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pickle me this: crispy cukes from the freezer!

August 16, 2011

Growing up with Danish moms, there are a few things EJ and I have in common that are decidedly not common. You are not done setting the table for certain meals, for example, unless you’ve set out a bowl of pickled beets and one containing cucumber salad. While we are huge fans of mom’s pickled beets (their magenta-goodness is so alluring we tackled pickling last year for the first time just to make sure we had an ample supply for the winter), we both turned our noses up at the cucumbers. My irrational dislike of the cucumber salad (or “agurkesalat” in Danish) is legendary, though to be honest, I can’t recall ever actually trying it. There are a couple things we’ve learned as we’ve embarked on making more of our food from scratch, however. More often than not, we end up liking dishes we previously scorned. Such was the case a few weekends ago when we came into a bountiful number of cucumbers. While we typically prefer our cukes floating in Pimm’s & ginger ale, we realized even we couldn’t consume the entire batch in cocktails. As we’re traveling to visit my parents in a few weeks, I called mom to see if she had any requests for the cucumbers. Imagine my surprise when she said we should try the cucumber salad, especially because it freezes beautifully. As this is the summer of saying yes to as many variations of putting food up for the winter months as we can try, we gave it a go.

Her version of the recipe is ridiculously easy and scalable: sliced cucumbers plus enough of a one part vinegar / one part sugar mixture to cover them. The key, she said, is making sure you get the slices as thin as you can. As neither of us has the knife skills to do this by hand like she does, I pulled out the mandolin and reduced the mound of cucumbers to a bright pile of papery white disks. The corresponding vat of the vinegar/sugar mixture was poured over the top, and then it was all dutifully portioned it into smaller freezer containers earmarked for mom. After the bulk of the batch went into the freezer, there was a small bowl left over. Nothing to do now but try it. Eyes locked, we each bit into a fork-full of the delicate slices. And what do you know? We liked it! The flavor was crisp and clean, neither too vinegar-ie nor too sweet. We especially liked the crunch (but truth be told, we were sure that would disappear after they’d been soaking for any length of time or had been in the freezer. We should have trusted mom. We took one of the containers out of the freezer last week to bring to a dinner party. Still crispy, it was a huge hit.). If you want to give this a try, I can report that it’s a great last minute addition to any meal. Unlike many other cucumber based sensations, this one doesn’t have to sit around and soak for it to reach full potential. A lifetime of watching mom make it in the hour before it was set out on the table tells me it’s a perfect last minute addition to most any meal.

Grete’s Cucumber Salad (Agurkesalat)

1 cucumber, sliced paper thin

1/3 C vinegar

1/3 C sugar

Mix vinegar & sugar until all the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the sliced cucumbers and let sit for about a half hour before serving. [Keeps in the fridge for a week or so, and freezes well for consumption at a much later date]

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