Out in the garden, the cucumbers are getting ready to swing into their cucumber production number. These are Marketmore, a heritage variety that does well here--takes about 60 days from emergence to my plate. I love to eat them fresh from the vine, with chopped fresh tomatoes, onions, and thin-sliced carrots in a zesty oil/vinegar dressing. Bill (who isn't big on raw food) prefers them pickled.
I always have good intentions about canning, and I even know where the jars, lids, and pressure cooker are! But when I'm working on a book (as I am now--#4 in the Darling Dahlias series), I can't seem to find the time. So I use my mother's 1930s recipe for ice box pickles.
- 6 thin-sliced cucumbers
- 1 cup sliced onion
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon pickling spices
- sprigs of fresh dill and thyme
Bring the vinegar to a boil. Stir in sugar and salt until dissolved. Add celery seed and spices. Cool slightly and pour over the cucumbers, onions, and herbs. Cover and refrigerate. Will keep indefinitely.
The ice box pickles are a nice treat, too. If you'd like a bit of color, add some chopped red bell pepper. If you want more zing, add chile peppers (jalepenos, serranos, habaneros, what have you).
Reading note. [In the seventeenth century] cucumbers were in great demand at the local apothecary shop, where they were an important pharmaceutical. The seeds were employed to treat inflammations of the bowel and urinary tract and to expel tapeworms, and the pulp and juice were used to ease skin inflammations and treat sunburns. Even today, beauty consultants in expensive spas often recommend placing cooling, soothing slices of cucumber over tired and inflamed eyes...--China Bayles Book of Days, entry for June 3