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LET'S COOK: Cucumbers

August 24, 2018
Chuck Repnow , Pierce County Tribune

One of the best things about the month of August is the garden harvest. We have a small garden but have friends who are generous with their vegetables. Recently we were given a mass of cucumbers and two other dear souls gave us a lawn basket filled with lovely beets with flourishing tops, green and red peppers, potatoes, and onions. We watched as the beets were pulled from the good loam, and they along with some of the other vegetables had the scent and warmth of the sun on them.

In our busy worlds the time we spend at Farmers Markets in search of fresh vegetables is certainly enjoyable, and if we are lucky enough to have friends who share their abundance, that is wonderful too. As we stood in Mike and Susan Bley's vigorous garden, we talked about not only vegetables but our lives-why hollyhocks are so pretty and how their garden was covered with river water by the 2011 flood in Minot. There is a life lesson to be shared here and it is this "even though we are flooded over many times in life with disappointments, family issues, and so forth, there will come a time when we grow, produce and even bloom." Now that is inspiring.

With eagerness we carted the abundance home, and before midnight our kitchen had reached a delightful harvest bouquet as cucumber dishes, pickle-making and kettles with vinegar, spices simmered on the stove top giving promise to some good eating. With our busy schedules today we no longer can devote days to picking and preserving, but we can take time to prepare a few of our favorites to add that fresh taste to our winter tables.

Article Photos

Another Cucumber Salad!
Here is an easy recipe for using fresh cucumbers, and this keeps for several days in the refrigerator.
From Mike and Susan Bley of Minot
Ingredients and directions
- 2 to 3 cucumbers
- ½ large red onion (thinly sliced)
- 1 green pepper
- 1 cup distilled vinegar
- ½ water
- ½ sugar
Slice cucumbers thin, salt and cover for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse lightly. Add onion and pepper set aside. Cook vinegar, water and sugar until dissolved over medium heat about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour over cucumbers and chill at least an hour.

Bread and butter pickles
This was my mom’s recipe. She always tried to make a few of these each season because they are so good. She said “every pickle collection is brightened by these.” I also learned from her that pickles are best when they are preserved the day they are picked. We often harvested them in the morning, cleaned them and let them rest in real cold water before pickling. My mom often talked about how she and her mother, Lydia, used crocks for canning and this recipe lends itself to this homestead heritage of crockery use.
Ingredients and directions
- 1 gallon firm, clean cucumbers
- 10 small white onions
- 2 green peppers
- 2 red peppers
- ½ cup salt
- 1 quart cracked ice
- 5 cups sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 5 cups white vinegar
Slice cucumbers, onions, green and red peppers in paper-thin rounds. Place in a stone crock. Mix salt and ice. Pack around sliced vegetables. Cover crock with weighted lid; allow to stand for 3 hours, then drain. Combine sugar, spices, and vinegar. Pour over vegetables in a large enamel or stainless steel kettle. Bring to a boil over low heat, very important. Pour into hot sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 12 minutes. Makes 7 pints.
By the way, the beets never made it to the canning process—they were simply cooked, buttered and enjoyed!

Have you ever noticed how cozy cucumbers are? We accept them in several varieties such as English, Northern pickling, Straight Eight and Kirby, just to name a few. They are grown from mini to large sizes and the more bumps the better. They are inviting similar to the way a big comfy chair says "relax" or as inviting as a dish of vanilla ice cream drizzled with homemade chokecherry syrup. Who does not smile at an adequate gathering of cucumbers nestled in a yellow enameled washbasin? Cucumbers with their bumps, yellow bellies and sometimes odd shapes make a clear statement that they can be humorous as well as delicious. Now with a little aid from willing hands, they can be transformed into salads, pickles, and relishes. What a snap and flavor they can bring to stepping up a meal.

Just as restaurants run promotional offers to stir up interest in their meals, you can ratchet up your table appeal by figuring out the best and most desirable way serve cucumbers--either immediately or preserving so you can relish them when the snow is window sill high. I must warn you that the aroma of pickled cucumbers will have you looking for the seed catalog, and yes, that is a good thing!

 
 

 

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