What We’re Cooking With Now: Cucumber
Looking for adventure in the kitchen? Our monthly What We're Cooking with Now post features a fresh produce ingredient, explains how to find the market's finest, and includes a recipe to try at home.
Why: Cucumbers are 95% water, making them a great vegetable to help you stay hydrated. Packed with vitamins and minerals, just one unpeeled raw cucumber contains 62% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K, and is also very high in vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, manganese and antioxidants. They are very low in calories and with such a high water content and 0 fat, cucumbers are a very healthy snack for anyone who is dieting or wants to live a healthy lifestyle.
Shopping Tip: Seedless cucumbers, also known as hothouse or English cucumbers were bred to have thinner outer skin, smaller seeds, and less of a bitter taste. English cucumbers are typically sealed in plastic to help keep them fresh for longer. If buying English cucumbers, it is important to feel the cucumber to make sure it is not rubbery or soggy feeling. It can be hard to visually tell if they are fresh because the plastic keeps the skin from appearing spoiled. They should feel firm and solid. They can last up to a week in the fridge while wrapped. Once cut, or unwrapped, the shelf life degrades much faster.
Traditional, slicing cucumbers are thicker, darker green, and have a thicker, waxier skin and are typically not wrapped in plastic. Pickling cucumbers are smaller, thinner, and tend to be drier inside.
Preparation: It’s best to eat cucumber unpeeled, with the skin on. Peeling them reduces the amount of healthy fiber and healthy vitamins and minerals. English cucumbers are easier to eat whole, as the seeds are easily digestible and should not be peeled, but it is important to rinse them well to remove any dirt from the skin. Traditional or slicing cucumbers tend to be more bitter. You can cut them lengthwise to scrape the seeds out with a melon baller if you do not like the bitter taste. One way to eat and preserve traditional cucumbers is to slice them into discs or cut them into spears and pickle them.
To quickly make pickles, slice the cucumbers first before putting them in the pickling liquid rather than pickling them whole.
Recipe: Mustard Dill Pickles
1 bay leaf
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of salt
Wash the cucumbers well, and slice half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds with a spoon or melon baller, and then cut lengthwise once more to make long spears. Cut the spears into approx. 4” pieces, or small enough to fit inside the jar you intend to store them in. Place the cucumbers and onions into clean, sterilized jars in equal amounts.
Bring the rest of the pickling liquid ingredients to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly then pour into the jars until the cucumbers are covered. Cover them tightly with a lid and let them cool in the refrigerator. Keep them sealed for 3 days, or longer, to make a very flavorful pickle.
Optional: 1/4c white sugar, to make them more sweet. 2 tablespoons of red chili flakes to make them more spicy.