Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cool n' Zesty Cukes: 7 Minute Summer in a Jar

The perfect mix of sweet, tangy, little bit fiery, and fresh. The stuff my Nanny (read: grandma) always had in the fridge in summer as soon as the cucumbers were ripe in her Tennessee garden. My version is sweeter than it is tangy and has a spicy little bite from hot peppers. I use it as a topper for salads, a side dish at almost every meal, and on sandwiches all summer..except maybe PB&Js. This week the Farmer's Market yielded golden cucumbers and new red onions which made the wonderfully colorful jar on the right. And within 24 hrs it had a lovely pink hue from those onions.

I look for smallish cucumbers usually, but this long english cucumber (like the kind shrinkwrapped in the store) makes a really good choice because the seedy part is minimal and never mushy. The golden cukes turned out to be fairly green inside and quite seedy so I scooped that  part with a spoon.

I think these are best when cut very thin. A mandoline makes quick work of this step. I use my ├╝ber cheap, ancient Ronco slicer-dicer gadget (set to #2, for anyone out there who is lucky enough to have one of these little baby dinosaurs lying around). Go ahead and layer cucumbers alternating with onions in the jar before pouring on the liquid.  Mix 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water with 3/4 cup vinegar, good pinch of salt and pepper. I whisk this together but it really doesn't matter whether the sugar dissolves now or after you pour into the jar. It will all work out.
Ratio is 3 times as much vinegar as sugar.

Slowly pour the liquid until it is almost to the top. The cucumbers will release more juice and top it off within a few hours. For the yellow cukes I used Champagne vinegar. You can try various others, but plain white is the standby.
I add the peppers last because they're easiest to get into place after the liquid. Slip a butter knife into the jar to gently press back the vegetables and make room to slide the peppers in all around. I know they're beautiful, but don't get too carried away unless you like it HOT! Because it's still a little early for fresh red peppers I used these dried Ancho Chiles which turn bright red again in the jar.

I added one more flavor element to this jar. It's a garlic scape, the top part of the growing garlic that is chopped off early in the season. These keep for ages in the fridge and I still had some from weeks ago. They impart a nice mild garlic flavor and look kind of interesting in the jar and not snakey at all, hmm. Some fresh dill goes in last right on the top. I only had a little to add this week, but the more the merrier, if you have plenty. Give these a day to flavor up and have at 'em! They only get better and better as the days go by, not that you can expect them to last very long.
4-6 small cucumbers
1 vidalia onion
fresh dill

    Today you can find me on the Food Network website! Summer Fest is underway at FN Dish and this week we're all blogging about Cucumbers. Stay tuned for more summer fruit and veg posts throughout the summer and in the mean time check out these other great blogs about cukes:

    What’s Gaby Cooking: Cucumber-Basil Gimlet
    In Jennie’s Kitchen: Radish-Cucumber Crostini
    Grecian Kitchen: Summer Cucumber Salad
    Cooking With My Kid: Cucumber Limeade
    CIA Dropout: Relishing Cucumbers
    Healthy Eats: Cool Cucumber Soup
    Food for 7 Stages of Life: Cucumber Cherry Salsa
    Cooking With Elise: Green Tea Cucumber Pops
    Virtually Homemade: Cold Thai Cucumber-Mint Soup
    Daydreamer Desserts: Cubanita Margarita
    Sweet Life Bake: Agua de Pepino
    The Sensitive Epicure: Tzatziki with Grilled Gluten-Free Pitas and Fresh Cucumbers and Peppers
    Zaika Zabardast: Cucumber Gazpacho
    Cooking with Books: Summer Fest: Cucumbers


    1. These look and sound yummy!!! Is there any way to print the recipe without the photos? Or without cutting and pasting?

    2. Thanks for asking, Tami! I've added a Print Friendly button at the end of the post and underlined the essential instructions. This will give you the option of removing photos and just printing text.

    3. So many are afraid of the time it takes to make a good pickle, so thanks for providing a great quick recipe!

    4. Yum! My toddler LOVES pickles and anything that takes so little time gets put right to the top of my list. Thanks for sharing.

      In honor of cucumber week, I'd love to throw an idea into the mix too. It's a recipe from The Food Network Magazine itself, and a good one: Chicken with Pickle Sauce

      Best, Charity

    5. I have read this over several times. Are you saying you do not need to "cook" the brine? This is new to me, but is a plus! How long will they keep in the fridge? Thank you...

    6. That's right! You don't need to cook or even heat the brine because this goes straight into the fridge. It will be good for weeks too. Never really counted how many as I'm always adding to and eating this throughout the summer months.


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