Listen here to the This Is Yu Podcast Episode #6 where I mentioned that Pickled Cucumbers hold a special place in our family food memories.
The recipe has been passed on through generations. In the photo above Dara is making her version of Pickled Cucumbers, Carrots, and Radishes on MasterChef Jr.
When I was growing up in South Bend, Indiana, my father was at times the chairman of the mathematics department at the University of Notre Dame. That gave my mom the opportunity to shine her culinary skills with frequent dinner parties. She kept a notebook in which she wrote the date, occasion, menus, and attendees for each event. The common denominator for every single event was always her special recipe for pickled cucumbers!
My two younger sisters and I still to this day laugh about how this has become the “family recipe.” Even though I’ve had it about a thousand times, I still love the crisp, sour taste of these fresh crunchy cucumbers.
I’ve never been one for super sour foods. With the addition of a small amount of sugar, these pickles take on the typical sweet and sour taste that many people crave in Asian food. Of course, if you love to pucker, you can add more vinegar. Or if you want to tingle your tongue with a sweeter cuke add some more sugar.
Preparing the Cucumbers
I’ve had a lot of pickled cucumbers at Asian restaurants. They are typically mandolined into thin slices, or cut into finger sized pieces. But, my mom’s entire cutting method is shown step by step in the above photo. Her method provides additional surface area so that the vinegar infuses into more places in each piece. This makes for a delicious puckery slice of freshness!
Cut the ends off the cucumber and rub one piece against the end of the cucumber until a white foamy substance stops being released from the cucumber. I aways thought this was an unnecessary part of the recipe, but it really helps the cucumbers to be less bitter!
Next peel the cucumbers alternating peeled and unpeeled sections so the cucumbers look like zebra stripes. See the second cucumber from the top in the photo above. If you prefer to not have any dark green, you can peel the entire cucumber. This will create a more tender pickled cucumber. But, truthfully, I love the visual appeal of the zebra striped cuke!
The Special Cutting Method
After cutting the cucumbers in half lengthwise, take a spoon and scoop out the seeds. Cut the halves lengthwise again into quarters.
Next is the “fancy-schmancy” cut that my mom taught me. Cut the quarters through with small 1/8″ cuts, leaving 1/4″ along one edge. Make sure that all the pieces remain attached to the cucumber. After making all the cuts along an entire quarter of the cucumber, cut it into 1″ chunks.
Then, place the chunks into a colander and salt the pieces. Leave to sit for thirty minutes. The salt helps to pull the moisture out of the vegetables and makes them crisper.
After the veggie prep, heat the sesame oil in a small pot with the ginger root over low heat. Add the vinegar, water and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Then take the pot off the heat and let the liquid cool down. Test it for sweetness or acidity and adjust with additional sugar, or vinegar as suits your taste.
The Final Step
Finally, squeeze the excess liquid from the cucumbers, and drain. Put the cucumbers in a storage container. Pour the dressing over the cucumber, and allow them to cool completely.
Cover and refrigerate. They’re best eaten after a day. This allows the juicy vinegar to soak in. It will make those delicious, refreshing, crunchy, pickled cucumbers come alive! You can keep these for up to four days in the fridge. ENJOY!!
- 3 Cucumbers medium to large
- 1 ½ tsp Salt
- Peel the cucumber leaving strips of green on for color.
- Cut the ends of the cucumber off and rub one piece against each end of the cucumber. Rubbing that sliced end against the cucumber will release a white, foamy substance, which contains an organic compound called cucurbitacin. This is the cause of the bitterness in cucumbers. Keep rubbing till it stops producing foam.
- Cut the cucumber lengthwise into quarters.
- Use a spoon to deseed the cucumbers.
- Cut into the quarters making slits every ⅛" leaving ¼" along one long edge, so that all pieces remain attached to the cucumber. (See Photos.)
- Cut the cucumber into 1" chunks.
- Salt the cucumber chunks, and let stand for 30 minutes in the colander.
- Heat the sesame oil in a small pot with ginger root over low heat.
- Add the vinegar, water, and sugar.
- Stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Take off the heat and cool. Test for sweetness, or acidity. Adjust to taste.
Pickling the Cucumbers
- Squeeze the excess liquid from the cucumber, and drain.
- Put cucumber in storage container.
- Pour the dressing over the cucumber, and allow to cool completely.
- Cover and refrigerate.
- Best eaten after one day in the refrigerator. It will keep up to four days.