Saturday, September 3, 2011

In a cucumber quandary

Too much of something is never a bad thing, right? Wrong. For gardeners an overabundance sometimes brings the worry of seeing the fruits (and veggies) of your labor spoil before they can be eaten. Ok, I’m not really the gardener. I simply watch the garden grow after its planted by my husband and children – kind like that Mary, Mary Quite Contrary gal in the nursery rhyme. She just kind of watched it, right? Or maybe I need to brush up on my children's stories. Anyway, I'm no Mr. McGregor (remember him...the gardener who Peter Rabbit frequented to swipe the ripe stuff.) When our garden is bursting, my family members pick it and I feed it to them in various forms.

Tomatoes come out of the garden and you can use them in salads, soups, on sandwiches or other dishes. You can freeze them for later use. Peppers can be cooked in many dishes or eaten raw in salads or for snacks. Same for the carrots, potatoes, zucchini, snow peas. But one veggie is not quite so versatile and I find myself saddened that I can’t possibly use all that bounty – cucumbers. You don’t cook them. They don’t freeze well. That limits you quite a bit.



So far, I’ve used them regular tossed salads, a tomato/cucumber salad with Italian dressing, I’ve pickled them by tossing them with oil, vinegar and sugar and letting them marinate in the fridge. I’ve eaten them plain or with dip. I’ve made plates of a favorite little appetizer where you place one on a Ritz cracker or small piece of bread topped with cream cheese, then add a cucumber slice and sprinkle it with dill. I’ve used it as a sandwich and hot dog topping. I’ve made bowls of salsa with the cucumbers and garden fresh tomatoes. I haven’t done the sour cream/cucumber sauce that I have enjoyed on gyros, but the last time I got a gyro at an area eatery, I added some of my own fresh cucumbers to the sauce. I’m kind of out of ideas. Got a good recipe using cucumbers? Let us know.

Oh, P.S. I've been getting the cucumbers from my father-in-laws garden since ours it really too small to grow them. I don't know what he's got in his soil, but they are SuperCucumbers! Look at the size of the cuke and zucchini in the picture below.



2 comments:

  1. I have a couple of decent pickle recipes. Both can be used a refrigerator pickles or hot water bath canning pickles.

    Here's a Garlic Dill recipe:

    Makes approximately 8 pints (total yield varies depending on size of cucumbers)

    2 overflowing quarts of pickling cucumbers, sliced into coins, spears or if small enough left whole
    4 cups apple cider vinegar 

    4 cups water

    5 tablespoons pickling salt
 or coarse Kosher salt
    16 garlic cloves, peeled (2 per jar)

    ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper per jar (2 teaspoons total)
    
1 teaspoon dill seed per jar (8 teaspoons total)

    ½ teaspoon black peppercorns per jar (4 teaspoons total)

    Wash and slice the cucumbers.

    Boil cans and lids to sterlize them.

    In a large saucepot, combine vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a simmer.

    Arrange jars on counter and dole out the spices to each. Pack the cucumber slices firmly into the jars. You don’t want to damage the cukes, but you do want them packed tight.

    Pour the brine into the jar, leaving ½ inch headspace.

    Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and place in fridge once cooled. Let them sit for at least 10 days before opening.


    BOILING WATER METHOD:

    After adding brine, wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

    When 10 minutes are up, promptly remove the jars from the pot and allow them to cool on the countertop. When the jars are cool, check the seals (by pushing/tapping on the lid).

    Pickles can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

    *** Personally, I don't like the taste of apple cider vinegar pickles so I swap it out with plain white vinegar. Also, you may need some trial and error before you find the right combo of spices to please you. We don't like spicy so I leave out the red pepper flakes. But we do like salty so I increase the salt.

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  2. Here is my other pickle recipe:

    This one is for refrigerator pickles, but can easily be turned into canned pickles by boiling in water for 10 minutes.

    Refrigerator Dills - makes approx. 4 1/2 pints

    Ingredients

    12 3 to 4 inch long pickling cucumbers (slices or spears are ok too if you have bigger cucumbers)
    2 cups water
    1 3/4 cups white vinegar
    1 1/2 cups chopped fresh or freeze dried dill weed
    1/2 cup white sugar
    8 cloves garlic, chopped (or just use a garlic press)
    1 1/2 tablespoons coarse Kosher salt or pickling salt
    1 1/2 teaspoons dill seed
    1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
    4 sprigs fresh dill weed (ok to eliminate if fresh dill is unavailable)

    Directions:

    Boil cans and lids to sterilize them.

    In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, water, vinegar, chopped dill, sugar, garlic, salt, dill seed, and red pepper flakes. Stir, and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, until the sugar and salt dissolve.

    Remove the cucumbers to three 1 1/2 pint wide mouth jars. Ladle in the liquid from the bowl to cover. Place a sprig of fresh dill into each jar, and seal with lids.

    Refrigerate for 10 days before eating. Use within 1 month.

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