We’d like to welcome our friend Eric to the blog. He’s our resident brewer, and he’s been waiting in the wings as I’ve been pestering him to write since last November. I’m happy to live close enough to him to be able to share an occasional homebrew or cocktail, and I’m looking forward to future posts of his to round out the Brew portion of the blog — that was the plan all along! In addition to his brewing expertise, he’s also a proud fellow Scot, curer of meats, Alton Brown enthusiast, maker of pickles, and science teacher. Welcome! — Scott
Last spring, after several seasons of trying to eke a harvest out of a very small raised bed and many pots, I asked the school I teach at if I could turn a neglected daffodil bed into a proper vegetable garden. For the children, you understand. And the learning. And the science, of course.
After far more time, sweat and dirt than I anticipated, I was just rewarded just last week with the first of the veggies from my new farm: a cucumber. Not having any Hendrick’s stocked in my bar at the moment I decided that pickling would be in order.
I’m a big fan of pickles. I recently picked up some horseradish dills at a farmers’ market and a favorite restaurant here in town pickles carrot slices and serves them with their lamb sliders. I have very fond memories of my grandmother grinding gherkins up with ham and creating a sandwich most children would never eat.
But for my first foray into cuke preservation I kept it simple: bread & butter slices. Sweet and tangy…and ready to eat in just a few hours. A quick bit of googling brought up this recipe that claimed to be derived from the good folks at Cooks Country (an off-shoot of America’s Test Kitchen), but was accessible without all that pesky signing up for stuff. Honestly, Mr. Kimball. A good ole Yankee like you should know better.
- 1 lb kirby cucumber, sliced crosswise in 1/8 inch disks
- 1 medium onion, halved and sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Toss cukes, onion, and salt in colander set over bowl. Let stand 1 hour. Discard drained liquid.
- Bring vinegar, sugar and spices to a boil in large saucepan. Reduce heat to low add cukes and onion and press to submerge in liquid. Cover and cook until cukes turn a dullish olive-brown, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer entire pan contents to glass bowl. Refrigerate, uncovered, at least 2 hours before serving. (pickles can be refrigerated in covered container for up to 2 weeks).
The recipe is as easy as you could want: slice, salt, simmer, mix. Wait a bit and devour. I don’t know what a kirby cucumber is, I just used what I had and it all came out fine. If anything, I’d just reduce the amount of onions used, though they were plenty tasty on burgers this past 4th of July.
For one last bit motivation I will defer, as always, to the master himself…Alton Brown:
I’ll be trying those recipes later this weekend. AB has also done a show on dill pickles that gets even deeper into the natural fermentation of cukes…but at the moment I’ll limit my adventures in fermentation to homebrewing. This fall I hope to make a fresh or “wet” hop ale made with the hops I have growing in the backyard and at school. But in the meantime it looks like I have plenty of cucumbers to keep me busy.