Food for Thought
5:00 am
Wed August 20, 2014

2 Recipes To Turn The Season's Cucumbers Into Crisp, Appetizing Pickles

It's my favorite time of year. The cukes are out at the Duris Cucumber Farm on River Road, just a little west of Puyallup. For years, I've been trying to convince my Food for Thought pard Nancy Leson to accompany me there. She finally did, and boy, was she glad.

"I love the place," Nancy said. What she and I both love is how fresh these straight in from the fields cucumbers are. And, Nancy added, "What was really cool was that they have so many different sizes of cucumbers available. From the tiniest little gherkins to the gi-gondor size," which I compared to nuclear subs. 

They're all sorted out by size in different bins. Just fill your bag with whichever you want, count the number of each and tell the cashier. Nance and I went straight back to my place to put up some of my favorite pickle — New York-style half sours. As the name implies, the flavor is about halfway between a regular sour and a fresh cuke. They stay crisp and a beautiful bright green. Here's how I make them.

Dick's Half-Sour Pickles (Makes 2 One-Quart Jars)

Ingredients:

Medium and small cucumbers, washed, with stems cut off and one-eighth inch cut off blossom ends.

Brine: 2 tablespoons pickling salt to 1 quart water.

2 tablespoon pickling spice

2 grape leaves (optional for extra crispness)  

4 cloves garlic, sliced

2 sprigs fresh dill (optional)

Instructions:

1. Lay a clean 1 quart canning jar on its side. Push a grape leaf down to the bottom.

2. Pack medium cucumbers in to fill jar half way. 

3. Add 1 tablespoon spices and 2 cloves garlic. Pack in the rest of the medium cukes, then wedge the small ones in between to keep them from floating up when brine is added.

4.  Fill jars to top with brine.

5. Screw on lids and refrigerate immediately. Pickles will be ready in one week.

After we made the half-sours, Nancy went home to put up some of those perfect little sliced cucumber pickles Wild Ginger serves with its sates.

Wild Ginger Cucumber Pickles

Ingredients:
1 pound small pickling cucumbers

2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

4 shallots, peeled and quartered

4 slices fresh ginger, peeled

Instructions:

1. Slice cucumbers to quarter-inch thickness and combine with 1 teaspoon salt. Let sit for 1 hour. Rinse cucumbers with fresh water and drain well.

2. Combine remaining salt, vinegar, sugar and 5 tablespoons hot water. Stir to dissolve. Pour over cucumbers and toss with shallots and ginger. Serve after 1 hour.

Nance also told me she used some of the many cukes she brought home to make her favorite summer soup, cucumber and white grape gazpacho.

Pickles are a world wide favorite. What's yours?

"How cam'st thou in this pickle?"

– Shakespeare, The Tempest