Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Mighty Pickle

This year I found myself inundated with ripe cucumbers. Too energetic a gardening plan and a suddenly overburdened schedule meant that the garden was more neglected that tended this  year.  So according to my philosophy of life....make lemonade. Or in this case ripe cucumber pickles.

Now there isn't much difference between the green cucs you tend to find in stores and the ripe ones except their peel colour and potentially a bit of softening. There are three types of cucumber: picking, slicing and burpless (English). My ripe crop is of the slicing cuc variety ripened to a colour that just screams summer.

Thanks to my pickling guru, Leonard Levinson (I have spoken before about his fantastic book,  The Complete Book of Pickles and Relishes) I found a lovely recipe called "Sun Glow Spears" to take up what would otherwise be a lost crop.

While this is a recipe that takes place over two days, it definitely ISN'T two days work so don't let that keep you from trying this!

12 large ripe cucumbers                                    2c sugar
6 large onions                                                    2 tbsp white mustard seed
1 cup salt (I use pickling)                                  2 tsps celery seed
4 quarts water                                                     2 tsps turmeric
3 cups vingear
1 cup water

Day 1: Pare (and I peeled) cucumbers, slice in quarters lengthwise, cut off seeds. Soak cucumbers and sliced onions overnight in brine made of the 4 quarts water and 1 cup salt. I weigh mine down with the lid of one of my crocks for a while until the liquid comes easily up over everything. (HINT: Make sure you put the bowl of soaking pickle somewhere where a little spillage isn't going to ruin your day. Mine sat out on our back deck overnight as the nights are cool enough here and there was a small stream evident in the morning.) The salt's job is to bring out a lot of the liquid of the cucumber and onion so an already full bowl overflows quite quickly and this salting is what makes a pickle a pickle.

Day 2: Drain the cucumbers and onions well. Combine remaining ingredients in large pot and cook for 5 minutes. Add cucumbers and onions; heat to boiling. Place into hot, sterilized quart jars and fill with liquid. Seal.

Makes 6 quarts.

These are incredibly tasty and of such a bright yellow that they pay homage to the hot dry summers that cucumbers love so well.  In the middle of a dreary winter night they are bright and pungent.

 Serve cold with ANYTHING!

I am especially proud of these little babies as they also include the first crop of celery seed from my garden. I can't believe I have never grown celery before...there are SO many uses for the plant and seed....But more about that in a later blog.