In southern Vermont cucumber season is coming to the end. The leaves are beginning to mildew and there are those pesky cukes that hid behind giant leaves and were not plucked early enough are now giant and filled with seeds. They are unpalatable raw - I’ve been using those to make cucumber water as a refreshing beverage in the end of summer heat. Others are just becoming ready now, but they must be caught quickly as everything is growing, growing, growing. Miss just one day of picking and they have gone too far.
The truth is I do not love cucumber pickles, especially the traditional kinds. I make them for others - my daughter and partner love them, as do extended family and neighbors. My daughter practically lives on pickles in the summer. She is not particular to the flavor - although she loves sweet icicle chips. I make so many pickles each summer mostly because I always have too many cucumbers! What I do like about pickles is how they keep throughout the fall as refrigerated pickles and if properly canned until next time cucumbers are on the vine.
I have come up with a few kinds that are different than the traditional mustard, dill, garlic, spiced, and sweet. A new type I am trying this year is: Fenugreek Ginger pickles.
Fenugreek is an herb that, in arid places, grows like a weed mixed in with tough grasses. It is from the ancient lands of the Middle East. I like to imagine the early farmers grazing their cattle on it and getting sweet and spicy milk from the herd. Many new moms know fenugreek as an herb that can increase breastmilk production, so it can often be found baked into lactation cookies and even ground up as an added spice in seedy breads. Fenugreek seeds are a rich yellow color with a strong fragrance. The seeds are fairly large three pronged triangles.
And what about my pickles? I’m am getting the first tastes now. They have turned out to be a delicious experiment. The fenugreek gives them a sweet almost maple like quality — without any sugar! Ginger gives them a tangy punch with the salty brine. I have really enjoyed them and their non-traditional flavor.
• salt (2 tsp for a pint, 4 tsp for a quart)
• pepper (1/2 tsp for a pint, 1 tbsp for a quart)
• fenugreek (2 tsp for a pint, 2 tbsp for a quart - I like to use whole seeds because they become pickled as well, but ground fenugreek can work for just the flavor.)
• fresh grated ginger (2 tsp for a pint, 2 bsp for a quart)
1. Pack a clean canning jar tightly with sliced cucumbers.
2. Fill jar one third with vinegar
3. Fill the rest of the way with water leaving ½ inch to 1 inch of headroom
Allow the cucumbers to absorb flavors for 4 days (pint) to 7 days (quart) in the refrigerator. Shake the jar every day to move the flavors around. These will keep safely for up to 3 weeks and get spicier the longer they are left in the brine.
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