One of my favorite things of summer is fresh cucumbers right out of the garden. My plants have finally started yielding their produce, and I am thoroughly enjoying the bounty.
For the past several years, I have planted the pickling cucumber variety instead of their longer cousins. I love the flavor; to me, they are a little sweeter than the others. A few years ago, when my granddaughter Vivian was staying with me for a couple of days, she was reluctant to eat a slice of the cucumber her Grammie claimed to be so tasty. I told her it was “garden candy.” Once Vivian took a bite, she declared ownership of what was left in the bowl. She has referred to my cucumbers as garden candy ever since.
When I was trying to think of a story that went along with cucumbers, I included pickles in my thought process. I remembered a riddle told by my dad’s brother Bill: “ What’s green, has bumps, and little red wheels?” We never could come up with an answer for him. It’s no wonder, for his answer went like this: “A pickle. I lied about the wheels!”
Uncle Bill was quite a tease. He loved to show my sisters and me a certain key on his keyring, informing us that it was a “bellybutton key.” “If I use it on you,” he declared, “I can unlock your bellybutton and let your legs fall off.” Our reaction was one he quite expected; we screamed and ran away while he stood there laughing.
If our telephone rang and one of the girls answered it, Uncle Bill would almost always ask if we were having worms for dinner. I don’t know why he did that, other than the fact that we were horrified at the idea of eating them. In my head, I still associate those phone calls with a mind picture of a pile of worms wriggling around in a can.
Uncle Bill worked for the telephone company. When I was still in grade school, he transferred from Tennessee to Georgia, moving to a suburb of Atlanta. Some of our family vacations were spent traveling to see him and his family. A trip there often included a visit to Six Flags Over Georgia, which was an amusement park.
One year, just before a journey to Atlanta, my mother sewed matching shorts outfits for each of her six children. She also made shirts for herself and my dad out of the same material. They had a dark blue background, which was sprinkled with little red and blue stars. I think part of the reasoning was that if one of us got lost at Six Flags, it might be easier to find other family members because we were dressed alike.
I’ll never forget the rest of the story. When Mom was doing laundry after our trip, she accidentally put bleach in the washer with those shorts outfits. The stars stayed the same color, but the blue faded to an interesting gray. Ugly or not, we still had to wear the outfits for what remained of that summer.
Now that my story has vined out far past the cucumbers that started it all, I am going to go back and provide recipes that include them. The pickle recipe makes use of those great big giants that appear on the plants if they get overlooked for a few days.
Turkey Pockets Al Greco
1 pound ground turkey
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup onion, chopped; divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 pita pockets
4 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 cup seeded and chopped tomato
1 cup seeded and sliced cucumber
2 ounces feta cheese
Over medium-high heat, sauté ground turkey in a lightly oiled skillet with 1/2 cup chopped onions, and chopped garlic clove until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in dried parsley and oregano. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spoon the meat mixture into each pita pocket. Add 1/2 tablespoon yogurt. Top with remaining chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, thinly sliced cucumber, and feta cheese.
Makes 8 servings.
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/4 cup chopped green onions (may use 1 teaspoon onion powder instead)
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
22 white or wheat bread slices (see note)
Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Stir in bell pepper and next 6 ingredients. Spread on half of bread slices; cover with remaining bread slices.
Trim crusts from sandwiches. Cut sandwiches into fourths. Serve immediately, or store, covered with damp paper towels, in an airtight container in refrigerator. Yield: 44 sandwiches.
Note: also makes a good cracker spread.
6-8 biggest, ugliest cucumbers
1 cup pickling lime
4-1/4 quarts cold water
Peel cucumbers; cut into 1-inch chunks. Add cucumbers to crock. Sprinkle lime over cucumbers. Add water; let sit overnight.
Drain; rinse well. Cover with clear water; let stand for 3 hours
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons alum
1-1/2 teaspoons food coloring (red or green)
1/4 cup water
(If you are making two colors of pickles at the same time, divide cucumbers evenly between 2 crocks or very large glass bowls. You will have to process each color individually from this point.) Simmer to boiling and pour over cucumbers. Add enough hot water to cover. Let stand for 3 hours.
Drain and discard liquid.
Bring to boil
6-1/2 cups sugar
2 cups clear vinegar
2 cups water
* for green pickles: 4 sticks cinnamon, 8 whole cloves, 8 whole allspice
* for red pickles: 4 ounces red hot candies (can add stick cinnamon if desired)
Pour over cucumbers Let stand for 24 hours.
Day 2 Pour off again; RESERVING liquid. Bring liquid to boil and pour back over cucumbers
Day 3 Pour off again; RESERVING liquid. Bring to boil and pour liquid into sterilized, cucumber-filled jars. Seal jars and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.