Cucumbers: Pickles and a lot moreLet me count the ways you can use this versatile veggie.
By: Jeff Tiedeman, Grand Forks Herald
I’ve been growing a garden for more than 30 years, and if you were to ask me what’s my favorite vegetable, the answer for sure would be the tomato, even though technically it’s a fruit.
Besides eating them right out of the garden, of which there is nothing sweeter (trust me), I can whole tomatoes, make juice and dabble in salsa. I’ve even pickled green tomatoes.
But cucumbers are another vegetable that I’d be hard pressed to live without — especially when it comes to homemade pickles, although we have a bevy of other uses for the knobby member of the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, which includes squash, and is in the same genus as the muskmelon.
When the first cucumbers of my garden are ripe for the picking, I am one of those people who can eat them for days on end — whether they’re sliced thinly and put in a little vinegar; dipped in ranch dressing; mixed with yogurt and garlic in tzatziki, a Greek sauce we use when making stuffed grape leaves; or chopped up in salads and paired with other veggies.
My favorite use for cucumbers, however, is in pickles. And one of the conclusions I’ve come to is that a person can’t have too many pickle recipes.
I’ll take any and all pickle recipes. Recently, Marilyn Fuher of Grand Forks gave me one. It was for refrigerator pickles. (See recipe at www.grandforksherald. com/ event/ tag/ group/Features/tag/food/.) I already have a couple of refrigerator pickle recipes, but this one looked a little different that the others.
But a new recipe that really caught my attention was one for a 14-day sweet pickle, which I found in one of the cookbooks in the Farmer’s Wife series that is put out by MBI Publishing Co. and Voyageur Press (www.voyageurpress. com/), an imprint of MBI in Minneapolis.
Old-timers will remember the Farmer’s Wife, which was a monthly magazine published in Minnesota between 1893 and 1939. It offered hard-working rural women a way to connect and “provided a forum for their questions and concerns and to assist them in the day-to-day goings-on about the farm — everything from raising chickens and slaughtering hogs to managing scant funds, dressing the children, keeping house and running the kitchen.”
The Farmer’s Wife Canning and Preserving Cookbook is one of three in the series (there also are the Slow Cooker Cookbook and the Cookie Cookbook in the series). But the canning one is my favorite, since it is loaded with recipes and tips for making pickles, relishes, jams, jellies and the like.
Slice of heaven
The 14-day pickle recipe was of particular interest since it was very similar to one that I tried — and fell in love with — years ago.
Anna Cranna’s 14-day sweet pickles were a little slice of heaven. I met Anna and her late husband, Clifford A. “Scotty” Cranna, of Devils Lake, through my friends, Mike Jacobs (now my boss) and his wife, Suezette Bieri.
The pickles were so sweet and so very crunchy that another former co-worker, Dan Rylance, and I talked Anna, who died in 1996, into giving us the recipe.
We made the pickles a couple of times in the 1980s. But after Dan moved out of town, I mislaid the recipe and haven’t made the pickles since.
After coming across the recipe in the cookbook, my interest once again was piqued.
A word of caution for those who think they might want to make these pickles:
Like its name suggests, the pickles take 14 days to make and require a lot of draining the brine and rinsing the cucumbers . Then, there’s the syrup, which must supplemented a couple of times during the process — all before you can them.
But that’s one pickle I don’t mind being in.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.