Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad


Many of us have foods associated with happy childhood memories, things that we still enjoy today. I love when I get asked to recreate something that Mom used to make – even though it’s not always easy. She had very little written down by way of recipes – this… I now understand. When you make something over and over you no longer require it on paper, to consult a measurement or check an ingredient. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think generations past usually cooked by sight, feel and memory.

When my niece Jen asked for her Babcia’s – Polish for Grandmother’s – recipe for creamed carrots, I thought… sure. No problem. After all the years working with chefs, I proofread a lot of recipes. Some, I had to fashion, literally, from notes written on scraps of paper. No easy feat… especially considering they had been requested by hotel guests, had to make sense and be suitable for the home cook. So… hands on keyboard, starting from the very beginning…. I was quite surprised, with how long it took. The end result – well worth it!! I’ve since ‘penned’ the recipe for Babcia’s Barszcz/Borscht, which had been requested by my niece Steph. I’m sensing a lovely project here…..

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the easy ones, dishes so uncomplicated and fast to put together – yet still as delicious. Mom used to make this fantastic salad with cucumbers straight from our garden; sweet, sour, crunchy, refreshing…. I still love it. Still make it, especially if I’m visiting my brother Ed. It’s still one of his faves and he will eat it as a side to ….. well… almost anything, especially Polish food!

After seeing it made all those years, I had a fair idea of how to recreate it. The ingredients, how to put it together… and most importantly, how it tastes in the end. I now make it year round, and use English cucumbers – it solves the problem of the pesky seeds.

Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad

If you don’t have a mandoline, use a very sharp knife. Whether you peel the cucumbers or not is matter of preference. With English cucumbers the skins are usually very thin and with garden cucumbers, the skin may be a lot thicker. Serve as a refreshing starter or side; they’re also a delicious as part of a sandwich or burger. This gets better as it sits – so if you can, make it at least a few hours ahead. Like all recipes, after you’ve made these once, you can alter the amount of ingredients to make them either more sweet or more tart.

Ingredients:
1 English or 2 garden cucumbers, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup mild vinegar: rice wine, white wine, etc
salt, large pinch

Preparation:
Using either a mandoline or very sharp knife, slice the cucumbers into very thin rounds and place in a medium sized bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper; set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and vinegar; swirl the pan over medium low heat, just until the sugar dissolves.
Drain the water that’s collected from the cucumbers and add the warm sugar/vinegar mixture; don’t worry that it doesn’t look like much syrup – when the water drains from the cucumbers and combines with the syrup, there will be more than enough.
Stir to combine and place bowl in fridge; stir every half hour or so, for a couple hours.
Transfer to glass container, cover and store in fridge.
Depending on how you’re serving them, you may want to drain some of the liquid.