Tuesday, 14 September 2010


This year was my first attempt at growing curcubits (the sprawly, fruity, juicy plant family of gourds, melons, squash and other scrambling vines that will take over half the garden if you let 'em) other than courgettes. Turns out, if you can grow a courgette, you can grow the rest of 'em too! So I've found myself besieged by pumpkins, cucumbers & gherkins. And I chuffing love it! (if you fancy growing gherkins next year, I recommend Hokus, an easy to grow, high yielding outdoor trailing variety)

So in a change from the usual chutneys, here's a pickle!

Pickled Cucumber

1kg cucumbers (or gherkins)
1 tbs sugar (optional)
cider or white wine vinegar
1 sprig of dill (optional. Unless you’re using gherkins, then it’s compulsory!)
1 tsp black peppercorns

With a sharp knife, cut the cucumber into painfully thin slices. I’m sure that there are food processor attachments that can do this sort of thing, but I have always taken the sharp-knife-and-backache approach. Arrange the slices in a colander (or the plastic inner mesh of a salad spinner), scattering with salt between the layers. This draws out moisture & helps vegetables remain crisp after pickling. Place the colander in a bowl, cover with a cloth & leave somewhere cool overnight.

The next day, take a moment to marvel at how much liquid has come out of the veg. Rinse thoroughly & pack into clean, sterilised jars. Add the sugar (if using) & dill to the jar & top with the vinegar. Seal & store in a cool, dry place for a few weeks. Once opened, keep it in the fridge.
What can you do with it? It's a really nice accompaniment to stir fries, goes well in veggie burgers, gives potato salad a nice bite & sour note & is surprisingly tasty in sandwiches.

This is one of those recipes that you can really play around with, all you need is to remember to slice them & salt them the night before. Need a few suggestions? Okay then…

Combine shallots, cauliflower florets & slices of carrot for a mixed pickle (add 1 tbs sugar to the vinegar for a sweet mixed pickle)

Slices of radish (or if you’re growing rat-tail radish, whole young pods) with fresh mint leaves or dill. Japanese daikon or mooli sliced or grated with ginger or chilli slices works really well too.

Cauliflower florets are a delicious, crisp pickle, and work really well with the addition of 1tbs of toasted coriander seed & 1 tsp toasted cumin seed (you can add a pinch of turmeric & yellow mustard powder for a bit of colour too!)

Celeriac, coarsely grated or thinly sliced, with 1 tbs yellow mustard seed and as much grated black pepper as you can stomach.

Florence Fennel, finely sliced with the zest & juice of a lemon and a couple of bay leaves makes a light, refreshing pickle.

Celery, finely sliced, makes a refreshing pickle.

Courgettes, deseeded & sliced, with whatever Mediterranean herbs you have lying around, is a good way of using up a glut.

Red cabbage & red onion, shredded, with plenty of black pepper.

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