Pickles for Ann

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by Wynnie Stein  

Planting time in the Finger Lakes comes on sudden and fast, often in mid-May, after only about a week of true spring and weeks and weeks of rain. Finally the sun dries up our muddy garden plots and blasts us out of our winter weariness. Then the vegetable gardeners (me included) go completely wild. We do not know what to do first. After the long and dark winter in upstate New York the tardy spring invites us to emerge from some deep hole into the light, so armed with shovels and rakes, we stumble out to our gardens, kneel down and finally breathe.

I love to sit in the middle of my garden on one of those amazingly fine late spring mornings, and with seed packets spread out in front of me I spin around squinting and scoping out the best plan for the kitchen garden. I am naturally impatient, but gardening forces me to slow down and practice some discipline. Every year I have the same realization—that doing this feels right and familiar. So I give a nod to my peasant roots usually while measuring out the spacing of rows using my size 10 feet.

This year I remind myself to plant cucumbers again. The year before, my friend of almost thirty years was quickly and shockingly passing away and she had asked me to plant them for her. Choking with sadness, I planted three or four hills and not even one plant came. Was it a sign? A few weeks later I replanted the hills and no plants ever emerged. Could sadness permeate seeds?

A new year, I plant them again. In fits and starts the sadness and grief have moved aside to let in vivid recollections of her booming laugh and kookiness. 

The cucumber plants are strong and meandering and before I can even plan what to do with them there are at least 30 to 40 cucumbers lazing about on the straw mulch.

I’ll make pickles!

 

Quick Cucumber Pickle
Author: 
Recipe type: Accompaniment
 
These delicious pickles are a snap to throw together, and the flavor improves if you let them sit in the refrigerator overnight. We use English cucumbers for this recipe: They are available in markets almost year-round and are fresh-tasting, thin-skinned, and seedless—good character traits for making yummy pickles. If you have kirby cucumbers in your garden, they will also work wonderfully. Just pick enough to make 8 cups of sliced cucumbers. Be careful to slice off and discard the blossom end of the cucumbers; they can make pickles soggy. Yields 8 cups
Ingredients
  • 3 twelve-inch English cucumbers
  • 1 medium onion, cut into quarters and thinly sliced crosswise
  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh dill sprigs
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups distilled white or rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • ½ teaspoon ground mustard
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1½ tablespoons salt, preferably coarse Kosher salt
  • ½ cup sugar
Instructions
  1. Cut the unpeeled cucumbers crosswise into ¼-inch slices and place them in a large heatproof bowl along with the sliced onions, dill, and garlic.
  2. Place the vinegar, coriander, mustard, peppercorns, bay leaves, salt, and sugar in a nonreactive saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve.
  4. Pour the hot mixture over the vegetables in the bowl and mix gently.
  5. Let stand for at least 1 hour or refrigerate overnight for optimal flavor.
  6. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Notes

The cucumber pickles will keep pickling in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.