There’s a minimalist inside of me just screaming to get out. I want to be surrounded by less and somehow I continue to take in more. My affinity for food props and ‘old things’ that appear to tell a story continue to steal my heart with every visited estate sale. How is it these families of deceased loved ones could let go of such treasures. Sets of silver and hand-woven baskets, wood-working pieces and quilts consisting of fragmented memories. It’s a bit melancholy when I reflect on it. I know that some of the pieces I own were simply thoughtless purchases of a scrambling aunt who forgot a birthday or two but it doesn’t mean there’s no value…or maybe it does?
The thought of clutter and neglected things often cause me to yearn for simple things. You know the sandwich your mom used to make with a spread of mustard and a slice of ham nestled between two slices of white bread. Or maybe for you it was a cup of chocolate pudding and a glass of milk. What is it about simple prepared foods that often have our palates pleading for seconds and sometimes third servings? I mean, sure it’s nice to have a piece of smoked meat wrapped in something, suveed in something, cured, smoked again, sliced thin, piled high with a gastrique chasing the plates rim. But that isn’t how the typical person eats or at least I wouldn’t dare to think so?
I’ve run into this time and time again from the recollection of my childhood to the occasional venture to a new dining spot here in Nashville. The dish that has 5 ingredients as opposed to fifteen is the ‘last man standing’. Nothing annoys me more than a chef who over thinks their dishes. It’s often as simple as leaving off that hibiscus foam or random shaved vegetable that could make a dish shine. And leave an everlasting impression on that first-time or returning guests palate that could possibly ignite their passion for food. Not just eating it for necessity but also for sheer pleasure the enjoyment flavor profiles, local ingredients and textbook cooking techniques. My great-grandmother and grandmother were both skilled artisans at these simple things and I could go on and on telling you about some of the best meals I ever ate because they were so simple that they can’t be erased from my ‘food memories’. And I don’t think that I’d be willing to part with them.
I’m sharing these pickles with you today because the farmer’s markets have been overflowing with them and I just couldn’t resist making you a batch of them the way my great-grandmother and her daughter made them. Sometimes I sit and long for the day when I could walk into her backyard and be greeted by the hung sheets on the line, being dried by the suns warm beams. Carelessly running across that fragile bridge that connected to her quarter acre garden in the middle of suburbia. It was perfection at its best and I still long for those days when life was truly simple. These pickles don’t involve a tedious collection of herbs and spices. No boiling of liquids or Ball mason jar’s, no, these pickles only require white granulated sugar and apple cider vinegar. I know you might be thinking, “could it really be that good, if there’s only two ingredients for the brine?” And I tell you, yes, yes they are. And if you aren’t a believer after trying them then back to your usual way’s and I’ll eat them for you.
There’s no need for me to write out a method for them. You simply rinse and slice 3 medium cucumbers about a 1/4 inch thick slices. Place them in a mixing bowl or storage container with 2 tablespoons of white granulated sugar, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and a smidgen of kosher salt. I gently stir them until I see most of the sugar is dissolved and be careful not to bruise the cucumbers. Let them sit at room temp for one hour stirring every 15 minutes to insure all cucumbers come in contact with the liquid. I like a bit of spice in mine so I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes. They are ready to eat at the end of the hour but if you’re a chilled pickle fan then put them in the fridge for about thirty minutes. These pickles also taste fantastic on burgers, or just eat them when no one else is around.