It’s very satisfying to be gardening again.
I haven’t had a real vegetable garden in many years. Oh, we grew tomatoes and peppers and herbs (and an occasional zucchini) at the city house, but the deer there ruined my gardening efforts too. We were near a wild-ish park and had an apple tree in the side yard. The deer flocked to it.
But a real fenced in garden? Where I have to open the gate? Well I’ve never had one of those!
Everything is growing well, thank you — except the beets — which came up spottily. So I’m going to replant later in July for a fall crop. The tomatoes are a jungle and we have one orange Early Girl. We’ve also got some small peppers coming on; the squash are blooming; the beans are climbing; and the cucumbers! Oh my.
It’s a wet summer so far, and cucumbers love water, so we have an abundance even though I only planted six plants.
So what do I do with this many cucumbers? Too few to make a giant batch of pickles and too many to eat all at once.
Get ready, cucumber recipes coming at you…
I am not a veteran pickle maker. I’ve made a few jars back in my old hippie homesteading days but, quite honestly, they tasted like salty cooked cucumbers. No crunch. And if you apply science to this, Of Course. I’ve cooked the cucumbers in boiling water, how could they be crisp? So… I did some research.
Lithuanian Half-Sour Dill Pickles, by the jar.
Those delicious Klaussen pickles? They are Lithuanian Half-Sours. But I had no clue how many jars the above photo of cucumbers would make. So I washed and sterilized several jars of different sizes, and started cutting. Before I give you the recipe, here are some tips:
- Cut off the tip of the blossom end of the cucumber. Every recipe I read says that if you don’t, the pickles will be more apt to get soggy.
- Wash the cucumbers gently, but don’t scrub or scour them.
- If you are using dill (are there other kinds of pickles?) use the flower of the dill plant — the bigger the better.
Slice the cucumbers in your favorite pickle style — slices, halves, or quarters. (I was planning on making wholes, but the tip about the blossom end flummoxed me, and I decided to get a few successful jars under my belt and in the fridge before I tried some wholes.) (Edited post three weeks later — after research about this, I found several pickle makers who scrape the blossom end with their fingernail or a knife, just to get the blossom enzymes off — then you are good to go for whole pickles. I have several jars of whole pickles in the fridge, and a gallon jar of brined whole dills in the cupboard, still fermenting.)
Make them jar by jar. To a quart jar, add a blossom of dill, two or three cloves of garlic, and some pickling spices. I put in some mustard seeds, whole allspice, coriander seeds, and a few shakes of crushed red pepper. I would have added celery seed, if I’d had any. I also had some baby onions, so I threw a few of those in too. Add some cucumbers — I filled about half the jar, and then I put in another dill flower and filled the jar with the rest of the cucumbers and a few more baby onions. (The onions are strictly optional, but I had them and thought they would be good. I was right.)
To each jar add 1/2 cup vinegar, a cup of water, and 4 t. kosher salt. I mixed up this solution first and stirred it around until the salt was dissolved, then poured into the jars. If it doesn’t cover the cucumbers, top off the jar with water until the cucumbers are completely covered. Put a sterilized lid on the jars and refrigerate. You can open the pickles in a week. Cloudy brine is ok. Fizziness is ok. Neither of my jars got fizzy… though I’ve read that is a problem. These are refrigerator pickles. And my basket of cucumbers (about 20 cukes — sized from small to medium) made two quart jars, with three little cucumbers left over. (And if you would like to make up a larger batch of brine, I’ve done the math for you — 1/4 c. salt, 1 and 1/2 c. vinegar, and 3 c. water.)
In The Dill Crock (1984), John Thorne describes half-sours as “cucumbers still, not pickles — little cucumbers who [have] died and gone to heaven.” One can find as many recipes for these as there are cooks, but all the recipes that I tried to conglomerate and follow said the little heavenly cucumbers would be ready in a week. I’ve been opening the jar every day and testing them. On Day 2, they simply tasted like the cucumbers in vinegar we used to have as a kid every summer for dinner. But today is Day 5 and I got them out to put on Mr. H.C.’s lunch sandwich, so I tried one for breakfast. They are delicious. Like Mr. Thorne says, not pickles, not quite cucumbers. Heavenly.
And so with three cucumbers left over, and more ripe in the garden today, I’ve got another simple recipe for you as well. I can’t take any credit for this one either. It is from Foodie with Family — my favorite food blog — although like any recipe, I always make it my own.
Asian Cucumber Salad
This salad is so easy and so delicious, you won’t believe you’ve ever lived without it. It’s great with any summer grilled food, or any Oriental themed meal. And though it’s fine in the winter with store-bought cucumbers, it is really a summer recipe made with the freshest cucumbers you can find. Just sayin’…
If you have a mandoline, use it for this recipe. If you don’t have one, use your sharpest knife and slice one large or two or three medium cucumbers into Very Thin Slices. Also slice a quarter to a half of a sweet onion — depending on how much you like sweet onions. Again, slice them as thinly as you can without getting blood in the salad. (I have sometimes used scallions instead of a sweet onion.) Stir together in a small bowl:
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 1 T. toasted sesame seeds
- 1 T. minced fresh dill
- 1/2 to 1 t. salt
- 1/2 to 1 t. sugar
- 1/2 to 1 t. toasted sesame oil
- a few grinds of red pepper flakes (This is the only optional ingredient. Just recently I put my never-used red pepper flakes into a grinder, and now I’m discovering that I use them all the time. And Mr. H.C. — a guy who likes his hot pepper rating at 0 — hasn’t complained yet.)
Stir gently. You can eat it now, or you can eat it later, but I guarantee that it won’t sit in your fridge for very long. Ten minutes to make, five minutes to eat. Yum. Try it on pulled pork.
And we’ve discovered lots of honeybees on the cucumber flowers. Go bees! More cucumbers! Yay for summer.