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Recipe Contributed by Field Staff Writer S. West.
This September weâ€™ve tied the hottest day for 2015 here in Southern Ontario. Thatâ€™s right, September. A week before the resident Canada Goose opener and itâ€™s 37Â°C (99Â°F) with the humidex.
While all of those things when viewed together are unbelievably ridiculous, they have, as a side benefit, really extended the growing season in my backyard garden. Of particular note this year is the prolific quantity of cucumbers that Iâ€™ve been seeing. In the spring they were just two scraggly plants, but they have taken off in a big way and on an almost daily basis Iâ€™m harvesting various-sized cukes from little gherkins to some forearm-sized behemoths. The plants are climbing my deck fence and spreading out over my lawn. One poor hosta plant that my wife planted carelessly close to these monsters has been overrun and mercilessly choked out.
Since I donâ€™t want to waste a single piece of my bounty, Iâ€™ve been churning out salads with fresh cucumbers, force-feeding my sons their cucumber spears at every meal, and trying to find as many creative ways as I can to get these big green beauties into every meal.
So by way of confession, Iâ€™ll go on the record now and admit an addiction. I love picklesâ€¦a lot. So I made a liter of spicy dill and garlic pickles last week. Sadly, that was only the beginning.
Today I found another three big specimens hidden under the broad leaves and prickly vines of my beloved Cucumus sativus plant, and since I had an over-sized tub of yogurt handy, I decided to make a raita. Raita is one of my favorite sauces, and is, in my opinion, the ultimate summer condiment for spicy and savory barbecue dishes. My only digression from a standard raita is that I exclude the fresh mint, because my wife is allergic to it.
These recipes are a great way to highlight what makes cucumbers delicious. The pickles show off the crunch and let the neutrality of the cucumber carry the vinegar, dill, garlic, and hot pepper flavors. The tart yogurt in the raita balances against the cumin and the mild almost melon-like flavors. If â€˜raitaâ€™ sounds too exotic for you or your guests, just think of it as a creamy cucumber salsa.
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Hot & Sour Garlic Dill Pickles
5 medium-sized pickles, sliced
7 cloves garlic, minced
1 cayenne pepper, chopped
1 Â½ cups cider vinegar
1 cup water
4 tsp dill seed
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tbsp pickling salt
4-250 mL (8oz) mason jars or equivalent-sized jars
- Wash the jars thoroughly and place the clean jars, and canning lids in simmering water. After five minutes, remove the jars from the simmering water and allow to air dry. Leave the lids simmering until ready to seal the jars.
- Wash and slice the cucumbers. You could also do matchsticks, but I like slices as they are ideal for venison burgers and shrimp poâ€™ boy sandwiches among other things.
- In a medium-sized pot or saucepan boil the vinegar, salt, water, dill seeds, and peppercorns for 3-5 minutes.
- Once the jars are dry, add the cucumbers and equally layer the garlic and hot peppers between all of the jars.
- Add the boiled pickle brine from step #3, filling each jar nearly to the top.
- Using tongs, add the lids from the simmering water and seal the jars.
- Put the jars back in the simmering water, crank the heat and boil for 10-15 minutes.
- Cool and if necessary, refrigerate them overnight.
Sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to six months. But I can assure you, you wonâ€™t be able to make them last that long, because they are exceptional when paired with pretty much everything that is edible.
Spicy Backyard Cucumber Raita
3 large cucumbers, seeded and diced
3 cups of plain, full-fat yogurt. Because it tastes better.
1 tbsp ground cumin (or more to taste)
1 tbsp chili powder (or more to taste)
2 seeded and finely diced cayenne or jalapeno peppers
1tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
Fresh basil to garnish
Simply whisk all the above ingredients together into a large glass or plastic bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or transfer to smaller containers. This raita is better if it sits overnight, and the longer the flavors marry together, the better. Just donâ€™t let the yogurt expire.
I have used this as a topping for grilled chicken, as a dip for grilled flatbread or Buffalo wings, or even as a salad dressing. It is the definition of a summer dish. If you like, add a couple of tablespoons of freshly chopped mint and the raita takes on a whole new level of refreshing.