How Bread And Butter Pickles Got Their Name

By the 1980s, everybody and their mother knew that it took 25 pints of bread and butter pickles to make it through a school year's worth of school lunches (via The Hudson Review). And if you know anything about sandwich making, you know that bread and butter pickles aren't just any topping. They're sweet, salty, crunchy, and — in a pairing that is as close to perfect as a human can aspire to — are offset by the spicy sweet onions and mustard seeds.

Where do these inexplicably delicious pickles come from? American newspapers start mentioning them, out of nowhere, around the Great Depression. In 1931, bread and butter pickles were holiday classics. Sanitary and Piggly Wiggly Food Stores offered them up for $0.18 a jar, as a "choice food for the Christmas feast" (via Evening Star). By 1932, they had become a necessary pantry item for "proper housewives." Newspaper ads claimed that "once a housewife serves either Hellman's or Best Foods... bread and butter pickles she is won for life" (via Evening Star). By 1939, eager contestants were making them (and bringing home ribbons with them) in town fair cooking competitions (via Greenbelt Cooperator). And, finally, by 1943, bread and butter pickles had become "All American." In the midst of World War II, Iowa's Homemaking Department was promoting baked beans with bread and butter pickles with mayonnaise as a wartime staple (via Iowa State University). 

Who can we thank for the sandwich topping that we can't live without? 

The Illinois farmers who used bread and butter pickles to survive

Bread and butter pickles can most likely trace their roots back to Omar and Cora Fanning, who filed a patent for the name in 1923 (via Saveur). Omar, born in 1876, was son to Omar, a wagon maker and small-town politician, and Mary, a school teacher (via Genealogy Trails and My Heritage). Cora (born Cora A. Eades) was eight years younger than her husband (via Wiki Tree). Born in 1884 to Frederick, a hardware store owner, and Erma, Cora tragically lost her father to "heart troubles" before she turned 18. She changed her name to Fanning when she got married in 1907, at the age of 23 (via My Heritage and Wiki Tree). 

After they married, Omar and Cora took up cucumber farming. But by the 1920s, the young couple was struggling to make ends meet. They started pickling small cucumbers they would have otherwise thrown away, using an old family recipe (via Greening of Appalachia). When they couldn't generate enough income to pay for basic goods with money, they exchanged the pickles with their local grocer for... can you guess? Bread and butter (via Cooks Info). Needless to say, they were successful.

We're not sure what their original recipe called for, but we've dug up a 1945 recipe, in case you want to make them at home. All you'll need are cucumbers, onions, salt, vinegar, sugar, mustard, celery seed, ginger, and turmeric. Happy cooking!