Bread and Butter Pickles and…Charlie Turns Five

I was so excited to turn five.  Not just because it was my birthday but because it was the day I started school.  In New Zealand you didn’t start school on the first day of the new school year like everyone else in the world, you started on your 5th birthday.  I don’t know how the kindy teachers coped with new five-year olds being dropped off on different days throughout the year but that’s how the system was when I was growing up and it’s still the same today.

Bread and Butter Pickles

My last day at pre-school was very exciting.  I was the only one turning five so there was a farewell party just for me.  Sadly, I didn’t have many friends at the pre-school because they’d all turned five a few months before me and had moved on.  My farewell party went ahead regardless and the teachers did the catering.  They went all out and bought a box of potato chips.  And that was all.

At my very exciting farewell party the teachers made us sit cross-legged on the floor in a circle and the teacher that held the box of catering in her hands came around and dropped a single potato chip in our laps and we were thrilled.  I think I must have indulged in about five whole potato chips at my party.  I don’t remember there being any drinks.  And I don’t remember anyone suffering from childhood obesity with such limited opportunities to over-indulge.

Party over, everyone waved me goodbye and home I went to get ready for my big day – birthday and school in one.

It’s a tradition on your 5th birthday that you be given presents to set you up for your first day of school.  I unwrapped a Globite school case, a lunch box with all sorts of exciting compartments like somewhere to put your hard boiled egg, a drink bottle for my cordial (it wasn’t a crime back then to let children take cordial to school), a pencil case, a few wax crayons because textas were not yet heard of, and probably a cardigan with my name sewn into it.

A globite school case from 1971 currently on display at the Powerhouse Museum

I was so looking forward to starting school especially as my big sister was already there.  I ended up in a class with a very pretty, lovely teacher and I was so relieved I didn’t get the cross old teacher with the wooden leg.

My teacher liked to eat oranges.  She would come back from the staffroom after lunch and ask me to line up the Cuisenaire Rods from smallest to largest but without looking.  She would cover my eyes with her hands and her hands always smelt like she’d just peeled an orange.

For writing lessons we had to stand around the perimeter of the room and write on black boards with chalk.  We were only allowed to sit down at a desk when we’d mastered writing the letters.  It was a great day when I progressed to a chair with a desk, an exercise book and a pencil.

Appetisers are Served

There was a ‘Murder-House’ on the school grounds.  A horrible, grumpy, child-hating, non-smiling woman worked there.  She was the school’s dental nurse.  Her building was separated from the rest of the school and stood at the end of the oval looking ominous.  All the classroom windows seemed to look out on it.  Twice a year we were summonsed to report to her ‘Murder-House’ and have her inspect our teeth.  She wasn’t a dentist but she drilled your teeth if you had holes in them and did fillings and there was no anaesthetic or any form of pain relief offered.

When it rained (which was often), we had  ‘gumboots and slippers’ days where you walked to school in your gumboots then left them outside the classroom stuck together with a peg, then slopped around all day in our slippers.

You were never dropped off to school by car.  You walked no matter how far away you lived or how dreadful the conditions.  And you walked home again too.  So we were all very lean and obesity in children was unheard of.  The fact that there was no canteen also helped to ensure we didn’t gain weight.  You had to bring your lunch to school and we had all sorts of things that are banned today like peanut butter sandwiches and packets of nuts and cordial.  Allergies were unheard of.  There was one boy with a condition called ‘asthma’ and we didn’t know what that was,we just knew if he ran across the oval he’d stop breathing.

And I was very happy at my new school even though through my classroom’s windows I had a fearful view of the murder house.

How was your first day at school?

Back in my school days my mother was ‘quite the cook’ and always in the kitchen.  She made these pickles and they were a family favourite.  Great on a cracker with a slice of cheese or in a sandwich with your favourite meat, or like the name suggests, perfect with bread and butter.  Do give them a try!

Bread and Butter Pickles

Crackers with Cheese and Pickles

Makes:  About 10 cups

Degree of Difficulty:  3/5

Cost:  Gherkins are in season at the moment.  I bought my gherkins from Harris Farm and they cost $3.99/kg.  This is a very affordable way to make some wonderful pickles for your own use and as gifts for family, friends and neighbours.

  • 2kg (3-4 pounds) gherkins thinly sliced (I used a mandolin)
  • 6 small white onions thinly sliced (I used a mandolin)
  • 1/2 cup cooking salt
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 1 tbspn mustard seeds
  • 2 tspns celery seeds
  • 2 tspns ground tumeric

Place gherkins, onions and salt in a large bowl.  Cover with water and sit for 24 hours.  Drain well.

Place sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and tumeric in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.  Add gherkins and onions.  Return to the boil then remove from heat.  Pour into sterilised jars.

Want to keep in touch?  Let’s be friends on facie!





  1. I’ve always wonders what bread and butter pickles are. Now I know and I must give them a try. Where to find gherkins!? I started school very young – 3 1/2. So I don’t remember much, except all sitting cross legged in a circle and shaking a lidded jar full of cream. We’d shake it and pass it on, round and round, until we’d made butter! Then we had some bread with this delicious spread, the taste of which I’ve never forgotten. GG

  2. I had a similar school case when I was 5! I wish I still had it, it would be a great little storage box…
    I have a mild addiction to bread and butter pickles. I love them with some really strong cheddar. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Isn’t that an odd way to start school. I was supposed to start kindergarten at 5 and when we got there the teacher announced that the class was too big and some students would have to go into first grade. So I did first grade twice. They said I was really small for my age and I would do better with kids my own age. B o r i n g.

    About these pickles. I LOVE bread and butter pickles. I remember my parents making them every year. I have never tried to make them even once. These look brilliant!

    I must make them now.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      That is a great story Maureen. Fancy having that kind of a start to school! Do try to make these pickles. They really are delicious and very simple to make. Good luck!

  4. I can’t recall my first day of school, but first and second grade were in a school built in 1870.

  5. We didn’t have kindergarten as part of school when I was small. I went to a private kindergarten, Beverly Hills Kindergarten. We lived in Tennessee, nowhere near Beverly Hills, so I don’t know how it got the name. It was run by a mother and daughter. I started when I was four. My kindergarten memories: I wouldn’t take bananas for my snack because a boy there told me only monkeys ate bananas. Also coming in with wet hair one day (wouldn’t wear my raincoat hood as someone had called me Red Riding Hood; are you getting the impression I was too sensitive?) and the teacher fussing at me and drying my hair with a towel in front of the class. I was mortified. At least no one drilled my teeth!

  6. “Crackers with Cheese and Pickles” seem so beautiful and should be so delicious too… You ask me about my first day in school….. It’s been so many years ago 🙂 I really don’t remember… But my first years in the school was so problem, I had so many sick days and mostly I was in the hospital… I remember much more my hospital days… Thank you, it was so nice to read you and your memories. Have a nice day, with my love,

  7. Fantastic read! Love the pickle too! Your latest follower!

  8. Aw! Five is such a fun time for a kid. Congrats, Charlie!

  9. That is so very interesting…starting school at the very age of turning 5!! Never have I heard of that! It must be a constant bringing in of new kids to the classroom!! My father would make pickles similar to this which I remember so fondly!

  10. Gian John Banchero says:

    For years I thought bread and butter pickles were a “brought-over” from Italy being my Italian mother and grandmother made them as did their immigrant friends. I found out much later that it’s an English recipe and it took a proper English woman to show me how to truly enjoy them. As in their name you get two slices of (heavily) buttered bread and, of course, put a load of the pickles between them. The good lady was emphatic that the bread not be gourmet but the “bad soft foam stuff”. Mom used to place the pickles into hamburgers, delicious for sure!! Thanks for the recipe.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Thanks Gian for giving me the history. I always wondered why they were called ‘bread and butter’ pickles. I should these the authentic way but I think I’m going to prefer them in a hamburger!

  11. The 5th birthday rule sounds incredible, like from a fairytale 🙂
    It’s incredible but I also have never heard of allergies when I was a child. I knew only one boy who couldn’t take aspirin. You know, I don’t even remember my first day at school…
    The bread and butter pickles look delicious and very similar to my Moomin Salad (I mean Moomin’s salad of course 😉 ).

  12. Oh, I do so enjoy your stories. “Gumboots and slippers”–how good is that. And the fact that you walked to school no matter what. Excellent. I don’t even remember my first day of school, but I do so fondly remember my Mom’s Bread and Butter Pickles, for which she was famous (and her Guava Jam, and, and, and…)

    Thanks for posting these memories.

  13. I don’t remember my first day of school but it was surely nothing like yours, you’re such an amazing storywritter… I have no idea why you don’t have a book yet, but I’m sure that you will some day.

    You certainly have the talent

  14. I have heard of butter pickles before, but never have I seen them or even had the pleasure of tasting them before. Over the years, I haven’t been a huge pickle fan.. but I would definitely try these. I just love the cheese added with these 🙂

  15. What if your birthday was the last week of school? Did you go straight to the next grade if you hadn’t sat at a desk yet?
    I still have my school bag like that! I remember one boy who would bring jelly-crystals sprinkled on white bread for his lunch, although we knew that that somehow crossed a line, none of or friends parents were divorced, I also only knew one kid with asthma, and our teacher would bring us each a cupcake on our birthday. We had gumboot and slipper days too, and would swap bites of sandwiches every lunch, and if we fell over in the playground the teacher would give us a big hug….. Not much like todays sterile politically correct world at all… (sigh)

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I know. Bring back the good old days. I think even if your birthday is in December, you still go to school if even for just a few days. It seems a bizarre system. You don’t actually start in Kindy. You start in ‘Primmers’. There are four levels of Primmers, Primmer 1, Primmer 2, etc. And you get moved along the Primmers at an individual pace and you’re only in the Primmers for two years, then you go into the Standards. The standards are like an Australian school year where you stay in that same class from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.

  16. Interesting background to bread and butter pickles. A NZ friend makes awesome ones each year. My children went to school on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula just like yours.

  17. Childhood memories are so precious aren’t they! Thanks for sharing your stories…you tell them so well.

  18. It’s amazing what can be remembered from what seems like eons ago when I often can’t remember what I did five minutes ago. I can vividly recall on my first day at school wondering why all the other children (well, maybe not all of them) were crying.

    About the Bread and Butter Pickles, as gherkins are often hard to find, although I did see some in Aldi’s, Lebanese cucumbers or telegraph cucumbers can be used as well.

  19. I meant to add to the previous comment that in most messages walking to school was usually the only mode of transport; however in the media in Sydney recenting there have been stories of parents being ‘lectured’ by the police for allowing their children to catch a bus unattended or walk to the shops alone. In the latter case the boy was 7 and i was 400 metres to the shops. It seems a pity that times have changed so much.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I heard the police fined a woman for letting her son catch a bus home from school unsupervised. I know it can be a big bad world out there but children need some independence and freedom.

  20. What a memorable milestone…congrats Charlie! I love that story about starting school on your 5th birthday…those poor teachers having to deal with that 🙂

  21. Oh. My. Gosh!!! Never knew that about New Zealand! My youngest turns five next week and we’ve been having this on-going discusion that just because we told her, “You’ll go to school after you turn five” it doesn’t mean THAT DAY! Wow. I told her about New Zealand and she said, “No, they have to wait until next fall!” Oy, how confusing! I love that I know this fact now. Perfect!!!

  22. Magnolia Verandah says:

    What a thing to happen on your 5th birthday. I went to nursery school first and I remember it vividly – you were assigned a picture where to hang your coat and bag. I had a nice teacher but hated school dinners, even the smell made me heave.
    These pickles look good.
    PS Thanks for the advice on my blog – although I think I have fiddled with the wrong bits now!

  23. My mom used to make bread and butter pickles and I often buy them at the store because I still enjoy eating them. Yours look delicious. I’ll have to try your recipe and make my own. Enjoyed your 5 year old school memory and love the little suitcase you used to take to school!

  24. That was really interesting and so different from the way things were/are done here. Who’s to say which way is better? I can see advantages to bringing children into the “system” one or two at a time, versus by the classroom-full. And you certainly turned out all right! 🙂

  25. Oh how I wish it was still like that today. If only every kid had a lunch packed by mum with fresh yummy food.

    I only have tiny little bits of memory of my first day but I didn’t have tuckshop until much later in school. Most of the time it was when mum and dad were away. I used to love writing my order on the paper bag and putting in the money. I always had a sausage roll and chocolate milk. Yum!

  26. I wanted to be the big girl and walk home with the older girl who lived up the road. On our way home I decided that I knew the way (There were big bushfires in the hills that were very visible and I must have to decided to go the other way as the right way looked like I was going closer to the bush fires.) and I took a different direction to her. When I realised that I was lost I started cyring and a lady came to my aid. I remember it took very long time for her to convince me that she could take me home, because I was not allowed to talk to strangers. It was such a long time ago, but I can still picture speaking to the “stranger” and how upset I felt about being lost.

    Have a good week


  27. That’s so interesting going to school on your 5th birthday 🙂 I’ve never heard of anything like and that fact that they still do it wow! I wonder how the teachers dealt with it if there were 5 new students in a week hehe

    I remember my first day at school being VERY boring hahaha because I’ve grown up going to child care centres and loved going to Kindergarden…when I finally got to go to school i was so excited about learning new things and making new friends…but nope…all the other kids were crying…we were only there for 3 hours….but gosh….I remember standing there looking at everyone else and just saying I want to go home because it was boring hahaha

    These bread and butter pickles look great as an appetiser or party food for when friends come over ~

  28. I started first grade at 5 years old. The cutoff date was the end of October and my birthday was the first, so my parents let me decide if I was ready to go to school! It’s not our custom to give presents, though. That would have made it even better! Love the bread and butter pickle with cheese app, and why didn’t I ever think to try them with butter…duh!

  29. How vivid your memories are of your first day of school. I can’t remember mine, except attending kindergarten for several weeks in the spring of the year because that’s all kindergarten was back then in the early 60s in Minnesota.

    What is a “cordial?”

    The details you remember are quite impressive. Great storytelling.

  30. Aw, what a shock to the poor five year olds! Having to start school on their fifth birthday?! Well… maybe it’s not so bad… I think I’d probably be quite nervous and scared!

  31. We had the Globite school cases when a lot of kids had another bag. My sister got picked on all the time, as she was a gentle quiet girl. The bullies ( because they were also in abundance) jumped on her bag many times without breaking it. She secretly hope that they would sqash it so she could get a normal bag, but they never did

  32. What a lovely story! I loved hearing about your childhood.

    And I looooove pickles, a little too much!

  33. I was so excited to start kindergarten I wore my new school outfit to bed. My mom was quite upset when I woke all wrinkled that day. We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with an oatmeal cream pie every single day of school til we could fight back.

Speak Your Mind