Cucumbers in the Kitchen

Cucumbers are mainly eaten fresh or pickled. Fresh cucumbers are eaten sliced in salads, salted and eaten like an apple, or added to sandwiches. Pickle recipes are as varied as our culture and range from sweet pickles, dills, and spicy or hot pickles.

Cucumber Sandwich

Other than eating cucumbers fresh, there are many refreshing summer recipes that will use up the bounty while also preventing boredom. Cucumbers can be made into a sauce or topping for fish or chicken. For a quick relish, chop four cucumbers and two tablespoons red onion. Mix this will teaspoon rice vinegar, teaspoon crushed red pepper and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. This can be served with chicken or any mild fish.

Try making a cucumber yogurt salad dressing by mixing a chopped cucumber with onion, vinegar, oil, and your choice of spices and then blending into a creamy dressing.

Another use for cucumbers is in soups, both hot and cold. Gazpacho uses cucumbers and many Russian and Middle eastern soups also call for cucumbers. Cold cucumber soup uses cucumbers mixed with yogurt, buttermilk, lemon, mint, and onion blended and chilled. This cold soup is usually served with bread brushed with olive oil. Some recipes call for curry, hot sauce, or pimento. Hot cucumber soup also uses yogurt but adds chicken stock and scallions.

Cucumbers can also be used as a main vegetarian dish by serving them au gratin, curried, baked, or sauteed. To make cucumbers au gratin simply slice 2 medium sized cucumbers and layer with 1- cups of grated Gruyere cheese in a casserole dish. Add salt and pepper to taste, dot the top with 3 tablespoons of butter and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because of their mild taste cucumbers are often paired with fish and chicken. Some good fish parings are tuna, trout, shrimp, and halibut. Also try adding cucumbers to a favorite stir fry mix.

Cucumbers can also be used to make a refreshing lemon or limeade. Simply blend one peeled and sliced cucumber with 5 cups of water. Strain and add the juice of one lemon or lime and then add sugar to taste, serve over ice.

Dill pickles are still routinely made by fermentation. Fermentation uses lactic acid bacteria, which is naturally found in plants, to preserve them in a solution of vinegar and salt. To make a gallon of fermented dill pickles use 4 pounds of washed cucumbers about 4 inches long with the blossom end cut off. Mix cup salt and cup vinegar with 8 cups water. Add 2 tablespoons of dried dill weed to the bottom of a gallon jar, pack the cucumbers in tightly and add the vinegar mixture until it runs over the top then seal with a lid. It takes about 6 weeks to fully ferment and pickles should be checked once a week to remove scum or mold on the surface. Once they are fully fermented the pickles can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months.

<< Varieties of Cucumbers | Return to Cucumber Index >>

Sources:
Ohio State University Extension: Making Fermented Dill Pickles
University of Arizona: B's Cucumber Pages: The Cucumber Recipe File

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