The rain from Tropical Storm Henri and the hot weather have combined to produce a cucumber explosion!
Here at Rabbit Hill, our soil is rich and full of “rabbit organic material” or rabbit manure. The cucumber plants are thriving, producing an abundance of bright-green, long fruit. Cucumbers, just like Goldilocks, like things just right: a steady supply of water, good drainage, and heat.
Although we’ve enjoyed the cucumber variety Suyo Long for many seasons, this year I’m growing Shintokiwa, an open pollinated, long-fruited variety. My friend Deb calls these salad cucumbers, and got me the seed from Fedco. The sweet-flavored cucumber grows to be about 10 inches or more and is smooth skinned and slender. Perfect for cold soups and gazpacho, these cucumbers are delicious in salads like ripe tomato, red onion and feta.
Shintokiwa also make superb sliced Bread and Butter Pickles.
Bread and Butter pickles are a Maine staple, and every family has their favorite recipe. Tasty on sandwich, zingy in a sauce, or traditional Saturday night fare with baked beans, these pickles are always a hit. I perfected the recipe summers ago, and since then have made hundreds of jars.
One of the keys to a good bread and butter pickle is the size of the slice. Uniform slices of anything “pickle” or brine more evenly. I’ve found that food processors don’t work that well in slicing, they often mangle the fruit. We use a mandolin for the most perfect cuts.
Salting and icing the cucumber and onion prior to cooking them in the brine also helps to keep them crisp. It’s a fine line between a soggy pickle slice, and a firm-crisp bite.
For the novice canner and preservation artist, this is a good recipe to try. Feel free to be creative! The vegetable mix can be varied; strips of red pepper add a nice pop of color in the jar. An excellent resource is the University of Maine cooperative extension’s publication: https://extension.umaine.edu/publications/4078e/
Allow at least five weeks for your creation to pickle before sampling. And when the gales blow this winter, enjoy the rewards of a Maine summer.
BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLES
- 7– 8 pounds cucumbers (about 10 Suyo Long cukes), sliced into 3/16 inch rings
- 2– 3 pounds onions peeled and thinly sliced
- ½ cup pickling salt or sea salt
- Ice to cover the sliced cucumbers and onions
- 5 cups cider vinegar
- 3.75 cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons yellow mustard seed
- 3 tablespoons celery seed
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- Wash the cucumbers, slice into rings about 3/16 inches thick.
- Combine with the onions in a large bowl or pail. Add the salt and cover the top with ice. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.
- In a very large pot, combine the vinegar, sugar, herbs and spices. Bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.
- Drain the cucumbers and onions, and rinse. Add the vegetables to the brine mixture and reheat until the mixture boils again, stirring occasionally.
- Fill pint jars with the mixture, leaving ½ inch head-space, and fill to that level with the brine. Wipe jar rims. Add and tighten lids. The pickles may be stored in the refrigerator. To store in the pantry, process * the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.