Friday, June 29, 2007
From the foothills of the Himalayas of the sub-continent comes to us that salad-bar component; what we think of as a pickle; an alternative cure for puffy eyes. The humble cucumber has managed to squeeze its way into everyone’s crisper.
There are quite a few varieties found in the marketplace from slender, elongated deep green ones to slightly swollen variegated ones to pale yellow globular shaped ones. The oft-found Kirby variety commonly is coated with food-grade paraffin sheathing in order to extend its shelf life. These should be peeled otherwise the skin and everything else is edible. If the cucumber “bothers you” try the seedless English Hothouse cucumber – you now them by the plastic jacketing that they get sealed in. There is a Persian version that looks like the youngest child of an English Hothouse and they are crunchy, sweet with very small seeds. When I set to pickle my cucumbers I meticulously search out minuscule Kirby’s that are no longer than 3 inches in length, and ideally harvested in the early morning – they tend to be firmer, what more can I say.
Through the entire summer a steady supply of cucumbers will be available to be heaped onto your cutting boards and snuggly, fitted into our pickling jars.
Cucumber and Mint Salad - yields 6 to 8 servings
2 large cucumbers - peeled and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons salt
1 large white onion - sliced thin
1/2 cup mint leaves - fresh, chopped
1/2 inch piece ginger – peeled and sliced thin julienne
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 cup white wine vinegar
Scoop out the seed pulp of the cucumber, and slice into 1/4" half moon pieces. Toss the cucumber with the salt and place in a colander. Let sit for 30 minutes, and then wash under cold running water. Pat the cucumber dry. In a large bowl toss the cucumbers, onions, mint, ginger and pepper together to thoroughly combine. Place the cucumber mixture into a 2 quart glass, porcelain or earthenware jar with a non-metallic lid. Shake well to distribute the flavors well then refrigerate for minimum of 24 hours. This salad will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
4 pounds Kirby cucumbers (approximately 3 inches long)
1 quart distilled white vinegar
2 cups bottled water
3/4 cup kosher salt
5 large cloves garlic – sliced thin
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/4 cup packed loveage leaves (or the heart of celery)
Wash the cucumbers very well removing any blossom that may be attached. Sprinkle half of the garlic, pepper, mustard seeds and loveage leaves on the bottom of the jar, using the remaining half in the center of the jar. Pack the cucumbers snuggly standing-on-end in a clean 1 gallon glass jar with a rubber ring seal.
In a 2 1/2 quart sauce pan bring the vinegar, water and salt to the boil, and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and while still hot carefully ladle the vinegar solution over the cucumbers making sure to come at least a 1/2 inch about the cucumbers with the vinegar solution. If not add some additional to fully cover the cucumbers. Cover securely and place in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks. before starting to eat.