Cooked as a cuke

You'd think it was the zucchini that was the trouble. The zucchini that was multiplying like mice on a farm or mosquitoes during a hot, muggy Alberta summer. Well, there's been a lot of it sure, but so far this year the star producer of our garden has been the cucumbers. If you're finding yourself in similar straits, I have two recipes to help you out. I know the saying goes "cool as a cuke" but here you're going to cook your cucumbers! 

Spiced Cucumbers and Coconut Milk

This is totally delicious. The cooked cucumber reminded me somewhat of eggplant but maybe even better. In the interest of full disclosure I didn't peel my tomatoes (because life is too short for that), I used dried rather than fresh chiles (which may have made my version a little less spicy) and I used parsley leaves instead of cilantro (because that's what I had). It was suggested that you serve this with rice.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups of 1/4-inch-thick slices of peeled cucumber
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 small tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 red Thai chiles (with seeds), thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 tsp honey
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
fresh lime juice

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cucumber. Saute until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add tomatoes, scallions, chiles and garlic. Saute until vegetables are soft, 2-3 minutes.

Add coconut milk and honey; simmer until vegetables are cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the cilantro leaves and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Makes about 4 cups.

Sour Pickles

These are the genuine, real-deal pickles you've dreamed of. No vinegar, just straight-up lactic-acid fermented, brined cucumbers. Apparently the bane of pickle-makers is the cucumber's tendency to turn mushy rather than crispy. Adding grape, oak, cherry, or black currant leaves (which are rich in tannins) is said to help keep your pickles crunchy. I tried using red currant leaves and they seemed to work.

3 - 4 pounds unwaxed, small to medium cucumbers
3/8 cup sea salt
3 - 4 fresh flowering dill heads, or 3 - 4 tbsp of any form of dil (fresh or dried leaf or seeds)
2 - 3 heads of garlic, peeled
a handful of fresh grape, cherry, oak, black currant and/or horseradish leaves, washed (if available)
a pinch of black peppercorns

Rinse the cucumbers, taking care not to bruise them and making sure their blossoms are removed. Scrape off any remains of the blossom end. If you're using cucumbers that aren't fresh off the vine that day, soak them for a couple hours in very cold water to freshen them.

Dissolve the sea salt in 2L of water to create a brine solution. Stir until the salt is thoroughly dissolved.

Clean a ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket with a capacity of at least 4L. Place the dill, garlic, fresh leaves and black peppercorns at the bottom. Put the cucumbers on top. Pour the brine over the cucumbers, place a clean plate over them, then weigh it down with a jug filled with water or a boiled rack. If the brine doesn't cover the weighed-down plate, add more brine mixed at the same ratio of just under 1 tbsp of salt to each cup of water.

Cover the crock with a cloth to keep out dust and flies and store it in a cool place.

Check the crock every day. Skim any mold from the surface, but don't worry if you can't get it all. If there's mold, be sure to rinse the plate and weight. Taste the pickles after a few days. Eventually, after one to four weeks (depending on the temperature) the pickles will be fully sour and no longer white in the centre. Continue to enjoy them, moving them to the fridge to slow down fermentation.

Makes about 4L.

1 comment:

  1. This has definitely made me want me homemade pickles.