Alright, raise your hand if you read that and then involuntarily followed it up with, “Fa-lalalaLA-lala-la-LA!”
‘Tis the season for excess produce, and that’s something to falalalala about if I ever heard one. Back home they tell people to lock their car doors, not because they were afraid of someone stealing, but there loomed the threat of overwhelmed gardeners dumping grocery bags full of cucumbers and zucchinis in unlocked vehicles. It was like farming graffiti, or a drive-by-vegging.
We always get so excited to see our plants produce their first gaudy blossom, and eat the first cucumber (probably picked at half the size it should be) in the backyard, savoring the honest-to-goodness cuke flavor store bought veggies just don’t have. Then, just a few busy weeks later, the thought of eating another cucumber is enough to drive normally responsible adults into random and often quite creative acts of cucumber dispersal. Cucumbers stuffed into an unwitting dog’s house? It happens, and it’s not a good thing.
Canning seems to be an acceptable answer for most and making pickles and relishes to last the year takes up a good half of the crop, while every salad – both green and pasta style – is lavishly adorned with cucumber slices and chunks. Alex and I have had the luxury this year of ‘novelty’ cucumbers. They’re lovely plants and they produce handsome little gerkins one at a time that we end up eating en route to the kitchen. It often doesn’t play out this way for gardeners, however.
I went to see a friend the other day who has a hearty, well-tended garden and not two minutes into the conversation she offered me some cucumbers.
“I just don’t know what to do with them! I’ve canned all I need and they’re coming on so fast…” She sounded a little bit desperate, her eyes were wide and her hands were stretched out as she implored me. “Take Some. Please.”
And that’s how I ended up with my own personal shopping bag full of garden-fresh cucumbers.
I decided to make refrigerator pickles. I can’t honestly say I even really knew what they were before I did a little research, but they seemed simple enough and perfectly answered my need for cucumber preservation without a canner. I found a rather basic formula and made up a recipe for refrigerator pickles that came out wicked tasty and different from anything I’ve ever had.
Lavender and Black Pepper Pickles
1/12 cup white distilled vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons salt
2 cups hot water
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns
5-6 small springs of fresh lavender
4-5 medium sized cucumbers
The pickle scene needs some new blood, I couldn’t find a recipe for pickles that didn’t have dill in it, surprisingly enough, and I like to think outside the box. This is definitely outside the box. The finished pickles have a deep, herbal, garlicky taste with a smarting of pepper. Delicious.
This recipe makes one quart of pickles, so the number of cucumbers you need will vary depending on how big they are. Wash the cucumbers then slice them. I like a heartier pickle, so I sliced mine on the hefty side. Set the slices aside. Heat 2 cups of water to just under boiling. Next add the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper corns and stir it well until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Let the liquid cool down to about room temperature before adding the cucumber slices, lavender and minced garlic. Stir everything together and then use a plate to weight the cukes down in the brine. Cover, then put the whole bowl in the fridge overnight.
The next day, you’re ready to “can” them up. I used a sterilized quart canning jar, but I suppose you could ‘recycle’ any adequately sized glass jar with a tight lid. Fish the pickles out of the brine and put them in the jar, then fill the jar with brine. Cap them and they’re done. These keep in the fridge for up to a month.