Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Salade de Concombres Tante Marie

My Aunt Mary (the youngest sister of my late grandmother, so really my great aunt) would be very amused to find her recipe -- or herself -- with a French title. She is an extremely good natured and unpretentious person of nearly ninety years. She and my great uncle (who is ninety or ninety-one) have lived on the same farm for over fifty years. They don't actively farm the land any more, but they are still very active. When I was a child, we would frequently go and visit them on the farm, where we always had a terrific time and a lot of good food.

She brought this cucumber salad to the most recent family reunion, and it was quickly devoured. It is very much the sort of recipe that I would expect from my Mennonite relatives: fresh vegetables and a lot of sugar. (The Mennonite diet in general, one might say, is not especially health conscious, but my aunt is almost ninety, and you're not, so there.) A number of my relatives would likely have added sour cream as well, which might have been tasty but would still have been an abomination. Abominably good. Anyway, I've actually used half the sugar her recipe calls for, and that's still a whole lotta sugar. I was doing the recipe from memory, and I was pretty sure it called for a cup of vinegar and two cups of sugar, but I couldn't be absolutely sure that it didn't call for a cup of sugar and two cups of vinegar. So I used one cup of each and left a message for my mother. Mom didn't get back to me until after the party I was serving it at, but when I tasted it with the 1:1 ratio, it was a)very good and b)clearly less sweet than the version Aunt Mary served. Brutal honesty requires me to say that hers is even better, but you'll enjoy mine more because you'll have less guilt. No, really.

I have one of those little Japanese slicers that's plastic with an incredibly sharp ceramic blade. It makes slices in four different widths, none of which is very big. For the cucumber salad, I use the next-to-largest size to slice the cucumbers and the smallest size to slice the onions.

I worried that perhaps I should salt and drain the cukes for a period before proceeding with the recipe, but I didn't, and the result was splendid. Once you have everything sliced, it's an almost embarrassingly simple recipe. I suppose you can always tell your guests that you harvested the celery seed by hand. One by one. Sort of like the beerenauslese of celery seeds. Somebody might believe you. Trochenbeerenauslese would be overkill, however.

In essence, this recipe is a rudimentary form of fresh sweet-and-sour pickles. It's very good after four hours in the fridge, and it's even better a day or two later. If you don't have at least two hours for it to marinate before you're going to serve it, don't bother.

The amount of cucumbers called for in this recipe is just the amount that comes in the pack of long, unwaxed cucumbers that you can get at Costco. It's a large recipe, so take it to a potluck, or enjoy the fact that it'll keep for a good long while in the refrigerator.

Salade de Concombres Tante Marie

Three English cucumbers, thinly sliced (about 7 cups)
1 cup thinly sliced onion
4 t. salt
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 t. celery seed

Toss the sliced cucumbers and onions with the salt. Add the vinegar and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the celery seed. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours and preferably overnight.


Blogger Emily said...

I think the best thing about food is that it keeps us connected to our family, even the simplest of recipes.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

This brings back fond memories. My mother made this salad quite often when I was growing up in rural Ohio.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous lindy said...

I was just in Smiksburg, PA- also Mennonite country- is that near where you were in Southwest, PA? Shopped some serious farmstands and am drowning-happily-in freestone peaches, corn and delicata squashes.

This cucumber salad/fresh pickle (almost identical to your proportions) is something I learned to make from my sister-in-law, whose cooking is otherwise, to put it kindly-unremarkable. I love it. Greek yogurt can be added for a less guilty sour-cream like option.

9:32 AM  

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