The summer after my freshman year of college, I planted my first garden at my parents' place in upstate NY. I also started a compost heap in a crude structure I'd created using some old wooden pallets my dad had lying around. I was so excited about the composting process that I actually looked forward to taking the food scraps out to the heap and would do so several times a day (quite a switch from the way I'd regarded this chore when I was a child...) and turned the pile religiously. I was so proactive that by the time I left for school in the fall, there were actually a few inches of rich, new, friable dirt at the bottom of the heap. It was pretty thrilling.
Although I suffered some heartbreaking losses in the garden that summer (namely, almost all of my tomatoes), I also had some triumphs including two small eggplants, okra, and lots of gorgeous lettuces. But my favorite plants were the cucumbers. I had never grown them before and was completely awed by their cleverness. The vines climb by sending out straight, thin, green tendrils which reach in all directions until they find something (in my case, the deer fence my dad had built around my little raised bed garden) to grab onto.
Then the tendril wraps itself around that thing and coils the rest of itself into a little green spring, pulling the rest of the plant up as it coils. Then it begins the process all over again. This struck me as nothing short of spectacular.By climbing the fence, the plant keeps the cucumbers off the ground where they can grow in relative safety -- free from the unwanted advances of slugs and mold, etc. And grow they did. There may not be anything quite as satisfying as biting into a crunchy cucumber fresh off the vine from your own garden.But even if you don't have a garden, there are tons of delicious cukes out there right now for the taking at farmers markets and farm stands. tzatziki, raita, and chopped salad, I want to talk about pickles.While refrigerator pickles don't have the shelf life of canned pickles they're so good that they probably won't last long enough for that to be a problem.
Makes a 1-Quart Jar
* 2-3 small pickling cucumbers, washed and sliced lengthwise
* 1 cup vinegar (apple cider or white will work best)
* 1 cup water
* 2 garlic cloves, smashed
* Small handful of black peppercorns, crushed*
* 2-3 sprigs of fresh dill, washed
* 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes*
* 1/4 tsp dill seed, lightly crushed*
* 1/4 tsp mustard seed, lightly crushed*
* 1 Tbsp sea salt
* 1 wide-mouthed quart mason or ball jar
(* These spices are just suggestions -- you can skip any or all of them without any real problem, or substitute other spices you think might work well)
1. Place the garlic cloves in the bottom of the jar, then pack it with the cucumber spears and dill sprigs.
2. Combine the other ingredients and pour the liquid over the cucumbers until they're fully covered. Close the jar and refrigerate. It may take up to a day for them to begin to taste pickled. They should last in the fridge for a few weeks though they'll begin to lose their crunchiness at some point.
A few other recipes you might like:
- Chopped Summer Salad
- Cucumber & Yogurt Salad With Herbs (Tzatziki)
- Pickled Watermelon Radishes
- Quick Pickled Beets
- Tarragon Pickled Onions
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