Here it is once again, my friends. Creeping up on one of my favorite times of the year, when the temps get warm enough to start thinking about putting plants in the earth.
Getting my hands dirty is one of the most satisfying things you can possibly do. I come from a long line of gardening gentlemen on both sides of my family. When I was a kid growing up, I never fully appreciated the gift of fresh from the garden food. It doesn’t taste the same as store bought food.
So I am challenging you, friend, to take up the task and feed yourself!
If you think you have a black thumb, stop. The Gentleman Caller is here to offer you some tips and insights to make your experience easy and efficient.
Today I offer my cucumber trellis.
The cucumber trellis is a simple lean-to structure. You can affix it to a fence, outdoor building, garage, any structure with some integrity. It will allow your cukes to grow upward rather than spread on the ground. This makes harvesting easier, and will likely give you an increase in your yield.
I used a wooden fence. Watch the YouTube video for full instructions.
Hey, friends. It’s me, The Gentleman Caller. Welcome to my first outing. Happy Independence Day!
It’s summer. It’s July. It’s hot. It’s my favorite time of year. You can wear a tank top anywhere except church. Amen to that.
So I was sauntering through Manhattan’s Upper West Side last Sunday before my matinee at Trip of Love, and wandered among the farm stalls. Now believe it or not, Jersey makes beautiful summer produce despite its reputation for murder and Snooki. I found some astonishingly beautiful Kirby cukes and decided it was time to go Granny-style with some canning.
My Granny, Mrs. Mary Leah Stanton Miller, has an unrivaled pickle recipe. Sweet, salty, spicy… we waited eagerly for a jar of Granny’s crispy cukes every year. One time my sister, Katie, ate a whole quart jar in one sitting. Oy — that makes my guts churn.
So it’s just me here, and I don’t have bushels of cucumbers coming out of a garden (not this summer at least), so I modified Granny’s recipe to serve my needs. Smaller recipe. I also added some more exotic spices for fun and sliced the cukes for easier use later. Granny always does them whole, but then you end up cutting them once they’ve brined. Saving a step…
Go wash your hands and let’s do this.
What you’ll need:
2 pint jars with rings and lids, clean
1 pint of water (Granny likes well water, as in water from a well. If you are in Manhattan and have access to that, you send me a text right now.)
½ pint of vinegar (Granny likes 7% acidity, but really that’s for cleaning toilets; 5% is fine.)
¾ cup white sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon brining spice (You can find this or assemble your own. If making your own, assemble things you like: a whisper of cinnamon bark, peppercorns, coriander, fennel seed, dill seed, bay leaf – all whole.)
5 decent size Kirby cucumbers
4 large garlic cloves
1/8 of a red onion
Put a pot on the stove full of water – it should be at least 7 inches deep. 8 is better. Put your jars, lids and rings in the pot (disassembled, of course). Let her rip. Bring to a boil and let it boil as you do some prep work.
Do you have a mandolin? Good. Put it on the curvy blade. Set the depth to a quarter of an inch. Slice up your cucumbers carefully. Every time I use a mandolin in front of someone, they’re like, “Don’t cut your fingers!” No shit? Be careful though. You can also just use a knife. The world won’t end; they just won’t have that fun wavy texture.
Slice your garlic cloves in half. You will want to see them in the sides of the jar. Presentation is important.
Sliver pieces of onion, but don’t separate them. Again, presentation.
Slice the Serrano into thin pieces. You will want to distribute these well so you don’t end up with a mouth scorcher in one pickle bite.
Grab some tongs. Pull the jars out of the boiling cauldron. Put 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and ½ tablespoon of brining season into the bottom of the jar.
In a saucepan, assemble the water, vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil.
Begin assembling vegetables in the jars. Layer them so the garlic, onions and dill are clearly visible through the sides. Leave about a ½ inch space from the top of the jar.
Without burning yourself (good luck), add the water/vinegar/sugar liquid to the vegetable jars leaving at least a ¼ inch space at the top. With tongs, put the lid with the rubber ring facing down on the jars. Put the ring on top and screw that sucker down. DON’T touch anything on the inside of the lid or ring with your dirty paws.
Time to process. No, this is not a psychological step. Put a cooling or other wire rack, or even just some spare rings from other jars on the bottom of the pot that you sterilized the jars in. Put your vegetable jars on top. Add water to sufficiently cover the jars and bring back to boil (water should still be very hot so this should be quick. Unless you’re super slow.) Once a nice little simmer is achieved, let process for 8 minutes.
Take the jars out after processing and just set them somewhere in earshot. You’ll want to hear a little <pop> from them as they cool. If you don’t hear the pop, put that jar in the fridge. Let it sit for a week and then consume. You should hear the pop. Let these stand for a few weeks. The longer the better.
Now go enjoy! This is The Gentleman Caller signing off for now.