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Finally, Cool Matters

This week in central Kentucky we expect temperatures in the low 90s. It's mid-July, and we are ready. After weeks of below normal temperatures, summer is fully, warmly, lushly here. And that means cucumbers move to the top of my list of favorite vegetables. 

The cucumber above may not appear to be a beauty, but that's because you can't taste it. Lothar of Lazy Eight Stock Farm dropped two of these mid-size, solid oblongs into my market bag on Saturday, saying, "I don't know their name, but there's not a bitter gene in them." So true. I ate the first with salt and nothing else. The next is destined for Aunt Bea's Immediate Pickles. I look forward to Saturday and a fresh supply.

Maybe I will finally try homemade Benedictine, a favorite Louisville-born, cool and savory, cucumber-infused sandwich filling, with or without green food coloring. NPR gave Benedictine some love last week.

Cucumbers and I go back a bit. I liked Mother's homemade sweet pickled cucumbers when I was a kid, and could not imagine how anyone ate the dill pickles she also canned in quantities each year. Dill pickles began to make more sense late in high school, when I made nearly daily lunchtime trips from Monticello High School to the City Pool Hall on the town square.  There I carried out the local treasure: the famed griddled Poolburger, with extra dill slices, please.

For a couple of smelly summers, Handsome Younger Brother and I grew a sizable patch of production cukes for the Lake Cumberland produce cooperative. I couldn't face a cucumber for a few years after that. I had to go live in a tropical country to recover my love for the coolest fruit of all. I never did go back to sweet pickles. Twice-yearly vacation stops at Rein's Deli (Vernon, Connecticut), introduced me to half sour pickles and launched a full-fledged fascination with these crunchy, salty, lightly sour veggies. I tried, and failed and failed and failed to replicate them at home.

Until this banner year. We have finally made fermented half-sour pickles we like, using a recipe and little gizmo from Good Foods Market called The Perfect Pickler.  These half sour pickles are tart from microbial action, not vinegar. They require a 30 minute "pre-brine" and rinse, followed by a brine solution that is less salty than recipes I've declared failures in the past (in this case, two tablespoons coarse, unrefined salt for a four cups water).

We're in the pickling business for the beneficial bugs as well as the mouth-watering, lip-smacking, salty bites. Start some pickle projects yourself, and while you wait for the microbial action, enjoy a few of the 30 or so past Savoring Kentucky cucumber posts.

The Coolest Cucumber

Cucumber-Chile Paletas 

Behold the Cucumber Smoothie

 

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