Attack of the Cucumbers!

[The Amateur Gourmet is on vacation and, while he’s gone, he’s asked his friends to cover for him. Patty Jang, a playwright who lives in Brooklyn where she is working on her play “Yellow Peril 3.0,” somehow sneaked her way into the mix. For the sake of not making her angry, let’s listen to her whine about cucumbers!]

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We’ve all heard that the best way to eat is to eat locally, organically, and seasonally, but when you’re making a fruit tart that calls for out-of-season cherries shipped in from California, it’s hard to be a saint. To force ourselves into eating more responsibly, Lauren and I decided to join the Washington Square CSA, which gets produce from Norwich Meadows Farm in upstate New York. After fighting the hordes that swarm the Union Square Whole Foods, picking up our produce at the CSA is an absolute pleasure. While weighing out our share of stunning organic tomatoes, beets, and delicate salad greens, I congratulated myself for being a conscientious citizen of the Earth… until I saw the overflowing bins of cucumbers. For the last nine weeks, we have been bombarded with cucumbers. I’m talking pounds and pounds of cucumbers. Every week. I hate cucumbers.

You may ask how can such a mild, innocuous vegetable arouse such distaste? Well, since my childhood, I have equated cucumbers with my mother’s nightly beauty regime during which she would rub slices of cucumber over her face in tight, concentric circles. Then, to top off her routine, she would apply Pond’s cold cream that reeked of – you guessed it – cucumber. Not an association that has encouraged me to partake in foodstuffs involving cucumbers. Cucumbers in my salad? No thanks. Cold cucumber soup? You’ve got to be kidding me. Cucumber sandwiches? Do I look British? I say, the only good cucumber is a cucumber in the garbage disposal. But Lauren, the chef de cuisine, would not hear of such waste. So the horror began: cucumber crudités, cucumber salad with dill, thai cucumber salad, cucumber soup with avocado and basil, and cucumber soup with mint (three times!!!). I begged Lauren to freeze some of the soup so that I could at least put off the pain, but she insisted that the soup would lose its “freshness” in the freezer. And then it hit me: I want my cucumbers to be the antithesis of freshness! I wanted pickles!

Lauren consulted Sara Foster’s Fresh Every Day and found a super easy recipe for refrigerator pickles. Of course, I was uneasy – wouldn’t refrigerator pickles be too “cucumbery”? I like my pickles to be deeply pickled the same way I like my kimchi to be deeply fermented. But these pickles are incredible – the perfect balance between salty and sweet (but not too sweet, like bread and butter pickles) – and most importantly, un-cucumbery. One note – if you have a low spice tolerance, go easy on the red pepper flakes because the pickles get spicier by the day.

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Mom’s Fridge Pickles

From Sara Foster’s Fresh Every Day

1 cup white vinegar

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon sea salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

6 whole cloves

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon dill seed

4 to 5 small Kirby cucumbers, peeled and sliced into 1/8 inch thick rounds

1 small white onion, thinly sliced

1. Combine all of the ingredients except for the cucumbers and onions in a jar and shake until sugar is dissolved

2. Add cucumbers and onions into jar and refrigerate at least 4 hours, shaking the jar occasionally to keep ingredients mixed. Pickles should keep at least a month.

Makes about 1 quart

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3 comments

  1. Those pickled cukes look wonderful! And might I suggest you check out some Greek/Mediterranean recipes – they do wonderful things with cucumbers…

  2. i DESPISE cucumbers as well. i thought i was the only one! my hatred is strictly taste-based – they just do nothing for me. i LOVE pickles, though – and these look great!