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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cucumbers, Cucumbers, and parties with Cucumbers...

the cucumber salad....yum.
Sorry for my lack of posting. It’s been a busy week here. There’s been a lovely party for Mama Jack’s 70th birthday, Mike’s brother and his adorable family visiting, a family reunion, and prepping my craft fair display just to name a few activities…

As in the South, no party gets done without some yummy home-cooked tureens and with the wealth of cucumbers in my garden, I had no shortage of fresh produce with which to create some good ol’ homemade foods. For the birthday party, I made cucumber sandwiches (oops, forgot pics!), the reunion, cucumber salad. Here are my two lovely cucumber recipes to share that are delicious…

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

2 bars Neufchatel cream cheese at room temperature (it’s the 1/3 less fat kind)
2-3 T. fresh dill chopped or
1 T. dried dill weed
1-2 T. grated onion (depending on taste)
2 dashes cayenne pepper hot sauce (texas pete's, tabasco or the like)
Several T. of light mayo if spread seems stiff (optional)
Several turns of fresh ground black pepper
2-3 large cucumbers, washed, and thinly sliced (as thin as you can slice them)
2 loaves white bread, pumpernickel, party bread, or bread of choosing

REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT: It’s a pain but after you slice your cucumbers, you should always layer them in a colander and salt each layer. Cover with a clean tea towel and set colander in a larger bowl and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or overnight. Salting the cucumbers and letting them drain allows them to release their water content and enables them to be more crispy and crunchy. After removing from the fridge, press the cucumbers with a clean tea towel or several layers of paper towel through the colander, letting the water drip into the bowl. Toss and press and drain again. Repeat until cucumbers seem much drier and most water seems to be removed.

Fold cream cheese, dill, grated onion, hot sauce, and pepper together. Do not salt spread as cucumbers have already been salted. Add several tablespoons of light mayo if spread seems thick.

For sandwiches, spread both sides of bread lightly with cream cheese spread, layer some cucumbers , sandwich together and cut off crusts and cut diagonally. For party breads, spread cream cheese mixture on one side, place 1-2 cucumbers and serve open-faced. Garnish open-faced sandwiches with a bit more fresh dill or thin-sliced roma tomatoes.

Delicious Fresh Cucumber Salad

2 cucumbers, washed and thinly sliced
½ large onion, thinly sliced
2/3 c. light sour cream
2-3 T. fresh dill, chopped, plus sprigs for garnish
Fresh ground pepper
2-3 T. apple cider vinegar or juice of 1 lemon (I prefer the vinegar taste but lemon will do as well)
1 ripe tomato, halved and sliced

Salt and drain cucumbers as mentioned in above recipe. Salad will be runny and watery if this step is omitted.

Mix sour cream, onion, dill, pepper, and vinegar. Refrigerate while cucumbers are working. Press and drain cucumbers. Fold together with dressing. Garnish with fresh tomato and dill sprigs. Some tomato may also be folded into salad for variation.

As for my sun pickles? They were okay. The recipe worked but I didn’t really care for it. It seemed a bit salty (this from a girl who likes her salt) and they weren’t very crisp. This could have to do with the size of my cucumbers. I added alum, which the recipe noted would keep them crispier, but they were still a bit mushy. I don’t think I will be pickling any cucumbers as mine seemed to grow 4 times overnight, I think it’s due to all our rain. I am go to try my hand at dehydrating some. I’ve heard that they make great chips for dip and are great in soup this way. I’m thinking you could grind them after and the powder to a cream cheese dip for veggies. Hmmmm. I’ll let you know.

Since I planted all heirloom organic cucumbers, I’m going to try my hand at saving the seeds as well. Wish me luck!

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