While we still have a little sun left on the horizon, I got to share this recipe.
As you guys know, I am from Hungary. Memories of childhood left strong impressions on my mind, most of these impressions had to do with food… My grandparents were the chefs of the family, and every summer the kitchen was filled with work around the clock. Pickling and canning were not only hobbies but absolute necessities. I never forget how my seemingly frail grandmother in her 70’s and 80’s would carry 10-15 kilos of fruits and vegetables up to the 5th floor via the stairs because the elevator was broken Again. And these were not your short little stairs of the modern constructions; we lived in an old apartment house that used to be own as a single building of a very wealthy family back in the 19th century. As a result, the stairs were grandiose the ceilings very tall. Nowadays, of course, the building is broken into apartment units. The fifth floor is usually a nice elevation, away from the sounds of the city, except when the elevator was broken, and it seems more often than not during canning season the elevator was broken. If people complained it was out of the joy of comradely, I still hear the echoes of voices of neighbors up and down the spiral staircase “It’s broken Aunty Maria, no use pressing the button. Can I help you carry the groceries.” Aunty Maria is how my grandma was addressed by most in the building, she always had the same answer; “Thank you sweetheart, but my kind never shied away from little hard labor, I am just fine thank you.” This of course was followed by a staged “fight” over why not let me help you, then an invitation for a coffee. Wow, as I am writing these words I realize how much more patient and formal relationships used to be, we also had more time… time to just sit and talk to a neighbor and possible help with pickling.
So why don’t I tell you about the art of BRINING! This is a little-known art in the United States; I honestly don’t know why. But Eastern Europe prefers to brine cucumbers. I do believe it is tastier and not just because I am totally biased, which of course I am. It is better because brining involves fermentation, thus creating a dish full of healthy probiotics!
Albert guarding the brining process!
It is super simple.
2 slices of dry sourdough bread
Wash the cucumbers well, then slice into them on each end to allow the fermentation to reach into the cucumber. Place a slice of dried up old sourdough on the bottom of a well-washed glassed jar. Then add half of the garlic and dill. On top of the bread, garlic and dill place the cucumbers, standing up like soldiers. On top of the cucumbers add the rest of the garlic and dill, finish up your jar by adding one more slice of dried up sourdough bread. Then take warm water with plenty of salt. It should taste like light sea water. Cover the jar with either cheesecloth or simply place a tea saucer on top. Place the jar on warm sun for anywhere between 3-5 days. You want to have your cucumbers nice and crunchy, so make sure to monitor the fermentation process, don’t let it over-ferment.
The yeast from the bread is going to start the fermenting the cucumbers; it is important to not lock the top of the jar airtight since fermentation produces gases that will need to escape.
Once the cucumbers are well-fermented transfer everything but the bread into a new clean jar and place in refrigerator. (toss the bread out, it did its job. By the way, you can use fresh bread, but using old hard bread was the way grandma made sure that we did not toss out food. Oh and make sure to get a good sourdough, not a presliced over preserved wonder bread…)
Make sure to keep the wonderful salty brine water, store the cucumbers in the brine, it is a natural preservative, and it is also an amazing probiotic drink, perfect after a long run!