Tag Archives: cucumbers

Pickling with Mrs Beeton

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Have a lot of cucumbers that you don’t have any idea what to do with? There is a fermentation revolution washing over the culinary world, with its kimchis, sauerkrauts, and the like.  Fermentation, or the act of preserving foods, has been around thousands of years.  If you’ve ever wanted to try to pickle something, how about trying out a few of Mrs. Beeton’s recipes for cucumbers.

PICKLED CUCUMBERS.
399. INGREDIENTS.—1 oz. of whole pepper, 1 oz. of bruised ginger; sufficient
vinegar to cover the cucumbers.

Mode.—Cut the cucumbers in thick slices, sprinkle salt over them, and let them
remain for 24 hours. The next day, drain them well for 6 hours, put them into a jar, pour boiling vinegar over them, and keep them in a warm place. In a short time, boil up the vinegar again, add pepper and ginger in the above proportion, and instantly cover them up. Tie them down with bladder, and in a few days they will be fit for use.

GERMAN METHOD OF KEEPING CUCUMBERS FOR WINTER USE.
402. INGREDIENTS.—Cucumbers, salt.

Mode.—Pare and slice the cucumbers (as for the table), sprinkle well with salt, and let them remain for 24 hours; strain off the liquor, pack in jars, a thick layer of cucumbers and salt alternately; tie down closely, and, when wanted for use, take out the quantity required. Now wash them well in fresh water, and dress as usual with pepper, vinegar, and oil.

Or how about making a vinegar with them?

CUCUMBER VINEGAR (a very nice Addition to Salads).
401. INGREDIENTS.—10 large cucumbers, or 12 smaller ones, 1 quart of vinegar, 2 onions, 2 shalots, 1 tablespoonful of salt, 2 tablespoonfuls of pepper, 1/4 teaspoonful of cayenne.

Mode.—Pare and slice the cucumbers, put them in a stone jar or wide-mouthed bottle, with the vinegar; slice the onions and shalots, and add them, with all the other ingredients, to the cucumbers. Let it stand 4 or 5 days, boil it all up, and when cold, strain the liquor through a piece of muslin, and store it away in small bottles well sealed. This vinegar is a very nice addition to gravies, hashes, &e., as well as a great improvement to salads, or to eat with cold meat.

A Sallet of all Kinds of Hearbes and Cucumbers

A Sallet of all Kinds of Hearbes and Cucumbers
From Thomas Dawson, The good huswifes Jewell, 1587.

Take your hearbes and picke them very fine into faire water, and wash them all clean, and swing them in a strainer, and when you put them in a dish, mingle them with Cowcumbers or Lemmans payred and sliced, and scrape Sugar, and put in Vinegar and Oyle and hard Egges boyled and laid about the dish and upon the Sallet.

For the dressing:

1 tbsp sugar, either white or brown
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Mix together in a bowl and set aside.

For the salad:

1 package, mixed salad greens
1 bunch flat-leafed parsley, stemmed
1 bunch fresh basil, stemmed
1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
1 bunch fresh tarragon, stemmed
3 tbsp fresh chervil leaves
1 medium-sized cucumber, peeled and sliced coarsely
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut into wedges.

Wash all greens and herbs. Place into a medium sized muslin draw-string bag and spin the bag until most of the moisture has been removed. [This is an early form of a salad spinner.] Place the greens in a salad bowl and add the cucumbers. Pour on the dressing and toss to mix. Just before serving, add the hard boiled egg wedges decoratively on top and serve it forth.

Notes:

Olive oil: I just used regular, but any kind you like on a salad would be fine.  The recipe said only oil, not even olive oil, but I used my preference of olive oil.  I suppose that sesame or almond oil could be okay also, but I don’t think of those as salad oils.  The vagueness of this recipe I find challenging and exciting.  I could make it so many different ways and, as long as I use period ingredients known to that country and era, I am within the parameters of the recipe.
 
Sugar: Again, whatever you prefer.  I used regular white sugar, but I thought that a light or golden brown sugar would be fine also. Elizabethans had both.  I suppose that raw sugar could be used if you don’t mind the added expense.  All have slightly different tastes, but all are within period usage.
 
Flat-leaf parsley is also called Italian parsley.

Cucumber: A personal choice, whatever you have or like.  I would assume that English would be closer to what Thomas Dawson used, but hot house would be fine also.  Just consider the size of the cucumber and make adjustments.

Tarragon: with no measurements, it is a personal choice.  You could leave this out and still be fine.  I checked other recipes in the book and picked herbs that were used fresh.

Eggs: I used AA large.  It is mostly for decoration.  From discussions that I have read, period eggs were smaller than ours are, but then whatever you like is fine.

I picked this recipe because of it is so non-specific.  It does not even tell you what herbs to use.  To me this is a kind of a “what’s fresh and what do I want to do with this?” kind of recipe.  You can make it in hundreds of different ways and keep coming up with different mixes and flavors.  The last time I served it, I used the Moroccan Preserved Lemon, but most people didn’t like it.  It is expensive to buy, so I left it out of this recipe, but YMMV.  I know very few modern people who would eat fresh lemons sliced in a salad. Meyer Lemons, which are modern, and the sweet lemon was not known in Europe, although India and China knew of it.  This is one of the few specifics mentioned, but it is cucumbers OR lemons. For me cucumbers won out.