The end of July brings the first harvest of goodness from the garden — one of the bounties being the cucumber. But what to do when you can’t consume it all within its peak of freshness? That’s where pickling comes in, and the best part is if you grow the cucumbers yourself, you can ensure that your veggies got the organic treatment. (We’ll get back to that in a minute.)
What are the effects of commercially grown vegetables? Conventional farming methods use toxic chemicals and the residue can remain in the soil, leaching into groundwater, and often end up on skin or become internal constituents of commercially grown food. Reasons that organically grown foods are better for the environment include:
- absence of dangerous synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers
- improves soil quality
- conserves and keeps up with water quality
- helps combat soil erosion
- fights the effect of global warming
- food tastes better
So now that you know the benefits of organic farming, here’s an easy recipe for ice box pickles.* No canning is needed**, and the best part is you can use a reusable glass jar for the container (see example). Note: cucumbers are used, but any organic vegetables can be used — even watermelon rinds. Try sticking with items that have a crunch to them over ones that will turn mushy.
If homegrown cucumbers are not an option, buy organic ones at a local farmer’s market or food co-op — many chain stores may have some. Some cukes often have an edible wax coating to help retain moisture and give them a glossy sheen. Look for cucumbers with dull skin (this means no wax and the pickling juices will absorb better).
If using homegrown, pick them in the morning for better flavor. Avoid ones with mold, insect damage, blemishes, and soft spots. Plan to pickle within a couple days after harvest.
Makes: 1 quart
6 medium-sized cucumbers (seedless or small seed cucumbers work and taste best)
1/2 jalapeno, sliced
1/4 small red onion, sliced
1 cup water
1 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon dill pollen (optional)
Thoroughly wash cucumbers, onion, and jalapeno pepper. Depending on the size of the jar and size of the pickles you want, you can leave the cucumbers whole or slice them into spears.
In a medium saucepan, combine all brine ingredients in a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar and salt have dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. (If the brine is too hot when added to the vegetables, it will “cook” them and they won’t be as crunchy.)
Assemble cucumbers, onion, and jalapeno in jar (artfully if you’d like).
Using a sieve to catch the garlic and spices, pour brine through sieve into jar, covering the cucumbers.
Pickles should be ready overnight and will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
*Taste brine before adding to vegetables and adjust as needed. Some people prefer a sweeter brine and some prefer a saltier brine.
**This recipe can also be used for canning.