks so much. Dawn Greenfield Ireland - Author

too much sugar

The Editors's picture

Hi, Dawn, Some of us take the same view of sugar. One of our editors experimented with reducing the sugar amount (in a different pickle recipe) by about a third and had fine results. And, sure, why not spears? A slice is nice no matter how you cut it!

Sweet Pickle recipe

Can I use Splenda/articifial sweetener instead of real sugar?

do not use artificial sweetener for canning

The Editors's picture

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, Splenda does not provide preservative properties like sugar.

Sugar-Free sweet pickles

Do you have a recipe for sugar-free bread and butter pickles like those we can buy in stores?

sweeting process

During the four day process of sweeting do I keep the pickles at room temp. or do I put them in the refrigerator over night. Also after fermentation the 24 hour cool soak do I put them in the refrigerator for that period of time or room temp. Thanks

No, they do not need to be in

The Editors's picture

No, they do not need to be in the refrigerator for either of those two processes.

Solution is cloudy is this an issue?

My cukes have been submerged below the plate but the solution is getting cloudy, I'm been trying to remove the scum that forms, that is not easy. Is this an issue? Are my cukes still good as I am really looking forward to some sweet pickles, store bought are disgusting. Thank you.

Cloudy Brine

The Editors's picture

The brine can become cloudy because of lactic acid bacterial growth that is part of the fermentation process. You can replace it with fresh brine. Sometimes, too, hard water can cause cloudiness; boil water first, leave it overnight, then pour off the top portion and use the rest for pickling. Note: Cloudiness in nonfermented pickles can be an indicator of spoilage and should not be eaten.

Crock sweet pickles


I am making the crock sweet pickles using your recipe that allows these to be placed in a glass jar instead of a crock for the 2 weeks time. I used 1/2 gallon Ball jars, placing a pint jar filled with water with it's lid inside the 1/2 gallon jar. I didn't seal the 1/2 gallon jar. The pint jars are sticking out of the top, but the cucumbers has been below the water line the whole time. I started these on a Tuesday and it has been a week and I'm not seeing any "scum". My question is, should I have sealed the 1/2 gallon jar with a lid as well? If so, once the fermentation starts, doesn't it release gases that must be allowed to escape, like fermenting cabbage? I'm new at this and am not sure I have done this correctly. A crock would not have a good seal and would allow for some gases to escape. If I have done this wrong, and these are recoverable, any help would be appreciated. Thank You.

We’re a little confused,

The Editors's picture

We’re a little confused, Donna. Did you put sealed jars inside another jar? The cucumbers should be inside one jar/crock and have a weighted lid.

sweet pickles

Hello. Thanks for replying back. I have cucumbers in 1/2 gallon jars, filled with the brine. I filled a pint jar with water (with it's lid) and used it as my weight to hold the pickles down under the brine. The pint jar fits perfectly inside the opening of the 1/2 gallon jar. The lids from the pint jars aren't touching the brine. The 1/2 gallon jars don't have their lid on them and the top of the pint jar with it's lid is even with the top rim of the 1/2 gallon jar. The 1/2 gallon jars are open to the air. I still don't see any scum as of today.

Wait a little longer for scum

The Editors's picture

Wait a little longer for scum to form, but if it doesn’t within the next few days you should discard the cucumbers. You may want to cover the ½ gallon jars with dish towels or cheesecloth just to keep dust and other debris from getting in.

sweet pickles

I guess I don't understand the latest reply. What is the reasoning to discard? Having a cheese cloth or dish towel covering doesn't explain the issue about no scum forming. What does the scum signal? Not sure you understand my question.

No scum means your cucumbers

The Editors's picture

No scum means your cucumbers are not fermenting properly. If this is the case, they will not be safe to eat so you must discard them. Covering the jars is just a precaution so that if your cucumbers do in fact pickle, you will not be ingesting anything you wouldn’t want like pollen, dust, dirt, etc.

Ok. This process is harder

Ok. This process is harder than it looks... I think I will buy a crock where I know to place the plate and jar inside and then cover the crock. The instructions aren't very clear about placing a lid on the glass jars, after weighting down the pickles, or what should be done if you use a glass jar for fermentation. "•Weight down the cucumbers (a plate with a canning jar full of water on top of it will do nicely), and cover the crock." I know from seeing others ferment cabbage, the lids needs a release of some sort as they ferment.

Thank you.

What happens if I leave out

What happens if I leave out my sugar and vinegar brine over night. Does the vinegar drop below the 5% acidity level?

The vinegar will be fine. It

The Editors's picture

The vinegar will be fine. It will not drop below 5%.

I cannot find the recipe for

I cannot find the recipe for the spicy garlic pickle chips
thank you

Spicy Garlic Chips

The same recipe for sweet chips/pickles but you substitute 7 cloves garlic sliced and 2 Anaheim peppers, modify for taste, with less sugar for taste as well

I just tried this recipe for

I just tried this recipe for the first time. When I got to the end I decided to slice half of the pickles and leave the other half whole. After pouring the hot sugar soak on the whole pickles are shriveled like raisins and inedible but the slices are perfect. What went wrong?

Whole and large pickles are

The Editors's picture

Whole and large pickles are more likely to shrivel than sliced pickles. It may be due to a change in the rate at which the brine is absorbed.

Luv, luv the sweet

Luv, luv the sweet keeps me going thru the cold winters. So easy and thanks for sharing the recipe.