We are between cucumber crops at the moment, with some just planted and some nearly ready to harvest. To prepare you, here are a few refreshing ways we’ve used the abundance of cucumbers in the Groce Family Kitchen:
Cucumber Strawberry Smoothies
Ingredients for 1 to 2 servings:
2 -3 Miniature White Cucumbers (the small to medium yellow ones), roughly cubed
handful of frozen strawberries, roughly chopped
2-3 mint leaves
2 tablespoons water with or without honey
*in addition, you may add a few chard or kale leaves, pre-cut
Combine ingredients in blender (I use a Cuisenart Stick Blender…for everything) and blend. Add more water if necessary. The frozen strawberries make this a chilly, sweet treat!
The Miniature White variety of cucumber has thin skins and does not need to be peeled. They also have a high water content, which makes them easy to puree, lending their own liquid to the smoothie. Our other variety of cucumbers have both thicker skins that would need to be peeled and firmer insides, which is best for pickling.
Fermented Pickled Cucumbers
I was gifted the Nourished Kitchen cookbook for my birthday recently and used her Sour Pickle recipe. It calls for horseradish leaves as a crisper (the tannins in horseradish leaves are also present in fresh Oak or Grape leaves, either way you may be able to find the latter at a local grocery), so the row of horseradish plants we started a couple years ago finally came in handy! We’re going to try to improve upon them so we can offer those to you all in the future. I started a jar of both whole and sliced cukies.
For a quicker pickle, we always keep a couple (read: 100) quart containers of fridge pickles around. When we eat up the fridge pickles we’ve already made (turnips, scapes, carrots, cucumbers, chard stems, onion, garlic, whatever), we just add more veg to the remaining liquid. It’s delicious and I highly recommend it. We will occasionally top off the liquid with more vinegar, sugar, etc. Typically, you want to have close to a 3:1 vinegar-to-water ratio. Apart from that, you can tweak your recipe as you like, adding hot peppers, dill, mustard, or garlic. Our recipe is both hot, sour, and sweet. Martha Stewart has a pretty basic recipe, if you’d like to start there.
The Groce’s Fridge Pickles:
3 cups Apple Cider vinegar*
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar (depending on how sweet you’d like it)
1 habenero or chili flakes (omit if you don’t want them hot)
2 garlic scapes or 4 cloves garlic
1-2 flowering dill pieces
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole mustard seed
1 bay leaf
Slice your veg to quicken the infusion, or leave them whole. If you are using cucumbers, remove any stems or blossom ends as this can make them bitter. Combine with dry ingredients in a container that can be sealed.
Pour sugar and salt into your hot water to dissolve, then add vinegar. Pour over dry ingredients, refrigerate for a day or two before eating.
These ingredients are a guess, we rarely ever measure exactly and we always only use what we have. If we don’t have fresh dill, we use dried. If we don’t have whole mustard seed, we omit it. Be flexible with your recipe and tell us how yours turned out!
*We usually do a mixture of apple cider and Distilled White vinegar, as the latter is cheaper.
I mean, how could you not?
For the spread:
1/2 package cream cheese
2 tablespoons yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
Blend cream cheese, yogurt, and lemon juice (again, I am a cheater at mixing things and always use my stick blender), then mix in dill. Spread on sandwich bread with slices of cucumber and tomato. EAT IT UP. Unless you want bacon on there, too, which I always do.