How to pickle cucumbers

Growing cucumbers:
Cucumber plants are easy to grow provided you can keep their roots cool and moist in rich soil throughout the summer months.
Grow them on a galvanised frame running east-west so that their leaves are exposed to plenty of sunshine throughout the day. I buy galvanised square mesh panels (with 100 mm x 100 mm squares) that are 2.4 m long and 1.2 m high down at the local hardware store, and put several of these end-to-end to make a 'cucumber wall' about 5 m long. The fence is supported by 1.65 m  steel star-droppers, as it will come under severe pressure under windy conditions, especially when covered in a 'cucumber sail'.
Plant about 100 seeds along this fence, on both sides if you like. (There's no point fiddling about with one cucumber plant if you want regular production over a month or so, cucumber salads throughout that period, and enough left over for bottling). Again, you need well-composted rich soil high in organic matter to pull this off, and under-mulch drippers right along the fence and seed line so that you can water without wetting the foliage. Use straw as a mulch once the directly-sown seeds are up during Spring; mulch will keep the soil cool and prevent run-off and high evaporative losses until the plants themselves can shade the soil.

Once the seeds reach the 'tendril' stage, tie their growing tips loosly to the frame to encourage them to hook-on, rather than sprawl on the ground. Slower seedlings will climb the sturdier ones, so not much tying is required with cucumbers, compared to tomatoes for example.

Cucumbers are insect-pollinated, so native flies and honey-bees should be encouraged in the garden with flowering herbs such as borage, basil and mint to get the maximum productivity from the flowers that are set by the cucumber plants.


Once your 'cucumber wall' comes into production in summer, you can expect a bucketful of cucumbers every few days. This can be stressfull if you are not prepared, and especially as peak harvest is approaching, with peaches and zucchinis (for example) all ripening around this time. Cucumbers are a great gift, and as it is Chinese New Year around this time, you can spread them around and receive other produce in return. Neverthless, the cook needs to be in standby!
Here's her recipe for dealing with the flood of both cucumbers, zucchinis and beans...
Pickling cucumbers, zucchinis and (blanched) beans
Choose those cucumbers with hard skins for bottling. The smooth dark-green Lebanese cucumbers (top, below) are too soft, and should be eaten fresh. Pickling cucumbers are normally a bit spiky. The white one (Richmond Green Apple?) are also worth bottling. This lot grew from nowhere in just three days: -
Scrub the cucumbers and cut lengthwise into chunky strips.
Put garlic, peppercorns and dill, mustard, coriander and fennel seeds into the bottom of the pre-sterilized jars (sterilize jars by pouring boiling water into them and allowing them to cool down).
Stand the cucumber slices upright in the jar and pour brine in to cover them, leaving a space below the jar's lid above the cucumber slices of about 25 mm. Brine is made using about 6 tablespoons full of sea-salt in 1.8 litres of water - dissolve the salt in a small amount of hot water than pour that into cold water. Let the brine cool to ambient temperature before using it to bottle cucumbers. Add about one-quarter of a cup of whey (drained off natural yogurt, for example, that has been allowed to stand).
Cover the cucumbers with a fresh young grapevine leaf, and weigh all that down with some glass marbles (available by the bag from toy shops) to keep the cucumbers submersed.
Close up the jars and let stand at ambient temperature for a week in a shady spot to allow fermentation to begin, then store in the cellar or cool dark room.
The same method works for beans, but the beans must first be cut into small lengths and blanched in hot water. We are still eating excellent beans that were preserved last year by this method.

6 comments:

Veggie Gnome said...

Great Wall of Cucumbers! Slightly envious here, where the slaters kept destroying my plantings of cucumbers throughout the season. There are only 2 plants left.

Do you need any garlic? We could do a swap! :)

Adelaide Kitchen Gardeners said...

Hi VG - would love some garlic - either for seed or eating; haven't got any at all!

The frame for the cucumbers gets used through winter to grow a wall of snow peas, putting nitrogen back ino the soil and providing crunchy salad in late winter-early Spring.

Let the hens scratch over the bed before next years crop - they'll clear out all slaters, which feed and breed on old mulch. Makes the eggs taste richer too, when they have all that protein. Six hens can clear a large vegetable bed of slaters and earwigs in three to four days, breaking down the mulch further for incorporation into the soil over winter.

Anonymous said...

If you don't have chickens, then dusting the soil and leaves with derris dust will keep the slaters and other crawly root and leaf munchers away.
R.D.

Andrew said...

A year later, I've added another item to this blog at http://adelaidegardeners.blogspot.com/2011/03/cucumbers-for-pickling-and-salads.html
on some new cucumbers better-suited to bottling than the standard smooth-skinned Lebanese cucumbers. They also taste just fine in salads.
Cheers
Andrew

Ash 'n' Tim said...

Thanks AKG, we're growing an abundance of Apple Cucumbers and I am keen to see how they pickle. I'll be giving your method a go as soon as I find the time!

Andrew said...

Folks
The cook never reads this Blog (written by the gardener of the pair of us) and all recipes are transcribed from verbal communications that occasionally spill facts...it appears that brine is made from 12 grams of sea-salt per liter, not the 60 grams I ended up thinking I heard.
My humble apologies!
Andrew

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