Friday, February 23, 2007

Cucumbers for Thanksgiving, from Mom

This is how Mom emailed Gael the recipe when she was making them in rural England to celebrate Thanksgiving 2003 with a friend who now lives there. Wouldn’t be Thanksgiving or Christmas without them!

2 large or 3 medium cucumbers, peeled and sliced fairly thin
About 1/2 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin. (I like to cut this half in half and then make the slices--you'll get little moon-shaped slices and they don't intimidate (?) people who don't like onions.) They end up tasting like cucumbers anyway.

Put the above in a small bowl and sprinkle salt on the mixture, stir (with your hand is okay) and cover. The idea here is that after the onions and cucumbers stand for at least an hour, the salt will have drawn a lot of water off the cucumbers. Anytime after an hour or so (several hours won't hurt at all) you can take handsful of the O & C and squeeze the moisture out. When you've squeezed them all and dried the bowl, put them back and pour white vinegar over them. I don't have to tell you but I always tell dad, "Ed, wash your hands!"

Then pour some vinegar over the cucumbers and onions--start with 1/2 cup of vinegar. One of the things that makes these easy to make is that you can keep adding vinegar or sugar or pepper as you go along. It's hard for me to tell you how much sugar but start with 1/4 to 1/3 cup. The only reason the amount is important is because you don't want the cucumbers to be too sweet right away or you'll be adjusting the vinegar, etc. If you go a little slowly adding the sugar and tasting, you can usually get it right. You can be adding pepper at this time--lots of it; but, again, you can keep adding more so you can start slowly. (You'll be sneezing--I always do.) Again, you have to experiment but I use more pepper in making this dish than I do in any other food. In fact, when all of the cucumbers are eaten you'll always find a mixture of vinegar and lots of pepper in the bottom of the bowl.

You need to taste as you go along. Of course, the dish will mellow after it stands some more so you don't have to worry if you taste it the next day or in a few hours and it tastes too sour or too sweet or doesn't have that little special bite the pepper gives it. Just keep adjusting the vinegar, sugar and pepper until you think they're okay. If, when you serve them, anyone thinks they are too flat, too sour or whatever, you can add what is needed then. Because of that, they're really foolproof--you make them until they taste good to you.

When you add the vinegar and sugar the first time, mix everything up. These are not supposed to be swimming in or covered by vinegar. After you stir them up a few times, everything seems to pick up the flavor. Maybe because the cucumbers have had their little necks wrung they pick up the moisture evenly.

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